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The island of Culebra lies approximately seventeen miles east of Puerto Rico,
twelve miles west of St. Thomas, nine miles north of Vieques. Its total area, including
surrounding Cays is seven thousand acres. It is characterized by irregular topography with
hills of low elevation, the tallest being MOUNT RESACA, with an elevation of six hundred
and fifty feet.
Due to its long and intricate shoreline, Culebra represents a series of bays, peninsulas, and bars, some of which end in abrupt cliffs, sandy shores, or mangrove forests. The principal harbor is ENSENADA HONDA, which is considered one of the most secure hurricane harbors in the Caribbean.
The 1990 census showed there to be only sixteen hundred persons on the island. It is our opinion that there are upwards of two thousand inhabitants. This would make a population density of .13 persons per acre. Most residents are located in the village of Culebra.
Flora & Fauna
The general flora and fauna are arid to dry species. The valleys and upper slopes support an interesting semi-moist forest of trees as much as fifty feet tall and three feet in diameter. The average trees, however, are much smaller. There are three hundred seventy three species of indigenous plants and many introduced species. Thirty three species are rare or unique, found only in Culebra, or a few of the other small islands in the area. Of these rare species, three are found only in Culebra.
Several features of the flora make it different from the vegetation of Puerto Rico. The large boulders of Monte Resaca produce an unusual park like open forest of Cupey and Jaquey, displaying their many roots. The boulders themselves are hosts to beautiful orchids, bromeliads, and the endemic Peperromia (P. Wheeleri). This association has been seen only at Culebra and Virgin Gorda.
The tallest trees are represented by the fan leafed palm, especially at Monte Resaca and also the slopes north west of Playa Flamenco, north of Punta Tamarindo Grande, north of Laguna de Cornelioi, and at Cabeza de Perro area. This type of forest is fast disappearing due to man himself.
Birds are another striking life form on Culebra. Several species of oceanic birds build up great nesting colonies on the offshore Cays on the northwest tip of the Flamenco peninsula. Sooty terns are abundant on four Cays. Their largest colony, located on Culebra itself, covers more than eight hundred acres of the Flamenco Peninsula. Brown "Boobies", Laughing Gulls, Sooty Terns, Bridled Terns, and Noddy Terns are known to breed on Cayo Lobito, Cayo Yerba, Cayo Raton, Los Gemelos, Cayo El Guayo, Cayo Sombreto, Cayo Genique and Peninsula Flamenco.
The Brown Pelican, an endangered species protected by federal law, has been sighted in mangrove areas and adjacent waters. In the marsh ponds and mangrove swamp, the Bahamas Pintail, the Masked Duck, and the Ruddy Duck nest and thrive. The lagoons form the most important wintering ground for the migratory water foul on the island.
Two endangered species of turtles, the Hawksbill and the Leather Back, are found at Culebra. So are two other species that have been proposed for threatened status: the Loggerhead and Green sea turtles. According to Tom Carr's 1974 report, "Marine Turtles of Culebra," all four of these species use the Culebra area, and most of the beaches for nesting sites.
Besides Flamenco beach, there is one baseball park, also one basketball or volley ball court for public use. There are picnic facilities on Cayo Pirata. Culebra has many attractions. Swimming, snorkeling, diving, sailing and camping are enjoyed year-round. With its friendly citizens, pastoral landscape and non-commercial approach, Isla de Culebra is unique in the Caribbean.