I'll start with that. Even though I want to talk about the things I loveIhate Vieques in this post, overall I think this rugged tropical island in the Caribbean is 100% worth a visit.
Okay, now that I'm done with that... let's get to the point.
The reason I went to Vieques was for a business trip. I directed an episode of House Hunters International there. (Want to know more about my work? Check out my post aboutat that time i spent a week in a cave in the australian bush.)
I learn a lot about a destination when I visit it for work. I am exposed to more than the typical tourist or visitor and I often get the perspective of the locals which really influences my opinion of where I visit.
That being said, even if I came to Vieques for a holiday, my outlook on this Caribbean island would remain the same. Overall, I really enjoyed Vieques and will definitely be back to explore even more. (I think it would be a great trip with a group of friends.)
But as a travel blogger you know and trust, it would be negligent for me to share only the good things with you and omit the negatives. So in this post, I am sharing with you 10 things I loved and hated about Vieques.
But first, I want to give you the basics.
Where is Vieques?
Vieques is a small, inhabited island off the east coast of Puerto Rico. The island has a population of approximately 10,000 and is considered a municipality in Puerto Rico.
There are two main cities on the island. Isabel Segunda, where the local ferry from Puerto Rico arrives, is full of candy dilapidated colonial buildings and is a bit sleepy. Esperanza, a smaller town on the other side of the island, consists mainly of a waterfront strip of restaurants and accommodation facilities that cater mainly to tourists.
Like Puerto Rico, Vieques suffered massive damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the fall of 2017. Although the island has been a great success, many things, such as the W Hotel, are still closed. (Apparently an insurance claim is keeping the hotel from reopening.) However, the power is on, Wi-Fi is readily available, and life has mostly returned to its normal, laid-back pace.
US citizens do not need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico or Vieques. The currency used on the island is US dollars and, as in Puerto Rico, the main language is Spanish.
The important thing to note in Vieques is that there is no hospital there, only a small health clinic. This has become a great controversy on the island as the local community believes that local life has been lost as there is no hospital. This is something to consider, especially if you are traveling to the island with children.
How to get to Vieques
There are two ways to get to Vieques from Puerto Rico, by boat or by plane. Most flights depart from San Juan International Airport. Airlines that fly to Vieques include Cape Air, Seaborne Airlines and Vieques Air Link. The flight takes about 30 minutes and they use very small propeller planes. (This flight is not for the faint of heart!)
There is also a ferry that runs from Ceiba, Puerto Rico to Isabel Segunda, Vieques several times a day, weather permitting. The ferry ride takes about 45 minutes and Ceiba is about an hour's drive from San Juan International Airport.
Things I loved about Vieques
1. The rich natural surroundings of Vieques
Vieques is breathtaking. From the cliffs towering over the sea and greenery to the pristine white sand beaches and turquoise waters, it's obvious why so many have fallen in love with the island's rugged beauty.
Unlike other islands in the Caribbean, much of Vieques has been preserved and unspoilt by development. This is because the US Navy occupied two-thirds of the island until 2001. When they left the island, they donated all the used land to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which has now designated the site as a wildlife refuge, some of which is open. for the audience to enjoy.
2. Wild horses
Technically, horses are not completely wild. They are owned by the people of the island but are free to roam. Regardless, the herds of horses you see all over the island are a beautiful and breathtaking sight.
But how did the horses get here? The horses, mainly of the Paso Fino breed (a mix of breeds from North Africa and Spain), were originally brought to the island by the Spanish conquistadors. They are now one of Vieques' iconic and most famous properties.
You'd be hard-pressed to find another Caribbean island with as many secluded and serene beaches as Vieques. This is because much of the island consists of a national nature reserve. Some of the beaches within the reserve are also a bit hard to reach (don't count on google maps to help you as service can be spotty on the island), but once you find these secluded white sand beaches you'll be rewarded with a lovely stretch of beach, mostly for myself. Popular ones include Caracas and Secret Beach.
There are also some great beaches outside the reserve, including Black Sand Beach (a word of warning: it's also quite a rough road) and Sun Bay Beach, which is very popular for its amenities (most beaches on the island don't). The latter is also a short walk from Esperanza's main street and is a great place to spend the day if you want to be close to amenities such as restaurants and bars.
4. Mosquito Bay
One of the most unique things about Vieques is Mosquito Bay, which is the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. The bay is closed to tourists and locals unless you book a tour with one of the official travel agencies. This is a good thing. Prevents pollution and overcrowding of the bay.
