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Vieques

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Caribbean : Puerto Rico : Vieques
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Aerial view of Vieques

Vieques is a Caribbean island belonging to Puerto Rico, also known as Isla Nena or Little Girl Island. It is a relatively small, rural island about 8 miles east of Puerto Rico. It is about 22 miles long and 4 miles wide.

Vieques maintains a rural character, despite increasing tourist interest. Horses and chickens run wild in the streets. Expect to hear roosters and dogs during the night and morning while you're trying to sleep.

Cities

Vieques is an island municipality of Puerto Rico with two main towns.

  • Isabel Segunda or Isabel II is where most of the island's population lives. Isabel II is on the northern side of Vieques. The ferries dock in Isabel. There are several hotels in and near Isabel and multiple restaurants. However, many tourists exit the ferry dock and jump in a taxi ( publico -shared van) to Esperanza.
  • Esperanza is a smaller town which caters more to tourists. It is on the southern side of the island facing the Caribbean Sea. Esperanza has a delightful waterfront 'Malecon' next to a ( usually) peaceful turquoise sea. Swimming is possbile right there. Esperanze has the 'tourist strip' across the street from the waterfront, with many restaurants and guest houses. A bit raunchy late at night, but very nice mornings and afternoons.

Other destinations

What makes the Island of Vieques unique is its recent history. For many years, the island was home to a major U.S. naval base, which used it for training, storage of munitions, and even target practice. During the early years of this century, there was a major dispute about the continued operation of the facility. As a result, most of the area formally controlled by the military was turned over to the US Park Service. While there are still many restricted areas, a large part of the former military base is now open to the public.

Because of this past, the island was by-passed for major development. Instead of lots of chain hotels and condos, one discovers an undeveloped Caribbean island. This is what makes the bioluminiscent bay (discussed below) one of the most vivid in the world. It also means that it is possible to find a remote beach where few will disturb you during an entire day. (The beaches are named for colors--presumably given by the military.) These beaches are accessed by dirt and gravel roads off the main roadways. Rent a small truck, tracker, or 4X4 to get to the best beaches.

Understand

Talk

Spanish is the working language of locals. However, with a population of U.S. mainlanders English is known by most but not all residents. Residents appreciate visitors that try to speak Spanish, knowing a few words will make a difference.

Get in

By ferry

Vieques has ferry service several times a day from Fajardo. The ferry from Fajardo will cost about $2 per person and takes 60-90 minutes. Tickets for the Passenger Ferry cannot be purchased ahead of time via the internet, rather you have to show up at the ticket booth at your departure point 1 hour early and buy them at the ticket window. It is advised to be there early, especially on weekends, when it might be helpful to be at the dock at least an hour prior to departure, (and that's assuming you already have your tickets). The ferry usually begins loading 30 minutes prior to departure. Pets are allowed on the passenger ferry, but, not under the air conditioned area, they need to be on a pets cage and ride on the non/air conditioned areas of the ferry. You are normally allowed to whatever you can carry (with the exception of any items containing gas) i.e. such as a lawn mower or grass trimmer that has been used. Passengers can ride inside the ferry where is nicely air conditioned - maybe too much - or on the upper deck where you can enjoy one of the most beautiful scenery of the surrounding big island of Puerto Rico, and other interesting places like the Conquistador Hotel, Palomino island, Culebra, and of course, a few sailboats, etc. Bicycles must go on the Cargo Ferry. It is recommended that you rent an automobile in the island of Vieques versus trying to bring your own car. Space is not always available for cars on the Cargo Ferry, unless you have booked at least a month in advance, however, if you'd like to take a chance, you can get to the port 2 to 3 hours before departure and get yourself on stand-by.

By plane

It is also serviced by an airport with service to Ceiba and the Isla Grande and LMM/SJU international airports in San Juan. Regional carriers include Cape Air, Sunshine Air, and Vieques Air Link.

Get around

The most convenient way to get around the island is by renting a car. You may also get around by using the publico (taxi) system, but the taxis will only take you to easily accessible beaches around the island. There are bicycle rentals on the island.

  • Vieques Adventure Company, 787-692-9162, [1]. Mountain bike tours $75/day 3-4hrs & rentals $25/day, delivered to most hotels and guesthouses.

