Visit Vieques

Experience close encounters with giant sea stars, bask on sunny beaches, and soak up local culture on this little-known island near Puerto Rico.

Vieques Puerto Rico: Hunt sea stars and gather sea glass

Photographer David Hillegas

Hunt sea stars and gather sea glass

Tread through the clear, shallow surf to see these spiny five-armed friends. They usually hang out in groups, so they’re easy to spot. Between Green Beach and Mosquito Pier, you may find sea stars as large as Frisbees! Visit Playa Grande for pieces of worn-smooth blue, green, and amber glass to take home as souvenirs, but leave the sea stars where you find them.

Vieques Puerto Rico: Pick a side at the new W Retreat & Spa

Photographer David Hillegas

Pick a side at the new W Retreat & Spa

In March, it opened with an innovative idea: Choose your side of the hotel. The left is soothing and quiet, with adults-only beach access. Or check in on the right side, with its upbeat island tunes and deluxe, see-and-be-seen pool.

Tip: Before hitting the beach, let the W fix an Escape Kit for two that includes chair rental, an umbrella, and a picnic ($45). Bravo Beach Hotel, North Shore Rd 1; 787/741-1128 or bravobeachhotel.com.

 

 

Vieques Puerto Rico: Beach-hop three ways

Photographer David Hillegas

Beach-hop three ways

The beaches on Vieques have distinctive personalities. Visit Blue Beach for calm, gentle surf that’s best for snorkeling. Red Beach is the most popular spot for people-watching, socializing, and unobstructed views of the vast sea. Enjoy romantic scenery at the small, crescent-shaped Secret Beach, which is protected by dramatic rocks and a quiet cove.

 

Vieques Puerto Rico: Drive the coast worry-free

Photographer David Hillegas

Drive the coast worry-free

Vieques has few roads, so no matter how directionally challenged you are, any wrong turn easily can be corrected. The rugged terrain gets bumpy, so rent a Jeep. Tip: Do not leave anything valuable in your car, and place a local newspaper on the dash to help deter break-ins. Maritza Car Rental; 787/741-0078

 

Vieques Puerto Rico: Sip rum overlooking the harbor

Photographer David Hillegas

Sip rum overlooking the harbor

At the waterfront Bilí Restaurante, order a sweet rum punch (the best on the island!), garnished with star fruit, alongside the grilled mahi wrap stuffed with succulent plantain chutney and drizzled with cilantro aïoli. Bilí Restaurante, 144 Calle Flamboyan; 787/741-1382.

 

Vieques Puerto Rico: Get sweet on an old ruin

Photographer David Hillegas

Get sweet on an old ruin

Explore the 19th-century remains of the Playa Grande Sugar Mill—closed in the 1940s. It stands as a reminder of the area’s once-thriving sugar industry. Photo op: Pose under the curved redbrick entry surrounded by bright green foliage.

 

Vieques Puerto Rico: Saddle up shoreside

Photographer David Hillegas

Saddle up shoreside

Ride horseback on the beach on a trained Paso Fino horse ($65 for two hours) with Esperanza Riding Co. Or, if you just want to catch a glimpse of these stunning animals, wild Paso Fino horses can be found grazing ocean-side or galloping through tropical brush in the National Wildlife Refuge. Esperanza Riding Co.; 787/435-0073 or naturalvieques.com.

 

 

Vieques Puerto Rico: Lighten up in one of the world’s brightest bioluminescent bays

Photographer David Hillegas

Lighten up in one of the world’s brightest bioluminescent bays

Scoop the water into your hands as you kayak or swim—it’s like a thousand twinkling stars energizing your skin. Moving through microscopic organisms (called dinoflagellates) in this protected bay causes them no harm; it merely triggers a strong blue glow best seen on a moonless evening. Try the two-hour bio-bay night tour ($30) with Abe’s Snorkeling. Abe Snorkeling & Bio-Bay Tours; 787/741-2134 or abessnorkeling.com.

 

 

Vieques Puerto Rico: Enjoy dinner by candlelight

Enjoy dinner by candlelight

In the seaside town of Esperanza, El Quenepo serves a breezy candlelit dinner under the trees for which this spot was named. The menu features locally grown organic produce and locally caught fish. Nightly specials are up to the chef; try the sweet Caribbean spiny lobster if it’s available. El Quenepo, 148 Calle Flamboyan; 787/741-1382.

 

 

Vieques Puerto Rico: Experience eco-architecture

Photographer David Hillegas

Experience eco-architecture

Check in to the Hix Island House, located on 13 acres of natural refuge. Tall grasses, almond trees, palms, butterflies, and birds punctuate the no phone/television atmosphere here. The Zenlike minimalist lofts are designed to be one with nature: Outdoor showers and private open-air terraces are part of the design to reduce carbon footprint. Or check out the Bravo Beach Hotel, a small bohemian resort overlooking Culebra Island. Formerly a private hacienda, the property has been revamped with tropical gardens, verandas, and luxurious handcrafted beds. Stay for breakfast: Locally grown fruit, warm baked breads, Viequenese honey, and freshly made yogurts alongside a piping-hot carafe of Puerto Rican coffee are a delicious start to your day.

Getting to Vieques
Vieques Air Link; 888/901-9247 or  viequesairlink.com

 

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