A night kayaking trip in Mosquito Bay to see dinoflagellates (single-celled microorganisms) glow in the dark is definitely an unforgettable experience and a must-see if you visit Vieques. There are usually two trips per person per night (weather permitting), 7pm and 9pm. It was the only "touristy" thing my colleagues and I could squeeze in on our business trip, and it was worth it!
5. Relaxed atmosphere
This is probably my favorite thing about this island because I love holidays where "dressing up" for dinner means brushing the sand off your flip-flops and putting on a t-shirt and denim shorts. This is Vieques for short.
Everything on the island is laid back and relaxed. This is not an island to come to if you are looking for a lively nightlife with crowded bars and clubs. One of the biggest weekly parties on the island takes place on Sunday nights at the El Blok Hotel and ends at 8:30 PM. That should give you a sense of the amount of "partying" on the island.
Related: Looking for a place to stay in Vieques? check minefull review of El Blok hotel.
Things I hated about Vieques
Getting to Vieques is cumbersome and time-consuming. If you're flying to Puerto Rico on the same day as your flight to Vieques, you mean a full day of travel. Vieques is not the best option for you if you just want a short weekend trip to the Caribbean.
As I mentioned above, flying involves a short flight in a puddle. The plane is small and not an option I would recommend if you are a shy flier.
You can also takeprom(a 45-minute journey) which departs several times a day from Ceiba. It's about a 60-minute drive from San Juan airport, so be sure to factor in this travel time when booking your flight to Puerto Rico and booking your ferry to Vieques.
2. How expensive is everything in Vieques
It was really surprising for me and it's the same in Puerto Rico. The food in particular is very expensive, even if you eat in what could be considered a "hole in the wall" on the beach. The average price of a dinner (a glass of wine and a main course) can easily cost $40, which is actually more expensive than what I would pay at many New York City restaurants! One reason is that most of it is imported to the island. It's just the cost of doing business here.
I am sharing this information with you so you can include it in your vacation budget. It's also something to consider if you're traveling on a budget.
Restaurant in El Blok, undoubtedly the best hotel in Vieques
3. Lack of good accommodation
The lack of good accommodation on the island is partly due to the damage Vieques suffered from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The W (part of the Starwood collection) was the island's only major five-star hotel, but it did not reopen after severe damage. (Rumour around the island is that insurance payouts are holding things up.) Another reason is that much of the island is a wildlife sanctuary, so overall development is limited.
My crew and I lived off the only option we had, which was thisHotel El Blok. (To readmy full review of El Blok Hotel.) Even though we stayed in the most wonderful hotel on the island, something went wrong.
If you are going to the island with a group of people, I recommend renting an Airbnb instead of booking a hotel or guesthouse.
4. Getting around the island
This is another thing that is not so easy. When we were there for work, we hired a van and driver for a week and had no problems. But if you're coming as a tourist you'll need a car and I recommend 4WD if you want to explore some of the island's more remote beaches. (And let's be honest, that's one of the great things about coming here!)
I have heard from various people that renting a car is not easy. Even if you have a confirmed booking, it does not guarantee you will get a car. There are also taxis (large vans) that take people around the island. This works well if you're just spending the day on the island or need transportation to the main tourist areas of the island.
5. "Mixed" customer service
Given that Vieque's economy relies heavily on tourism, I was very surprised by the general lack of good customer service we encountered in many places. I couldn't understand why many of the people working in the restaurants (and our hotel) were unhelpful and actually a bit rude. Given that tourism is something the island wants more of - especially as it is still recovering from recent hurricanes - you'd think people would be nice to tourists. But in many cases, me and my crew didn't experience it.
Of course there are people on the island who work in the hotel industry and they are very nice and helpful. But I bring this up because I've traveled all over the world and never experienced this general lack of friendliness anywhere else, so it was surprising to say the least.
Some Vieques recommendations
Below is a short list of places we loved and highly recommend adding them to your list if you plan to visit Vieques.
- Restaurant Block“This is by far the best beach chic restaurant with great cocktails and food.
- Quenepo Vieques- We loved this restaurant. So much so that we ate there twice! While we felt it had the best food on the island, it also had the most expensive prices, rivaling a high-end NYC restaurant. It's definitely a profit, but worth it.
- Bananas- Another restaurant on the malecon in Esperanza, this is a great place for lunch or a sunset drink.
- Crab Island Rum Distillery– this place has recently opened. They organize tours and rum tastings. I would highly recommend!