Car Rentals

  • ABREEZE Car Rental (787) 741-1856
  • Acevedo's Car Rentals (787) 741-4380
  • Avis Car Rental [2]
  • Chepito's Car Rentals (787) 741-8691
  • Island Car Rentals (787) 741-1666
  • Marcos Car Rentals (787) 741-1388
  • Maritza Car Rentals (787) 741-0078 [3]
  • Vieques Car Rental (787) 741-1037 - [4]

See

  • The Bioluminescent Bay, or Mosquito Bay, is one of the most brilliant displays of the micro-organisms that light up in a blue-green glow whenever there is movement in the water. There are several boat tours out to the bay, including kayak trips (which are more ecologically sustainable). Any visitor to the island should arrange a trip. Those who wish to visit the Bio Bay should arrange their trip around the lunar calendar. The micro-organisms are not visible under a full moon. During the two or three days before and after a full moon there are usually no boat tours of the bay.
  • A stonehenge built by the Taino indians is incredible--if you can find it.
  • Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust, (Esperanza), (787) 741-8850 ((787) 741-8850, , fax: (787) 741-2844), [5]. Hours: Tu-Sa: 10AM-3PM, Su: 11AM-3PM. The VCHT is a small, but dedicated and fairly interesting museum, whose goal is to educate visitors about the cultural history of Vieques and Vieques' ecological system. Vieques Computer Systems provide internet access for visitors of Esperanza. Entrance is free.
  • El Fortin Conde de Mirasol, Isabel II, 787-741-1717, [6]. Hours: W-Su: 10AM-4PM. Constructed between 1845-1855 on a hill overlooking Isabel II, this fort was built with the intention to protect the port. It originally housed the Spanish militia, who would guard the island of Vieques against invading countries and pirates. However, it was never used in defense of Vieques. Today, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture manages the fort and has completed a restoration of the building and the surrounding grounds. (18.14733,65.439173)

Do

Bio-Bay

The bioluminescent bay of Vieques, known as Mosquito Bay, is said to be one of the most spectacular bioluminiscent bays in Puerto Rico and the world. The bay has almost one million dinoflagellates per gallon, who when stimulated glow to with one lumen of light, perhaps to scare off predators, perhaps to attract slightly bigger creatures to eat their predators! Each dinoflagellate is invisible to the eye, they are so small.

Many businesses run tours to the bay for an average $40 per person. The best time to go on a night tour of the bay is when the sky is not very cloudy or if it is dark. If the moon is out then it will most likely be impossible to see the bay as it becomes illuminated. Starting about 6 night prior to a full moon, conditions for viewing deteriorate, then on the second night after the full moon, the moon comes up later and visibility is good. Even if the sky is cloudy and the moon is out your experience is very likely to be dull compared to moonless nights. Although the night after the full moon can be quite spectacular, perhaps a half hour of darkness, then the moon rises..

Swimming is no longer allowed in the biobays in Puerto Rico, including the Vieques biobay. You can go with a tour by kayak, clear canoe or electric boat.

There are now 5-6 permited kayak companies and one clear canoe company.

  • Island Adventures, Near Esperanza, 787-741-0720, [7]. Island Adventures Biobay Tours offers nightly excursions aboard an electrically powered double-pontoon boat. Their bilingual guides explain the fragile ecology of the plants and animals of the bay, give interpretive star lectures, and then park the boat in an area of high bioluminescent concentration, giving visitors the chance to view the millions of glowing creatures.

Beaches

The exquisite south coast beaches come in two groups. Since the island was once a military training area, large parts of the island are now part of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The newly paved road goes as far as Caracas Beach, little huts but no facilities. Then dirt roads can take you to Blue Beach ( La Chiva), Pata Prieta, Orchid Beach ( Playa de la Plata) and Hidden Beach.

On the western end of Vieques is Punta Arenas ( Green Beach), through a long dirt road in a swampy area. Beware of bugs early morning and late afternoon or when it rains!

The Sun Bay Balneario is the other group on the south coast, near Esperanza, which is part of the Puerto RIco Parks & Reserves. You can drive down dirt roads to isolated beaches with crystal clear blue waters. Park your rental jeep under a palm tree and you may not see another person for the remainder of the early morning. The beach through the Balneario are Sun Bay, Media Luna ( perfect for small children) and Navio ( with waves).

The cons to the remoteness of Vieques' beaches lie in petty theft occurring at some of the beaches. Thieves can either hide in bushes or ride up on horseback (Horses are not allowed on the beaches) and take a tourist's belongings. So when visiting a remote beach in Vieques leave your valuables at your lodging area; don't lock them them in your vehicles. For a discussion on this topic, see Talk:Vieques.

