The United States’ untapped paradise.
Trip Cost ($ – $$$): $$$
Time to Hit the Highlights: 4 Days
Must See: Pata Pieta (Secret Beach), Bio Bay Night Kayaking, Snorkeling at Mosquito Pier and the Sugar Mill Ruins
Time of the Year to Visit: Spring/Fall (high season – Winter)
About the Island of Vieques
Vieques is a small island just 7 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico. The island is home to the caribbean’s largest natural wildlife refuge, which covers 3,100 acres. Here thousands of horses roam free throughout the lush and dense vegetation. The island used to be a post for the US military and its previous presence is obvious. The US military purchased 60% of island, leaving farms and sugar cane mills fall to ruins. Now the military post is abandoned leaving large bunkers abandoned and even leftover missiles and bombs out in the wild that didn’t detonate during military testing exercises.
Today the island is a safe and beautiful escape that is easy to get to from the continental US, other caribbean islands, and even parts of Europe.
For more info check out the Vieques island website at http://vieques.com/
- Flying into San Juan, PR (SJU) is the best way to get to the large island of Puerto Rico. Once you’re there, there are several ways to get to the smaller island of Vieques.
- Small planes fly from SJU (and even from the smaller Isla Grande airport which is a short taxi ride from SJU) to Vieques for a short 30 minute flight. There are several airlines you can fly including Cape Air, Vieques Air Link and Air Flemenco. If you do not like very small planes, this is not the option for you.
- An alternative route is to take a taxi from the airport to the ferry that runs from Anacortes to Vieques. The taxi ride will take you about an hour and will run you around $100 (which can still be cheaper than a plane ticket). The ferry is only a couple dollars, but takes about an hour from port to port.
- Once on the island we rented a car on a daily basis to get to trails and beaches. There are a couple taxi services on the island (including horses if you want to be super adventurous!) to take you wherever you need. There is no assurance they will be coming back to the place you get dropped off at, but they often drive through popular beach spots and will give you a number to call for a ride if prompted.
We stayed at the W Vieques which has more of a couple focus, although some children were present. There are also a variety of other resorts (Blue Horizon), houses from rent and smaller BnBs on the island.
The capital is Isabel II and the other small town is Esperanza. Both are a short cab ride away.
Pata Pieta (Secret Beach)
- Looking for a smaller, quiet beach with beautiful white sand and picturesque views? This is spot. While there are not a shortage of fun and beautiful beaches on Vieques, this one took the cake.
- You can find this beach on the southeast side of the island in the Wildlife Refuge. Just follow the signs to Pata Pieta!
Bio Bay Night Time Kayak
- The Bio Bay is a must see! There are a small number of bioluminescent bays in the world, so take advantage of this wonder.
- There are a variety of companies that do night time kayaking tours. If you are not staying at a hotel that can hook you up, head down to Esperanza and you will find many in town.
- There are small organisms called Dinoflagellates in the water (they’re not dangerous! You can’t even see them) which make it glow in the dark upon contact/disturbance.
- A lot of the companies provide transportation to the bay, but don’t forget to bring tip money for your guide and driver!
Snorkeling at Mosquito Pier
- Flying over the island you can’t help but notice a huge pier sticking out from Vieques, heading towards the larger island. Construction of this pier was started during WWII to connect the island to Puerto Rico – the idea being that if Britain fell, the British Royal Navy could be hosted here. Thankfully Britain didn’t fall during the war and construction on the pier was halted. As a result coral and fish have made their homes around the concrete structure. This makes for some excellent snorkeling or scuba diving.
- It is best to dive on the northwest side of the pier (so the lefthand side as you look out to the water), as this is the calmer side. You can enter the water at several points along the pier (you can drive on it), but be very careful as there are large sea urchins everywhere! The best spot may be the small beach to the left of the start of the pier where you can park and wade in.
Sugar Mill Ruins
- While there are many abandoned farms and bunkers on the island, some of the coolest ruins are the Sugar Mill Ruins.
- Easy to find with the help of a local map, these ruins take you into the forest and through the remaining rubble of this once profitable sugar mill.
- This is a great way to see the island’s history while be outside and away from the sun.
- Hotels may have their own restaurants, but most of Vieques’ bars and restaurants are found in Esperanza.
- Other great restaurants can be found in the middle of the island, and you will likely pass them as you drive around.
- A few of our favorite places include, Tin Box (BBQ dinner), El Quenepo (dinner), and Duffy’s (bar, lunch). While we haven’t tried it yet, Next Course is supposed to be the best restaurant on the island.
- If you’re looking for groceries, there are a couple easy to find spots in Isabel II.
- When snorkeling beware of sea urchins!
- Bring bug spray, there are a lot of mosquitos.
- Other great beaches include: Red Beach, Blue Beach and Green Beach
- Puerto Rico is part of the US and therefore takes USD.
- If you find any remaining bombs or missiles during your Vieques adventure, immediately report them to the local authorities.