JUST BACK FROM…VIEQUES
Just Back From… Vieques, Puerto Rico
Trip duration: One week
Flight Plan: We flew direct from New York to San Juan—a quick four-hour flight. There are then two ways to get from San Juan to Vieques. Option 1) For the adventurous at heart: Rent a car from Enterprise (the only company which allows you to take a car off the mainland), drive an hour south to Fajardo, take the $26 car ferry to Vieques. Though I considered this option, many travelers tell of six-hour-long wait times (there are only four ferries per day and locals get first dibs on tickets) and a rough 90 minute boat ride. Option 2) For the high-flyer: Take an eight-seater plane from San Juan international airport to Vieques for $195. The flight is smooth, takes 25 minutes, and the views flying over the Caribbean are unforgettable
Where We Stayed: At Hix Island House, a luxurious solar-powered retreat amidst rustic Zen-like architecture in the jungle. We chose Solaris Loft 1—a 1,000 square foot studio located on the top floor of Casa Solaris. We woke every morning to spectacular views of the Vieques island countryside and the Caribbean ocean. The outdoor shower on the large patio was my favorite part of our stay.
Best Thing I Ate: Empanadillas, a Puerto Rican beef turnover which is a street food staple in Vieques. (Empanadillas are similar to empanadas except the dough is thinner.) We also loved eating breakfast and dinner at El Blok, a relatively new and ultra modern inn by the sea—its indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant are are a must-visit even if you don’t stay there. The watermelon martini at Tin Box, a rustic open-air restaurant in the jungle, was by far my favorite cocktail on the island (and their sushi is also exceptionally delicious).
Best Hangout Spot: Along the Malecon in Esperanza for listening to great music day or night (there is often dancing on the street), for finding fresh sorbet given out from the back of golf carts, and for beach-front cold beers. I also loved Gray’s Magic Coffee in Isabel, owned by a well-dressed young Brit who moved to the island after visiting several years ago where he fell in love and never left. I imagine Hunter S. Thompson would have liked it there.
Best Beach: All the beaches in Vieques National Wildlife Refuge are breathtaking, but La Chiva is my favorite. Choose entrance number 10 or 11 for the best hangout spot.
Best Snorkeling: The island has some of the world’s best untouched coral reefs. I loved Mosquito Pier, where we spent the morning swimming with sea turtles and schools of bright tropical fish. You don’t need a guide for this; instead, take your own snorkeling gear (which is free to use at most hotels), park near the beginning of the pier and you’ll see some steps leading to the water—that’s how the locals do it.
Trip Highlight: On our second to last day, we hired the island’s famed Vieques Classic Charter captain, Sebastian, to take us sailing for a few hours on his classic boat; a 1941 Philip Rhodes-designed cutter rigged yawl. We drank cocktails on the bow, swam off the boat at secret beaches, and ate lunch while looking out at the ocean’s cobalt blue waters.
I wish I had… An underwater camera.
Why Vieques?: Hunter S. Thompson described Vieques as “the only place I’d seen in ten years where I’d felt a sense of peace” in his book The Rum Diary. That still holds true today.