Scuba

Scuba and Snorkeling Trips from the South end in Esperanza. PADI instruction and Certifications. Specializing in New Divers, Families and the Experienced Divers

Volunteer

The Vieques Humane Society [8] on the island is always looking for volunteers and being a tourist is not a problem. Come by and check out the facility and maybe even lend a hand.

Buy

  • Black Beard Sports, 101 Munoz Rivera, 741-1892, [9]. An outdoors activity shop with scuba, snorkeling, beach, biking and camping equipment. They also have a couple of computers available for Internet access for the decent price of $3 for 30 minutes. If you're looking to only use some equipment for a couple of days they have fair prices for renting equipiment by the day.

Eat

  • Carambola, (Esperanza), [10]. Tuesday thru Sunday for dinner. Fine dining – renowned for serving the best food in Vieques created by Chef Xandra.
  • Chez Shack. Billed as a tree house located in the Pilon Jungle, this is truly a one-of-a-kind outdoor eating experience. While the surroundings are au naturale, the food is expertly prepared and exquisite. The place turns magic when the jungle turns pitch-black and the white Christmas lights brighten up the house in the jungle. Don't miss this experience.
  • Chicken King. This local eatery has some of the best fried chicken and fries you can get on the island.
  • El Quenepo, on the Malecon in Esperanza (The East end of the Malecon), (787) 741-1215. Tu-Su: 5:30PM-close. Fun funky island food on the Malecone in Esperanza. Classy casual dining with amazing food and fantastic service.
  • Shauna's, (Isabel II). If you want to dine with the locals come here. Brush up on your Spanish. They serve delicious, criollo Puerto Rican cuisine. Very reasonably priced, and some great flan.
  • Trade Winds, (Esperanza), [11]. A beautiful ocean-front restaurant in Esperanza. Wonderful breakfasts, lunches, and dinners serving traditional American fare, fresh seafood and tasty cocktails. This restaurant also has some of the best commercial ocean-front views on the island.
  • Richard's Cafe, Road 200 (Isabel II), (787) 741-5242. Service seems attentive, however, the kitchen takes a painfully long time to cough up even the easiest food, like a fish sandwich. On the upside, the food was served piping hot.

Drink

  • Chez Shack, Pilon, 787-741-2175, [12]. 5PM-1AM. It's the "In Spot" to rub elbows with the local ex-pats and party to the beat of a local Salsa band. $10 and up.
  • Duffy's, (Esperanaza, adjacent to Banana's Guesthouse), (787) 741-7600, [13]. Opens daily at 11.
  • Blue Moon Bar & Grill, (Esperanaza), [14]. Open 7 days a week, Tropical fares menu begins at 11AM.
  • Al's Mar Azul, Isabell II (On the water near the ferry dock), 787-741-3400. 10:00am - 1:00am. Open til 1:00AM Sun-Thurs, later on Friday and Saturday nites. Sunset happy hour everyday 5-7:30. A fun local dive bar.

