A Guide to Vieques, Puerto Rico | Part II: Around the Island
Vieques is an ideal destination for independent travelers seeking a tropical getaway complete with white sanded beaches, laid-back towns, boutique guest houses, and diverse food options. The following list is a jumping-off point of recommendations for lodging, restaurants, and attractions. With 21-miles of island and over 30 beaches to explore, you’re sure to discover bliss:
Malecón Guest House
Malecón Guest House is a chic seaside inn ideally situated near the edge of Esperanza, walking distance to all of the town’s shops, cafés, and beaches. It is a great option for just about any type of guest: couples, friends, and small families. Owners Robin and Marsha have lived in the Caribbean for over 30 years and their experience running a charter yacht has taught them how to be impeccable hosts. They do a thoughtful job of taking care of every detail: comfortable and spacious rooms stocked with mini fridges and beach towels; access to beach accessories like chairs, umbrellas, and coolers; a rooftop drying line; complilmentary continental breakfasts; a book exchange; board games; and helpful concierge service.
The intimate 13-room boutique has a beautiful garden patio with lots of seating, reading nooks, and a small relaxing pool. There is also a great shop in the lobby that sells unique resort apparel and accessories for women. Malecón Guest House is located just across the street from the town’s small beach, with picturesque views of sailing boats sail and dramatic sunsets.105 Calle Flamboyan, Vieques, Puerto Rico 00765 | www.maleconhouse.com
Hix Island House is a modern, eco-friendly complex located on a private 13-acre natural refuge. It is situated further inland, less than a 10-minute drive from the beach in Esperanza. The design is the concept of Canadian architect John Hix, who built the minimalist, all-concrete structures to reflect the sun’s warmth during the day. An open-air plan allows winds to circulate and keep the rooms and casitas cool and insect-free. There are no TVs or phones to distract guests from Vieques’ tranquil surroundings. You will, however, find a beautiful, sustainable pool nestled into the hillside that runs off the sun. Rates include Frette linens, private patios, and fully-stocked kitchens to prepare breakfasts. Most units include an outdoor shower and free Wi-Fi is available at the front desk. Daily yoga classes are offered for $15 in a covered studio and are also open to the public. Hix is an adults-only establishment, perfect for friends or couples seeking a private escape.
HC 02 State Road 995, Vieques, 00765, Puerto Rico; www.hixislandhouse.com
Bili’s is a bright and beachy restaurant located on Esparanza’s Malecon that serves fresh, innovative dishes inspired by Puerto Rico’s different ethnic groups. Seafood is the star here, but diners shouldn’t skip the creative tapas menu. We recommend the creative interpretation on a Caribbean classic: mofongo cassava dumplings served with our creamy aioli.#144 Flamboyan St., Esperanza, Vieques PR 00765 | 787-741-1382 | www.bilirestaurant.com
Duffy’s is dubbed the “Cheers” of Vieques due to its relaxed waterfront ambiance and friendly atmosphere. The menu offers bar grub and solid, home-style dishes that range from seafood plates to sandwiches (try the pulled-pork) to hearty salads and even a few veggie options. At night, Duffy’s becomes a lively spot where tourists and locals may mingle with a beer or cocktail.Calle Flamboyan | Esperanza, Puerto Rico | www.duffysesperanza.com
Buen Provecho Market
In Spanish, “buen provecho” is a popular saying said before eating that roughly translates to “enjoy your meal.” Visitors are sure to enjoy food at this a quaint deli in Isabel Segunda that also sells gourmet sandwiches and drinks. Meals cans be consumed at the bar in the back or ordered to go. This is a great stop for a quick lunch break or to grab take-out for the beach.123 Munoz Rivera, 00765 Vieques | www.facebook.com/pages/Buen-Provecho/
Sabores is located on the northern side of the island just off the main drag of Isabel Segunda. A clean and modern ambiance makes it a great sit-down restaurant to sample Puerto Rican cuisine with a sophisticated twist. Don’t leave without trying the arepas, a regional fried dough dish filled with seafood.359 Calle Antonio G. Mellado, Isabel II, Puerto Rico 00765
Local Food Stalls
In addition to the sit-down restaurants listed above, there are also many mom-and-pop stands and food trucks situated in towns towns or near the beach entrances. This is a great way to sample local, home-cooked style food at cheap prices.
Bioluminescent Bay Tours
Mosquito Bay is the best example of a bioluminescent bay in North America and one of Puerto Rico’s most beautiful natural attractions. The bay’s ethereal glow is caused by a high concentration of microorganisms called dinoflagellate. When the dinoflagellate are agitated by movement in the water, they release energy in the form of light. Remember to consult a lunar calendar before you book your trip. The glow of the bay is appears brightest in dark conditions when the moon is in its new or waning phase.
