Beaches

Vieques, Puerto Rico: Natural Beauty and Undeveloped Coastline Abound

Filed Under: Caribbean, Puerto Rico

For more than 60 years, the U.S. Navy owned three-quarters of this island. After years of civilian protests, the Navy moved out in 2003 opening up that land to the island's residents and visitors, too. Vieques was uncharted territory for the tourism industry, and more resorts and hotels are looking to develop on the island. Because of this, Vieques maintains a laid-back island atmosphere that can be hard to find on more developed Caribbean getaways. There is not a single traffic light on the island, and the beaches are quiet and unspoiled by high-rise buildings and over-development.

Although the island is only 21 miles long, there are 40 beaches on the island and it seems that all of them are perfect. Sun Bay beach on the island's south coast might be the best of them all, with its swaying palm trees and pearly-white sands. Blue beach, named for its striking blue waters, is secluded and quiet, while Green Beach, named for its lush surroundings, is popular for snorkeling. Red Beach is framed by tall mountains on one end and large rocks on the other, with a perfect beach dotted with tiny gazebos right in between. Trying to visit all of the beaches can be exhausting, so do some exploring and find your favorite place to settle down and start relaxing.

Getting There
Visitors must fly into Puerto Rico before catching a 20-minute flight to Vieques Island. These flights are available from San Juan International Airport and Isla Grande Airport in San Juan. Travelers can book a charter flight on Cape Air, Vieques Air Link or MN Aviation.

The Puerto Rico Port Authority runs ferries from Fajardo in Puerto Rico to Isabel Segunda on Vieques Island. The ride on a passenger ferry is about one hour and 15 minutes, while the car ferry can take up to 2 hours.

Taxis are available from the airport to get around the island. However, if you hope to explore the more remote beaches, the best idea is to rent a car or jeep for the duration of your island visit.

Timing
The weather averages between 79 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit throughout most of the year, making it a year-round destination. The long hurricane season runs from June through November. The most popular time of year to visit is between December and April, which means the prices are higher and the beaches a little more crowded.

Lodging
Lodging options on Vieques include large upscale resorts and small, homey inns and guesthouses. Martineau Bay Resort and Spa is an elegant, upscale plantation-style resort that pampers guests to the utmost degree. Guests can lounge on the coral-stone sun deck or imbibe at the pool bar before heading down the wooden stairs to the resort's private beaches. The new Bravo Beach Hotel is a luxury hotel on a budget. The rooms are outfitted with Frette linens, satellite TV, wireless Internet and even PlayStation II for gaming. Travelers looking for an intimate inn might prefer the cozy and stylish Inn on the Blue Horizon. Finally, vacationers looking for a true escape should check into the eco-friendly Hix Island House, the award-winning green hotel. This is a true Zen-like escape, with no telephones or televisions in the private lofts and solar power for electricity and hot water.

Cuisine
Expect to find everything from casual burger joints to modern gourmet powerhouses among the restaurant choices in Vieques. There are restaurants dishing up American, Latin American, Spanish and Caribbean cuisines in trendy dining rooms and beach-side bars. One thing that they all have in common: There's an abundance of seafood treats on the menu, from octopus salad to piquant ceviche to steamed lobster. Many menus are often dictated by the local fishermen's catch-of-the-day.

Travel Tips
The tourist office in Vieques is located across from the Plaza Isabel Segunda in the Casa Alcaldia, or town hall. They are open to assist visitors Monday through Friday.

If you're planning on shopping during the afternoon, keep in mind that many business owners close for a lunchtime siesta during the middle of the day.

While You are Here
Visit Mosquito Bay, also called Phosphorescent Bay, at night to see the tiny glowing creatures light up the bay while they skirt around the water leaving a trail of blue phosphorescence. Don't let the name scare you away. It's one of the coolest spots on the island.

Explore wetlands and mangrove forests and see some manatees, sea turtles and native birds at the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge.

Spend a day snorkeling in the clear waters off Esperanza Beach and then grab lunch along the strip. Get ready for some good people watching. This is where the fishermen bring in their boats and the locals cruise the beach mingling with friends.

To Fake That You've Been Here
Curl up in a hammock with a frosty drink and dream about the glowing Phosphorescent Bay.

Linking for a Better Vacation
For more information, visit the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.


 

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