- Ciężarówka El Callejero Taco- Who can refuse tacos?! This food truck is right. They are usually parked in the field by the Esperanza sign, near the Green Shop.
Are you ready to visit Vieques?
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Now that I've shared the 10 things I love and hate about Vieques, what do you think?
Are you ready to visit this quiet and rustic Caribbean island?
I hope this post helped you make a decision. And I promise you one thing - if you put in the effort to get there, you won't be disappointed. Some places are worth it. Vieques is one such place.
Is Vieques worth visiting? Vieques is home to the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, amazing paradisiacal beaches, and breathtaking scenery. People who travel to Puerto Rico should definitely make time to visit Vieques.Is it worth going to Vieques? ›
Is Vieques worth visiting? Vieques is home to the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, amazing paradisiacal beaches, and breathtaking scenery. People who travel to Puerto Rico should definitely make time to visit Vieques.Can you drink the water in Vieques? ›
Tap water in Isla de Vieques is safe to drink. The water supply comes through a pipeline from the mainland of Puerto Rico where water is monitored, tested, and processed as per the USA Environmental Protection Agency and the Puerto Rico Department of Health.What is the drinking age in Vieques? ›
Drinking Age in Vieques, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico's drinking age is 18. Alcohol is sold in restaurants, bars, and food markets around the island.
Vieques is known for having the brightest bio bay in the world and for its Wildlife Refuge that was once occupied by the US Marine and used for live training exercises. Vieques is also known for its high population of wild horses.Which is better Culebra or Vieques? ›
Vieques is a better destination for families or couples looking for a combination of great beaches, kayaking, and horseback riding. The island has museums, a rum distillery, and historical ruins worth visiting. Meanwhile, Culebra is a more laid-back destination for relaxing at the beach, snorkeling, and diving.Can you flush toilet paper in Vieques? ›
When using public facilities, plumbing issues require toilet paper be disposed of in trash receptacles instead of being flushed, which can make for an odorous experience. And if you think restaurant service is slow on the main island of Puerto Rico, you haven't seen anything yet.Can you sleep on the beach in Vieques? ›
There is no camping on the sand. Sleeping bags are acceptable. Tents are recommended but not required.Can you swim in Mosquito Bay Vieques? ›
Swimming is not allowed in Mosquito Bay and Laguna Grande; you can swim and snorkel in the bay at La Parguera. Remember to plan and book your tour around the moon cycle, the darker the night, the brighter the bioluminescence. Tours are available all year-round; prices range from $45 to $135.Can you swim in Vieques Bioluminescent Bay? ›
The bioluminescent bay in La Parguera is the only bay in Puerto Rico where swimming is allowed and it adds to the true magical experience of the bay tour.
Tipping in Puerto Rico is just as common as in the U.S. It is part of the service economy and taxation system. Tipping is generally the same as it would be here in the United States. Gratuity may be included in bills in restaurants for parties of six or more.What are the restricted areas in Vieques? ›
(a) The restricted areas. (1) A strip, 1,500 yards wide, off the naval reservation shoreline along the east coast of Puerto Rico extending from Point Figuera south to Point Puerca, and thence west to Point Cascajo and the mouth of the Daguada River.What is the youngest drinking age in the world? ›
The youngest legal drinking age in the world is 15, with both Mali and the Central African Republic allowing folks to drink at that time. Seven countries do not have a government-mandated drinking age, while 11 countries ban the consumption of booze entirely.How much time should I spend in Vieques? ›
Personally, I think you need at least 3 days to explore all of Vieques. A longer trip of 5-7 days would be great, too, especially if you like to take things a bit slower, but 2-3 nights is perfect as an add-on to a longer trip in Puerto Rico. Elliot and I stayed 2 nights on Vieques, and it honestly wasn't long enough!How much time do you need in Vieques? ›
The island is known for its amazing beaches. A lot of tourists also come to Vieques to experience Bioluminescent Bay (sometimes referred to as Puerto Mosquito or Mosquito Bay). What is this? Whatever brings you to the island, we know from experience that you'll enjoy visiting Vieques for three days.What is the best month to visit Vieques? ›
The best time to visit Vieques is April-May
April-May is the best time to go to Vieques due to the excellent all-round climate conditions, and it's not likely to be at its busiest as it's not during the height of the peak travel season.
Ferry schedule, trips, & travel information to make getting to Vieques by ferry a breeze! Whether you're visiting the island of Vieques for a day trip or a full week, the ferry is an affordable option. While it is not as reliable as flying, with some planning it can be done smoothly.