If you decide to take a Bio Bay Eco-Tour, we recommend Vieques Adventure Company. The staff is knowledgeable and passionate about the bay’s delicate ecosystem and it’s the only company on the island that uses clear canoes. The company also offers daytime kayaking, fishing, and mountain bike tours and gear.Vieques Adventure Company | 787-692-9162 | info@ViequesAdventures.com | www.viequesadventures.com
There are several outfitters on the island who offer guided kayaking tours to mangrove forests, offshore cays, sea caves, or remote beaches. Some of these tours may even be combined with snorkeling excursions. If you’re comfortable kayaking on your own, a couple businesses off Esperanza’s beach rent kayaks by the hour, ideal for those interested in exploring the little island, Cayo Afuero, at the mouth of the bay.
Advice on Booking Tours
Snorkeling is a fun pastime while visiting the beaches of Vieques, just don’t expect breath-taking, colorful reefs that may be found elsewhere in the Caribbean. You can expect to see an assortment of tropical fish, large starfish, crabs, and perhaps a sea turtle among a rocky backdrop. The best places to snorkel are along the rocks of Mosquito Pier just west of the airport, off Green Beach in the morning (before the mosquitoes invade), and under the cement Sugar Mill Pier in Esperanza. In Esperanza, a mask and fins can usually be rented for around $12 a day from Fun Brothers, situated near the pier. Fun Brothers also rents stand up paddle boards, kayaks, scooters, and jet skis.Fun Brothers | Flamboyan Street, Esperanza, Vieques, PR 00765 | 787-435-9372 or 787-741-0151 | email@example.com | www.funbrothers-vieques.com
Lounging at the W
The only high-end, luxury resort and spa in Vieques is the W on the northern side of the island. Though the hotel may seem exclusive, the restaurant, shops, café, lobby, wet bar, and pool areas are open to the public during the day. To gain access, simply drive up to the guard’s gate at the entrance and tell them you’re a visitor. The guard will sign you in, check your identification, and direct you to the guest parking lot. From there, you can head through the sleek lobby to the main grounds and gardens of the resort. We recommend sipping a signature Isla Nena Mojito from the bar while dipping your feet in the infinity pool. Bring a book and spend the rest of the afternoon breathing in the sea air while curled up in the shade of a colorful, cushioned Moroso lounge chair.State Road 200 KM 3.2, Vieques Island, PR 00765 | 787-741-4100 | www.wvieques.com
Best Slice of Paradise: Bahia de la Chiva
Bahia de la Chiva, also known as Blue Beach, is a long, open slice of white sand surrounded by shallow, clear turquoise waters. It is the scene you expect to find on the front of a tropical postcard. The beach is accessed from the wildlife refuge on the eastern side of the island. Even when “crowded” this stretch is so long that it is easy to stake out a spot. We recommend arriving early, around mid-morning, and parking in a higher numbered slot where shadier options are most accessible (as well as a couple of gazebos and picnic tables). Bahia de la Chiva is where you escape to do nothing but lounge and relax. If you happen to have snorkel gear, explore the rocky cliffs at the ends of the beach or the reef around the island caye if you are a strong swimmer.
Best Beach for Dramatic Landscapes: Playa Grande
Playa Grande, as the name implies, is a large beach that is located on the southwestern side of the island. The tide here is too rough for swimming so few people visit this wild and beautiful area. Follow the dirt road past the main entrance and park near the bridge. A lush and rugged landscape awaits for visitors seeking an isolated spot to relax, walk, or beach comb for sea glass in the coarse sand.
Best All-Around Beach: Balneario Sun Bay
Balneario Sun Bay is a wide, crescent public beach just outside of Esperanza with light sand and aquamarine water. Though this beach is probably the most popular on the island, it is also one of the biggest with plenty of space to share. There is a $2.00 entrance fee to park, but it is well worth it. The grounds offer convenient picnic areas with grills, shady tress, restrooms, and campgrounds with showers. If you’re not lugging too much gear, you can access the beach for free by walking across the isthmus at the end of the the beach on the eastern side of Esperanza.
- En Route Traveler Google Map: Our favorite spots on the island (see below)
- Vieques.com: In-depth tourist information that covers transportation, sites, and activities
- Vieques National Wildlife Refuge: Visitor information on the park
- Vieques-island.com: Detailed lodging listings (beware a busy site design )
Lara was instilled with the travel bug at an early age and has visited over 25 countries. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of discovering the world. She recently relocated to Seoul, South Korea, where she hopes to explore some of Asia for the next few years. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as a freelance graphic designer. In her spare time, she contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR, is an ambassador for FIG Clothing, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, instructs Zumba, practices yoga, dabbles in photography and, of course, travels as much as possible.