There are parts of Vieques Island that are truly breathtaking. And there are two quaint little towns that seem frozen in time. And a bioluminescent bay that is a natural wonder unlike any other in the world. Those are just a few reasons why I love this island east of the mainland, and why I would recommend it to anyone who visits Puerto Rico. Between the cultural attractions of Isabel II, the magnificent array of beaches and the terrific choice of dining and lodging, Vieques is an island paradise remote enough to feel like a world away.
But if and when you do visit, I want you to enjoy it as much as you can... so I've come up with six things you should not
do while you're here.
1. Don't leave your valuables in the car
Photo © Club Seabourne
Most hotel owners and car rental companies will give you this handy bit of advice at one point or another. I heard it the second day I was in Vieques, and it's worth repeating here. It's not like Vieques is a hotbed of criminal activity. Far from it. But when you're here, you're probably going to want to hit the beach.
When you do, you're probably going to leave your car unattended for a good part of the day (unless you plan to sit in your car and watch the surf, and really, where's the fun in that?). And if you decide to leave your wallet or brand new watch or jewelry in the car, well yes, there is a chance someone will take them while you're frolicking in the water. Petty theft does occur, and you're better off not falling victim to it. So leave the valuables at home and explore the island at your carefree leisure.
2. Don't underestimate the no-see-ums
Photo © Puerto Rico Tourism Company
Trust me on this one; I speaketh from personal experience. The first time I ran into a swarm of these tiny midges was at East Beach and the Kiani Lagoon. I also ran into a small army of them on my way to Black Sand Beach. No-see-ums are pestilential little bugs that will bite away at you unless you're properly armed with bug spray. While each bite is nothing more than an irritant, after the 20th one, you will want nothing more than to run back to your hotel and change into a wetsuit.
This one is a no-brainer, but I have to mention it anyway. Whether you kayak your way there or take the electric pontoon boat, the Vieques Biobay is something that shouldn't be missed. And even though swimming is restricted these days, just dipping your hand in the water and watching it glow neon green is enough to make you appreciate this spectacular natural marvel. I've lost track of how many times I've been out to the biobay, and each time I've come away in awe. Make sure it's part of your Vieques vacation.
4. Don't come for a dayThis almost goes hand in hand with #3 above, and it also comes from personal experience. I've done a day-trip to Vieques, and it simply didn't do the island justice. Given that it's a 20-minute flight from San Juan, you might think a day would give you a chance to see plenty. But that would be missing the whole point of coming to the island. Vieques is best experienced when you have time to explore, when you can discover your favorite beach, snorkel a few different reefs, and spend the night so you can check out the biobay.
5. Don't stick to Sun BaySun Bay Beach
is, with good reason, the most popular beach on Vieques. A large crescent of sand, it also boasts the most public facilities and the most parking. And I don't blame visitors for heading straight for it every day. But Vieques has an incredible diversity of beaches, and discovering them is half the fun of visiting the island. They won't all be as picturesque, as easy to get to, or as close to town ... but they are worth checking out.
6. Don't pet the horsesOne of the things I love about Vieques is its stray wild horses who roam the island. These beautiful animals can be found everywhere, and Vieques also has a fine tradition of Paso Fino horses (known for their smooth and elegant gait). But while they are very docile, these are not tame creatures. So please, don't pet them, feed them, attempt to ride them, or in any other way treat them like they're pets. They're part of the Vieques landscape, and should be treated as such.