Vieques is a Puerto Rican island just eight miles off the eastern coast of mainland Puerto Rico. It is a truly magical place. On Vieques, you will find an unhurried, leisurely pace; friendly locals and expats loving life; wild horses; scrumptious cuisine; and exquisitely beautiful beaches.
Below, you can find a guide on where to go and what to do in Vieques, Puerto Rico:
Transportation: Ferries, at $2 per person, serve as the low cost option for reaching Vieques. The ferries depart from Fajardo and land at Vieques’ port town of Isabel Segunda; however, the ferries have a reputation of being a bit unreliable and often fill up quickly. Although more pricey (at around $120-140 per person, one-way), flights are swift and painless from San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU). Or try San Juan’s Isla Grande airport for cheaper flights (around $70 per person, one-way). Two popular flight options are Vieques Air Link and Cape Air.
Where to Stay: Being a relatively small island, Vieques lacks an abundance of lodging options. You’ll find the upscale W Retreat and Spa on the northern part of the island as well as smaller inns and boutique hotels. Undoubtedly, the hippest, most stylish spot to stay is El Blok in Esperanza, an architectural jewel that opened last year and was awarded a Gold LEED certification for its sustainable design. In a short time, El Blok has received countless accolades from the likes of Travel & Leisure Magazine, the New York Times, and Condé Nast Traveler. With an attentive, hospitable staff; reasonable rates; 21 trendy guest rooms; an alluring rooftop overlooking the sea; and a breezy, open air common area with a bar and phenomenal restaurant, El Blok lives up to all the hype.
Getting Around: Vieques offers a taxi service as well as public transportation (referred to as “carros publicos”) which can accommodate up to 10 passengers. However, if you would like to explore the island and some of its renowned, far-flung beaches, a rental car is recommended as many of these areas are only accessibly with a jeep. Vieques Car Rental and Island Car Rental are two popular options.
What to Do: After settling in, it’s time to explore the walkable, charming village of Esperanza (“hope” en Español), located on the southern shore of the island. A small strip of bars and restaurants caters to tourist-types and runs along the popular Malecón (or “breakwater”), a picturesque promenade overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The bustling Malecón serves as a popular gathering spot and is prime real estate to eat, drink, people-watch, and peruse the wares of local vendors. If you’re in pursuit of activity on this sleepy island, the Malecón is about as “happening” as it gets.
The beach in Esperanza is ideal for a swim or a jump off of the pier. Nearby Sun Bay Beach is easily accessible by foot from Esperanza. At Sun Bay, you will find a gorgeous, just-secluded-enough beach, which offers amenities such as refreshments as well as a restroom facility- unlike the rest of Vieques’ beaches.
A Bioluminescent Bay tour is a must-do while visiting Vieques. Bioluminescence is a natural phenomenon created by microorganisms, or dinoflagellates, that light up as a defense mechanism. Vieques’ Mosquito Bay was lauded as the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world in 2008 by the Guinness Book of World Records. Be sure to choose the night for your tour according to the lunar calendar, as less moonlight makes it easier to see the bioluminescence. Abe’s Snorkeling & Bio Bay Tours is a popular and recommended choice for a 2 hour bio bay ocean kayak tour and leaves from Sun Bay near Esperanza ($45 per adult). Kayaking in a dark, glittering bay is an unbelievably awe-inspiring adventure, and Vieques Island is one of the only places, if not the best place, in the world to experience it.
Food & Drink:
Restaurante El Blok. The newly opened restaurant and bar at El Blok hotel is helmed by Jose Enrique, a highly celebrated Puerto Rican chef. Jose Enrique, whose namesake restaurant is located in the Santurce neighborhood of San Juan, was chosen as both a James Beard semi-finalist and Food & Wine Best New Chef. Restaurante El Blok showcases his elevated Puerto Rican fare in an airy, open space on the main floor of the hotel. The laudable cocktail list features fresh and skillfully crafted libations, including a refreshing vodka ginger drink. The menu features simple, fresh plates that offer a modern spin on traditional favorites. Tangy ceviche; juicy filet mignon; out-of-this-world flash fried eggplant cubes; and fresh fish grilled on a mesquite, wood-fired grill are among the many standouts at Restaurante El Blok. Homemade, fried churros slathered with decadent sauces serve as a winning culmination of a fantastic meal.
Next Course. Next Course is an deliciously eclectic dining option located on Route 201 in the center of Vieques, between Esperanza and Isabel Segunda. Next Course’s menu is a nod to international and Caribbean cuisine and is dubbed “cuisine inspired by travel.” Next Course’s decor contributes to a bohemian feel, and its large patio, complete with softly twinkling lights, provides alfresco dining in a picturesque, whimsical setting. With a varied and diverse fare and plenty of vegetarian-friendly choices, Next Course is sure to offer a dish suitable for a wide-range of palates. From Asian-inspired plates, bacon-wrapped dates, and short ribs to fresh seafood, chicken and waffles, and handcrafted cocktails, Next Course is truly a crowd-pleasing gem on Vieques.
El Quenepo. El Quenepo is a delightful restaurant located on the Malecón in Esperanza. El Quenepo spotlights the best in Puerto Rican and seafood-centric fare with popular dishes such as mofongo, tuna poke, and paella stealing the show. The plates are impeccably prepared and crafted with fresh ingredients and a local flair. With an elegantly designed interior, Quenepo’s vibe is somewhat upscale but simultaneously down-to-earth. El Quenepo is a dining, and wining, experience that is not-to-be-missed.
Lazy Jack’s. Lazy Jack’s is a lively bar and restaurant, adjacent to Lazy Jack’s hostel, and situated on the main strip of Esperanza. With a decent beer selection, a belly-warming signature painkiller cocktail and homemade pizza, Lazy Jack’s appeal extends to both tourists and locals. The staff is friendly, and a large patio is an ideal locale for surveying the scene and watching the world go by. If you are looking for nightlife in Esperanza, Lazy Jack’s is one of Vieques’ best options for a good, laid back time.