Sleep

  • Banana's Guesthouse, (Esperanza), 741-8700 (, fax: 741-0790), [15]. checkin: 1PM; checkout: 11AM. A decent guesthouse located on the southern coastline. $65-90 per night.
  • Casa de Amistad, # 27 Calle Benitez Castano (Isabel Segunda, walking distance from the ferry terminal), (787) 741-3758 (), [16]. Comfortable guest house with a communal kitchen, small but pretty pool, located in the middle of Isabel Segunda. Not fancy by any means, but several steps above the youth hostel it used to be. $70 for one queen bed room, $85 for two full beds room, $90 for two room suite, two full beds in the bedroom and a separate sitting room, private bath. (18.150547,-65.441496)
  • Crow's Nest Inn, (787) 741-0033 ((787) 741-0993, toll free: 1-877-8163-169, , fax: (787) 741-1294), [17]. $114 for double occupancy, $124 for a garden suite or $225 for a two bedroom, two bath with a deck suite.
  • Hacienda Tamarindo, 787-741-8525 (, fax: 787-741-3215). Hacienda Tamarindo, offers 16 very special rooms, each lovingly and creatively designed and decorated by owner, Linda Vail. Each guest room and public space is unique; imaginatively spiced with a lifetime’s accumulation of art, antiques, and collectibles. Amenities include: swimming pool, honor bar, box lunches, beach chairs, towel and cooler.
  • Inn on the Blue Horizon, Crrt. 996 Km 4.3 (Esperanza), 1-877-741-2583 (), [18]. checkin: 2PM; checkout: 11AM. The boutique hotel on the island's southern coastal road, less than a mile west of Esperanza on on a bluff overlooking the sea
  • Malecon House, 105 Calle Flamboyan (On the Malecon in Esperanza), 787 741-0663 (), [19]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. Chic new inn on the boardwalk, comfortable large rooms, modern design, pool & gardens. $138-235. (18.096235N,65.475276W)
  • Martineau Belle Playa, (787) 409-3057, [20]. Oceanfront villa in Martineau Beach Estates. Three bedrooms, pool, concierge services. $1250 per night.
  • Sea Gate Hotel, (787) 741-4661, (787) 667 2805 (fax: (787) 741-2978), [22].
  • Tropical Guest House, E41 Calle Apolonia Gittings, Mambiche (Isabel Segunda, walking distance from ferry, historical fort), 1-787-741-2449 (), [23]. checkin: 2 PM; checkout: 11 AM. All rooms have private bathrooms, A/C and TV. Studios have mini refrigerators and sleep 4-6 people. $75-$139 per night.
  • Bravo Beach Hotel, 1 North Shore Rd (Atlantic Coast, east of ferry dock, past the light house in the Bravo Beach neighborhood, walking distance to Isabel Segunda and the ferry dock), 787-741-1128, info@bravobeachhotel.com, [24]. checkin: 3:00 p.m.; checkout: 11:00 a.m.. Low Season Rates: $125-$375; High Season Rates: $150-$375; Christmas/New Year Week Rates: $175-$400 10 room boutique hotel, modern/minimalist in design, 2 Bedroom 2 Bath private villa available on the property, 2 swimming pools, daily continental breakfast,
  • Hix Island House Hotel, Route 995, km 1.5 (Pilon neighborhood), 787-741-2302, [25]. checkin: 3pm; checkout: 11am. Canadian Archictect John Hix designed, eco-friendly hotel located among the trade winds that flow throw the. This hotel has 19 "Lofts", each with outdoor showers and full kitchens. Buildings include Casa Rectangular, Casa Redonda, Casa Triangular, La Casona, and the newest off-grid building Casa Solaris. Casa Solaris is the first of its kind in the Caribbean, being completely self sustaining with LED lights, high-efficiency appliances all run off of 24 solar panels and 12 batteries. Daily yoga classes are held in the outdoor pavilion. 135-450. (18.114937,-65.492678)
  • Casa Dos Chivos, La PRRA/Los Chivos (Short drive from the airport or ferry dock in Isabel), (), [26]. checkin: 3:00 PM; checkout: 10:00 AM. Casa Dos Chivos is a 1 or 3-bedroom vacation rental house. This chic house overlooks the ocean and nearby islands. (18.12953,65.444785)
  • Oreanda, (Esperanza), (410) 340-6226, [27]. Oreanda is an eco-friendly paradise with 2 casitas, which each accommodate 2 people. Oreanda offers tranquil privacy, majestic views of the Caribbean, and gracious hospitality. $145 per night.

Splurge

  • Beach House Vieques, (Santa Maria), (), [28]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. Three bedroom beachfront bungalows with private pool, washer/dryer, hammock and beach chairs $1000 per week.
  • Villa Gallega, A-16-N florida Hill rt. 201 (150 yards From Crows Nest, left Hill), 1-212-784-6189 (), [29]. Villa and Studio have A/C, stereo surround sound and TV. $750/850-$2500+ per week, depending on number of guests and Season.

Stay safe

Vieques is a pretty safe island, but use common sense when visiting the more remote beaches. Leave your valuables such as passports, credit cards, and any other important documents and electronics at your place of lodging. Take enough cash for you to buy drinks and lunch on a beach day.

If you have rented a vehicle to get around to the various beaches (this is a must actually) it is highly recommended to not leave any valuables in the vehicle and to leave the doors unlocked; the idea behind this is that if your doors are locked then there must be something of value inside and it is worth breaking the windows to check and see.

Cope

Get out

You can get to either Culebra or Vieques, the two out island of Puerto Rico by regularly scheduled ferries from Fajardo on the east coast of Puerto Rico.


This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


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