Recently we (four couples) went on a week long trip to Vieques. Never heard of it? Most folks haven’t but I have a feeling it’s a destination that will only become more trafficked, a diamond in the rough… well, not really rough, but perfect just as it is. It’s when word gets out it will become a bit more touristy and well-traveled.
We went in mid-January, often high travel season in the Caribbean but we felt like we had this tiny island all to ourselves.
I got the gals from the trip together and invited a special guest, Gamalier (Gammy) Nieves. Gammy is from Puerto Rico and gave us some great perspective! Most podcasts are 15 minutes long and this episode was a mouthful and we could have kept talking, too!
Angie Martin, Tess Eby and Kim Pierce each shared their list of top three favorite experiences from the trip. I know each friend could have made the list three times as long! Sadly, Kim had another engagement during this recording and could not make it but we did include her thoughts.
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In other news, Readers of Condé Nast Traveler named Vieques the seventh most romantic island. They said, “Vieques takes up about 55 square miles of Caribbean real estate, and is an easy 25-minute flight from the capital of San Juan. The beaches on the Puerto Rican island provide a spectrum of vibrant colors, be it the inky, jet-black sand of Playa Negrita, kaleidoscopic blues of La Chiva, or the otherworldly glows of the Bioluminescent Bay. —C.M.”
- The island is 6 miles from the coast of Puerto Rico.
- To get to Vieques either fly (prices vary from airport used from $150-40 dollars pp one way) or take a ferry $2. We took the ten minute flight from Ceiba Airport (RVR) for about $40 pp. You do need to get a cab to Ceiba Airport.
- The island is 21 miles long and 5 miles wide
The US Navy had possession of 2/3 of the total land until 2003. As a result most of the beaches are located in undeveloped areas. In 2003 the Navy passed control of most of this land to the Department of the Interior. Today the land is under Fish and Wildlife administration, making Vieques the largest national refuge in the Caribbean. – vieques.net
- Some caribbean islands have herds of goats or donkeys, Vieques has horses and dogs.
- Two main waterfront towns for shopping and dining include Isabel Segunda (north shore) and Esperanza (south shore).
- If you have Verizon you may want to get an international plan turned on, if you want any kind of reception which still may not even work. AT&T seemed to work like a gem from some of the travelers.&
- The sales tax rate is 11.5% . Some vendors did accept credit cards.
- BYOB, Bring your own shopping bags to shops and grocery shops
- You don’t need your passport, if you are American traveler.
- There is only one resort on island, The W, and a new and smaller boutique hotel, El Blok. This is not a Cancun-style, all-inclusive island destination.
- Rent a condo or villa on any one of many sites, if resort living is not your style. We rented a beautiful home located on a beach full of shells, sea glass and plenty of space to walk or open a blanket to get some sun. Las Piedras is the home we shared.
- Rent a Jeep and explore!
- Because of the abuse to the island perpetrated by the Navy (bombings) try to learn the proper names of the beaches and do not refer to them by their color names (given by the Navy).
- Don’t go walking about in your swimsuit. Put clothes on or a cover up. Be respectful of locals.
- Extend your trip and spend two or three days in old San Juan.
- Shade is very limited on these beaches. Some offer shade, if your rental has an umbrella take it.
- Pack a cooler for cold drink and grab beach grub from food trucks or small vendors along the way. Angie scored some tasty empanadas from a corner shop on the way to the beach. Dan and I enjoyed the Sol Food food truck on 997, at the entrance of Fish and Wildlife offices and south shore beaches. Grab a bite from Rincon del Sabor food truck as you head back from Mosquito Pier.
- If you have a plan on restaurants to visit, make reservations, especially with a large group.
- We’ve had the most fun eating at the bar and talking it up with locals and other travelers.
- Some of Dan and my favorite places to eat included the Tin Box, sushi for Dan and a shrimp po’ boy for me. The Sol Food food truck’s menu changes with yummy food and good portions for the price. Get the Samosa Bar Cookie (or two)
- Beikes’s Bistro was a favorite of the entire group
Angie’s TOP 3
- Empanadas (more commonly know as pastelillos).
- The bioluminescent bay. (We used JAK Water Sports and here is a bit about what bioluminescence means. Also, I have no photo’s of Angie’s to share of the bay kayaking trip because you go at night and it can’t really be photographed)
- Navio Beach (walk, don’t drive there)
Kim’s TOP 3
Tess’s TOP 3
- Snorkeling and floating for the first time! (Though there is no photo evidence of Tess floating we can vouch for her experience.)
- Beikes’s Bistro
- Restaurant hopping in Old San Juan
Phoebe’s TOP 3
- Playa La. Chiva Condé Nast Traveler has rated Playa La Chiva as the eight top beach of the world.
- Snorkeling under the Mosquito Pier. (Park by the gate and get into the water at the stone steps. snorkel our to and under the pier. Kim, Dan and I went all the way out and under and it was gorgeous! They also had other great fish, starfish and sea creatures… including the Bearded Fireworm – do not touch!)
- Old San Juan (Plan at least two or three days to see this area. The “Paseo de la Princesa” or the Princess Walk)
Before we go, Dan wanted me to share that you should grab a fresh fruit smoothie at the ferry dock (any flavor is yummy), visit the Forte Conde Mirasol (near Isabel) for history and a gorgeous view, and drive to the Puerto Ferro Lighthouse.