The first thing I did when we were considering a trip to Vieques was to google how to pronounce it! The simplest pronunciation I found was B-A-K. Seemed easy enough.
Once we arrived, I heard it said so many different ways that I just stopped saying it.
It is also known as Isla Nena, Puerto Rico’s little sister – that seemed easier to pronounce.
Regardless of how you say it, it’s beautiful. Only 8 miles east of Puerto Rico, we reached the island by taking a 20 minute flight from San Juan.
Vieques lies at the boundary between the Greater and Lesser Antilles, nestled between the Caribbean and the Atlantic and is home to dozens of picture perfect beaches. Beginning in 1941, about 80% of Vieques was under the jurisdiction of the US Navy and the island was used for artillery storage and training. The Navy left in 2003 and designated over 15,000 acres as Vieques National Wildlife Refuge with restricted access. Apparently, crews work daily to clean up any remaining artillery!
Hix Island House provided a fabulous home base for our stay. High on a hill with terrific views and tradewinds, we enjoyed a spacious, off-the-grid apartment with an enormous concrete opening for a window.
No screens, no air conditioning, just a ceiling fan
and a fantastic view of the sunrise from bed.
The hotel provided eggs, bread, fruit and coffee so we made breakfast every morning.
The kitchen was well-equipped but we were enjoying trying all the restaurants too much to make dinner for ourselves.
Our first meal was at Belly Buttons in Esperanza, one of the two towns on the island.
We chose it because they had the football game on TV. They also had a great BBQ which we enjoyed while watching the Patriots lose their chance to go to the Superbowl.
Surprisingly, we couldn’t find much fresh produce grown on the island. The staff at Hix Island House told us about the garden behind the restaurant TinBox so we headed there for dinner. The salads were delicious, so was the watermelon margarita and fish tacos. Another night we ate at Next Course and loved it. Chef/owner Buddy Stone has created some incredible combinations of flavors, he serves meals and chats with guests too!
We were interested in local food and found some at the food trucks parked at the entrance to the beaches. The pulled pork tacos and grilled margarita chicken from Sol Food provided great beach food.
Another big draw on Vieques is the bioluminescent bay. Microscopic, single-celled organisms create halos of light around whatever disturbs their nightly flotation.
Picture fireflies swimming under your kayak paddle.
Or fairy dust when you swirl your hand in the water.
You cannot capture it with a camera, you just have to experience it.
The number and quality of beaches was amazing. Everyone has a favorite and seemed happy to tell us why.
Caracas Beach was busier than some but stunning.
Playa Grande was wind swept and rough, perfect for a long walk one morning.
Chiva Beach became our favorite. The last part of the road was unpaved which limited the number of people on the beach. The water was beautiful and the curve of the shore invited walking.
We had avoided Sun Bay since it was so easy to get to we were afraid it would not be special. We were wrong! We arrived one afternoon just as the rain moved in and had the beach to ourselves.
Since this was our first time in Vieques, we kept asking each other if we would come back.
Vieques has quiet beaches, no cruise ships, great food and we didn’t even have to deal with customs or passports. By mid-week when Ron asked me if I would want to return to Vieques, we both knew the answer -YES!