‘Where the heck is Vieques?’, you may ask. Vieques, Puerto Rico is a place I had never even heard of before booking tickets to San Juan, Puerto Rico. I first learned about Vieques when I did a Google search for ‘Best Beaches in Puerto Rico’. I discovered that many people choose to take a day trip from the mainland to either Vieques or the smaller island, Culebra. I have written a post HERE detailing how you can get to Vieques and what to expect for transportation when you get there.
Why go to Vieques?
There are many other beautiful, tropical islands in the Caribbean. So why should you choose Vieques, Puerto Rico?
- If you’re American then no passport is required
- Your American cell phone plan should work here still without roaming (double check with your provider first)
- One of the few places in the world where you can see Bio-luminescent plankton
- There are hundreds of wild horses that roam the island
- Superb snorkeling
- It has an authentic laid back vibe that is difficult to find
Isla de Vieques is a 21 x 4 mile island east of mainland Puerto Rico. It was inhabited by the United States Navy for many years, which unfortunately has left much of the land uninhabitable due to un-exploded ordinance devices. There are two main towns on the island. Isabel II is bigger with approximately 5,000 people and it is where the ferry port is located. Esperanza is located on the other side of the island and, although it’s smaller, it tends to be more “touristy” with more visitors than locals.
Esperanza The deciding factor for us in choosing to stay in Esperanza was the easy access to restaurants, bars, activities and the beach being literally across the street from our hotel. The malecón is a boardwalk that goes along the main street in Esperanza- this is where things happen. Most restaurants and many hotels are located near it. It is magical to walk along here at night as the moon is reflecting off the water and the waves slowly crashing onto the beach. This was our view at breakfast every morning.
We stayed at Tradewinds Guesthouse in Esperanza. The location was excellent, as it was at the end of the malecón and away from the noise of most bars. The bed was comfortable, the shower cold and the WiFi strong. There is a restaurant on the property as well, which you can get a free (limited menu) breakfast at if you are a guest. Our room was furnished with an overhead fan and had a little fridge in it, which was a nice addition. We paid $85 a night for a room with a queen sized bed. There is a little shop on the property too where you can buy shirts, goggles, sunscreen, etc. We would definitely stay here again.
Food and Drinks
You can expect to pay about the same amount on food as in the United States. As mentioned, a big way we cut costs was staying somewhere that offered free breakfast. Our two favorite restaurants were Belly Buttons (we ate here every day!) because of great food and cheap prices, and Tin Box for exceptional (but pricey) organic food. Another excellent place was the food cart Sol Food. It is located off the side of the road, on your way to Blue and Red beaches. Being from the Portland, OR area we both are big food cart fans!
Drinks in Vieques are pricey, but many places have a happy hour and you can get a Medalla (Puerto Rican beer) for $1-$2. If you are staying in Esperanza there is a liquor store within walking distance. We cut costs by buying a bottle of Rum and some fruit juice and stored them in our fridge at our guesthouse.
Many of the beaches are named after colors which has absolutely nothing to do with how they look. They were named so by the Navy for training exercises that occurred on each beach. We visited 4 beaches on Vieques, our favorite being Caracas (Red) beach, below. The color of the water was absolutely incredible and the waves were fun to play in. Jake and I remarked about how it was easily the warmest water we had swam in and a local couple said that it was the coldest they had felt the water be in 2 years of living on the island! This beach was easy to access and the sand was shell- free.
Black Sand Beach: This was a fun beach to hike down to, about 15 minutes of easy hiking through a jungle. The sand was only black in spots but it was so incredible soft- it felt like powder. We saw some crabs on the beach and people frequently see wild horses here as well. The trailhead to the beach was difficult to find,as the only signage was a cardboard sign on a tree and some spray paint on the guardrail. I’m sure that correlated to the fact that there was hardly anyone else on the beach while we were there!
Honorable Mention: Play de la Chiva (Blue Beach) It wasn’t our favorite, it felt crowded and it was more difficult to get to on a scooter but the water was still warm and beautiful. I mean, how could you not enjoy yourself here? The is apparently some good snorkeling further out too, but the water was too choppy while we were there.
Want to read more? You can read more articles about Vieques below: