Returning to Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico

categories: caribbean travel

vieques

Saturday, July 8th

Time to say hello to Vieques again after a nine year absence. We drove from San Juan to the Fajardo ferry terminal and parked in the long term parking ($40 for a week). We bought our tickets ($2 each) and waited for the ferry to arrive. Prior to boarding everyone lines up in a fairly disorganized queue at a metal gate. When the gate opens it’s everyone for themselves and a rush to board. However, I’d expected this and told my kids this short term discomfort would soon be forgotten. If you expect the ferry to be like this you’ll deal with it OK. If you like airport style comfort, just pay the extra and fly.

Once on the ferry everything is fine, it’s fairly new and well air-conditioned to the point of being actually quite cold. The ferry ride takes around an hour and then you disembark much the way you embarked. After the ferry docked Penny from the Seagate picked us up at the harbor & took us to the hotel.

We stayed at the Seagate (787 741 4661) on our last trip and had a fabulous time and when we decided to return to Vieques the Seagate was our only option. It’s a nice perk that they’ll pick you up from the terminal so that you don’t have to deal with renting a taxi for what is only a pretty short ride to the hotel in Isabel Segunda. It’s set high up on the hill behind the Fort (El Fortin Conde de Mirasol) and offers 6 apartment style accommodations plus some additional houses & properties on the ground. It’s very down to earth and you feel at home the moment you arrive.

The grounds are lush with tropical vegetation and you almost feel like you’re in El Yunque. Note – this is not your 5 star bells & whistle sterile casino style spa resort. If you like that try the Martineau and good luck to you. If you are less pretentious, like discovering the real island feel and like more down to earth surroundings the Seagate is for you. We love it and will not stay anywhere else.

Sunday, July 9th
Our first full day on Vieques. We had an easy start to the day and ate the free full breakfast provided by The Seagate – a nice healthy one of cereal, fresh baked bread and bananas with milk, orange juice and coffee. It’s nice, not to heavy and something for everyone.

We started out by picking up our car at Marco’s Car Rental (747 741 1388). We reserved a couple of days in advance without problem but we have heard to make sure you rent in advance as it is hard to find an available car if you wait until you get here. Since we were coming in summer (low season) we were probably fine but in high season I’d definitely rent well in advance. Just reserve places and tickets ahead whenever possible.

Marco’s offers a variety of cars and we took the cheapest – a Suzuki Sidekick @ $35 per day. The cars are very well worn but unlike the mainland this serves you much better on the island. All trips are short and if you want to visit all the beaches you don’t want to be driving down those pot holed dirt roads in a new Lexus. Cruising around in a beat up open top jeep feels much better.

After picking the car up we knew to also had to get some grocery supplies. Penny had mentioned the main grocery store in Isabel Segunda, Supermercado Morales, closes at 1pm on Sundays. So we did a qucik intense shopping trip, buying what we would need for a few days (including plenty Medalla!). For beer lovers like myself this store does have a decent variety of imported beer, Heinekens, Red Stripe etc as well as the traditional mainland beers like Bud & Coors. The imports run around $8+ for a six pack.

South Beaches

After this we were ready for our first main beach expedition. I decided to start with the easier to locate beaches on the south side of Vieques. We wanted to hit the best (more remote) beaches when they were empty and have them to ourselves. We figured the locals would be out in strength on the best beaches on Sunday so we decided to keep it easy. We chose Sun Bay (off 997 close to Esperanza) – The $2 entrance fee also covers Media Luna & Navio Beach. Sun Bay is a long curved beach about mile long. The water was a beautiful turquoise blue. There is an initial steady descent over ground shells before turning into sand.

Going out a little bit the sand still swirled a little with the waves but it clears when you keep on going out to 4 or 5 feet depth. Light small waves, ideal for kids 7+ but watch for younger ones. We romped around and collected shells. We then decided to move on check the other beaches further on down past Sun Bay. They are down beaten dirt roads and you really need a jeep for this aggressive terrain.

We passed by Media Luna which was fairly busy but looked very calm & inviting. A little further along the dirt road is Navio Beach. This was a fabulous find. It has much larger waves which could be reached without going far offshore – literally standing in 3 to 4 feet of water. As such my 11 year old son had a blast body surfing and wave crashing. I took my 9 year old daughter into 3 feet of water and she too had a blast. The waves were probably medium on that day and perfect for these age groups. Any higher and I would use caution but we felt perfectly safe. Amazingly when you were 3 to 4 feet out the water was much clearer than at Sun Bay and also the same gorgeous color.

Around 5pm our strength started to wane so we returned to Seagate to freshen up for dinner. We had done some restaurant checking up online prior to our trip and found out that the Trade Winds, one of the better hotel/restaurants did curry (my kids favorite). So we drove back to Esperanza and Kyle & Emma had a couple of Thai Red Chicken Curries and I had the Sunday Night Special of Seafood Paella. We loved all the food but the kids commented the curries were quite mild, maybe Trade Winds toned them down for my kids not knowing their experienced pallet or maybe they are that way generally. However, the quality was excellent and my son said “I don’t care what you say, but we’re eating her again before we leave!” Trade Winds also has a nice and very extensive gift shop below the restaurant.

With this we retired back to the Seagate to start what we were calling “Movie Night”. We’d taken a portable DVD with us for entertainment along with a few Netflix movies. We set up on the outside patio from our room and had a blast watching an open air movie complete with snacks & drinks.

Monday, July 10th

We awoke to light rain and overcast skies. We had heard some pretty big thunder storms overnight but had slept through it. We turned on the small TV with rabbit ears antenna in the room & surfed around. We found a Spanish station which showed “Fajardo Inundacio” and scenes of cars struggling in high flood water. From looking out our window, considering we were relatively close to Fajardo, we figured we got off lightly. After another fulfilling Seagate breakfast with bananas & melons, along with the regular staples, we decided to have a relaxing morning.

Well almost, on checking my wallet I noticed to my horror my Amex card was missing. I knew we had used it at Trade Winds last night so I called there on my cell and much to my relief they confirmed they had it (I’d left it in the payment booklet). Emma & I decided to zip over in the jeep to Esperanza to collect my card.

Not to have a totally wasted trip we decided to explore some of the back roads on the way over and also find the location of a restaurant called Chez Shack. Whilst having breakfast that morning on the porch our honeymooning neighbors from Ohio across the porch said they had dined there last night and that it was excellent. It’s off the beaten path so a reconnoitering trip was in order.

We took Rt. 201 towards Esperanza and then turned right onto 995. We found Chez Shack easily enough a few minutes down the road and “bookmarked” it for a later trip. Chez Shack has a great reputation and is apparently owned by the manager of “The Mamas & The Papas”. Note if you are going there, it’s pricey and they only take cash. We then turned around and headed back along 995 before rejoining 201 south and then taking 996 into Esperanza.

This was a strip of roads I hadn’t driven before and I was interested and surprised to see a number of luxury dwellings on this route. Some were private and some were upmarket small hotels and villas. A couple to name were La Finca and Hacienda Tamarindo. Both looked very appealing to the eye and I have read good reviews of both. In Esperanza we picked up my credit card and took the more conventional road back to Isabel Segunda.

We hadn’t done much souvenir shopping yet and on driving through Isabel Segunda, across from the Post Office on Munoz Rivera we found a fairly non-descript shop with T-shirts outside. We ventured in and it opened into the biggest treasure trove of Vieques T’s you’ll ever see. There must have been over 100 different ones to choose from and there were all sizes from kids to adults. The prices were great too with kids being $5.99 and adults $8.99. The quality was also good as they were Fruit of the Loom. The owner approached us and said if we liked a design and couldn’t find our size he could print some and make more on the spot. There was also beautiful hand painted T’s at $14.99 and in the back of the store some pretty nice leather artwork which I assumed the owner was making. Prices there were typically $60 to $100 and were of things like colorful Taino Indian Art patterns and island scenes.

Camp Garcia

By this time the weather had cleared so it was time to head to the beach. Like yesterday we wanted to continue our quest to investigate as many of the beaches as possible. We decided to visit the ones on the old Camp Garcia portion of the island – Red (Caracas), Garcia (Playuela) and Blue (Bahia De la Chiva). The Spanish names are much more appealing that the officious navy ones! To get to these beaches take Rt. 997 and a little under half way between Isabel Segunda and Esperanza turn to the east onto a dirt track road marked by flags & signs designating the area a Wildlife Reserve.

Follow the dirt track until you see some more signs in Spanish giving you pointers to the first two beaches, Caracas and Playuela. (Note – We didn’t see any signs in English). We checked out Red / Caracas first and were disappointed to find it crowded with at least 5 people (sarcasm intended!). There were little pavilions and the beach looked calm and serene. My kids though wanted a beach with waves so we doubled back a tiny bit and took the dirt track back down to the adjoining Garcia / Playuela.

This beach was 100% empty and we set up base there for the next few hours or so. The waves were bigger here than at Caracas and the kids loved it. The waters were shallow so we had no safety concerns. The sands were light and clean and went back to the thick vegetation that ran parallel the beach. We saw here how it would be easy for someone to hide out in here and steal unsecured & unattended valuables on the beach. However, we followed the common sense security tips found in many other travelogues and simply didn’t leave any unsecured & unattended valuables on the beach.

This is the best way to deal with Vieques sole drawback, petty thievery. Much has been written about this how it is harmless theft with no physical threat – simply a crime of opportunity because of the large number of poor and unemployed on the island. The best way to come to terms with this is deal with it and use common sense – don’t leave your valuables lying around! We also followed other tips and left the jeep unlocked with windows rolled down – rather than have someone break one to see what may be inside. Having said all that we saw zero signs of people hiding so I can’t say how common this problem really is.

After an hour on Garcia / Playuela we decided to try another beach so we headed back up to the main dirt road and turned right and headed further into the reserve towards Blue / Chiva. It took another five+ minutes of bone jarring pothole driving and then we were there. Blue is huge and must be over a mile long with one large bay and two smaller adjoining ones.

This beach is the best renowned on Vieques and we can see why. It’s beautiful and has gorgeous, turquoise water. It’s ideal for all ages for swimming and snorkeling. We also discovered it’s also ideal for shell hunting. About 2/3 of the way along the beach there is a small spit of land pointing out to sea. It’s roughly in line with the small island 300 meters off shore. We set up base there and waded out to swim. After 4 or 5 steps we started standing on millions of shells & broken off coral of all sizes. This must be the spot the tides deposit all this “stuff”. My kids eagerly hunted for shells and we found some beautiful ones.

While we were doing this we noticed people half wading / half snorkeling out to this offshore island (by the way – people wise on the whole of Blue Beach there were about 7 or 8 people – perfect!). This island seems to be a favored snorkeling spot. Unfortunately 300 meters was to far offshore for my 9 & 11 year old so I didn’t get the chance to check it out for myself. I did see some people wading most of the way across and if my kids had been a bit bigger we’d have probably done it. We were more than happy shell hunting though. We would have been well served with a cheap snorkel mask to spot the shells better but the water was amazingly clear. We could easily see 4 feet+ down, even close to the shore, so by the island the waters must be crystal clear. Around 5 we started to tire a bit and headed back home to shower and clean up for dinner.

For dinner we decided to go “simple”. We headed to Banana’s on the Esperanza waterfront. This is an open air restaurant and bar and has a nice tropical / Bali-esqe feel. The food is good but more down to earth than some of the sophisticated restaurants on the island. We chowed down on Chili Burgers, Jerk Chicken & Mozzarella Sticks. What also helped was that it was Monday night and the Monday Night Special is $1 Medalla Beer! It was also a full moon that night and it was neat to view this and watch wisps of clouds float past it. After dinner we adjourned back to the Seagate for another Movie Night.

Tuesday, July 11th

We awoke to discover some more slight overnight rain. However the skies were clearing and the patio quickly dried out. Breakfast today was scrambled eggs, fresh mango & hot bread – another healthy & heartening start from Penny and her crew at the Seagate. After breakfast, whilst we were all getting ready for the day, my kids went downstairs to continue their mission to befriend every animal on the property. The Seagate is very animal friendly and Penny has multiple dogs, cats and horses on the property. All the animals are tame and my kids were delighted to interact with them. Penny volunteers with the Humane Society and I guess many of the animals may have been saved by the Society from less than ideal environments elsewhere as some showed some previous injuries. Emma loved the very friendly one eyed basset hound and the young kittens. If you stay here & have kids they’ll love hanging around with the animals.

“Green” Beach

On today’s itinerary we wanted to check out Green Beach on the far western tip of the island. We also wanted to try some snorkeling. We hadn’t brought any gear so I decided to splash out on some cheap masks & snorkels. There is a pet / sports shop next to the Post Office in Isabel Segunda and we managed to buy 2 decent beginner sets for $29 and took off for Green Beach on Rt. 200. It’s a quite a hike, at least in terms of Vieques lengths, and you go out past the airport onto the old Navy Base. 200 terminates a couple of miles later and turns into a another dirt paved road. This is actually quite an interesting drive as you are now in the western Wildlife Reserve. The vegetation also looked different here from the central & eastern part of the island.

We drove through some mangrove swamps, drove over some Navy built pontoon style bridges, saw some mongeese and zillions of tiny land cabs scurrying across the road. Eventually we came to Green beach and the dirt road split into 2 – one heading right north and one left south. We drove briefly up north and parked. We walked through the clearing and came upon an absolutely crystal clear, serene, turquoise lagoon. There were absolutely no waves and no current. Anchored a hundred yards offshore beyond the floats marking the edge of the beach area were 2 fancy yachts. It looked like a scene right of a Caribbean movie – wait we are in the Caribbean I quickly reminded myself! The beach here is long but much narrower with the vegetation and brush coming quite close or into the water on many spots.

We decided to check out a couple of other locations on Green Beach before finalizing where to stay. We went all the way to the northern tip but found that at the corner of the island the waves were more choppy so we headed back south. Just past the original intersection where the dirt road split into two we found a beach pavilion where we set up shop. This turned out to be a great spot.

We opened the snorkel packs & I expected the kids to head out. However, since my daughter had never snorkeled before she wanted to go with me the first time. My son also wanted to go first so we decided for Kyle & I to make the first excursion. (right away I realized I should have bought 3 sets!). However, this turned out to be snorkel heaven for us. The water is very shallow and with no waves or current both of us simply lowered our heads and started to swim. Right away we saw tropical fish – small blue ones with red heads.

More fish life appeared right away as we swam over to a small reef area. The reef area was abundant with coral and vegetation, more marine life such as albino fish, black spiky sea anemones, tetra fish and even an eel. This might not be exciting for a professional snorkeller but if you have young kids this is an incredible starter. We went 30 yards offshore and were still only into 3 or 4 feet of still water. After a while we went back onshore and my son & daughter traded places – my daughter had a blast!

We then headed back for a light lunch at our apartment in the Seagate before turning around and heading back for another afternoon crashing the waves at Navio.

In the evening we decided to try the Inn On The Blue Horizon for dinner as they were advertising “Tapas Night”. I gave the Inn an iffy review in a previous travelogue but having spent time in Spain & loved Tapas I decided to try again. All I can say is that the Inn is more beautiful than before and the new circular bar top is fabulous. However, the food is decidedly average and doesn’t match the setting. And the Tapas didn’t really resemble Tapas as I knew them. They were tasty but only five to choose from and not particularly Spanish either. They were way over-priced ($14 for 4 Coconut Shrimp – Tapas… I think not). I’d recommend the Inn for a drink and the awesome view & bar but for everything else it’s pretty much over-rated. An aging queen……….

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

On Wednesday morning after breakfast the kids went downstairs to play with the cats & dogs. Penny (The Seagate Owner) saw my daughter and asked if she wanted to ride a horse from the property. Need I say more…. My daughter gleefully accepted and Ruben, one of Penny’s handymen, saddled up a horse and took Emma for a just right 15/20 minute ride round the neighborhood. She went around the Fort and he also picked some fresh mangoes off trees as we went past.

Emma was in 7th heaven. Emma and Kyle were fast coming to my existing opinion that the Seagate is the only home for us on Vieques. We’re not even tempted to try anywhere else.

El Fortin Conde de Mirasol

When we got back to the Seagate we picked up Kyle and headed 2 minutes down the hill to check out the El Fortin Conde de Mirasol. This is the last fort ever built by the Spanish and has been restored in the form of a local museum. You can learn a lot about the history of Vieques and there is a very informative looping video describing the history in detail & interviewing many old local residents about their experiences. The video is not very flattering about the military history of US forces on the island but this is sadly true.

Vieques used to be a 100% island with residents throughout. One day in the 40’s the military showed up, expropriated 2/3 of the island often giving homeowners a few hours to move to the central 1/3 and giving them $50 in compensation. Ever since then until 2003 it’s been a long hard battle to reclaim the island. The military was a two edged sword – one is that it kept the developers away and prevented the commercialization of Vieques such as happened to the other close by Virgin Islands (Vieques belongs to Puerto Rico but is geographically part of the Virgin Islands).

On the other hand they would do bombing runs on parts of the island, practice invasions and leave military trash such as unexploded ordinance behind when they left. Everyone was happy to see them leave in 2003 with most of the military areas being passed onto the Wildlife Commission. A good thing in one sense, but the bulk of the island still remains off limits to local and vacationer alike, particularly on the eastern side where many of the best beaches remain out of bounds. One argument is that the former bombing ranges remain dangerous with leftover ordinance but by handing over to the Wildlife Commission, this has only slowed the cleanup. Opinion on the island is still a bit sour to the WC, not having the military is good but things are far from perfect yet! Enough politics – more travelogue please.

Secret Beach

When we were horse riding earlier Ruben had introduced us to an artist who has a small shop by the Seagate. Talking to the artist he happened to mention the location of the Secret Beach. This is not marked on any map which explains why it is secret. However, let me share the secret of this deserted beach. Take the Camp Garcia dirt road as if you were going to Red & Blue beaches. Drive past Red for a few minutes and take the first dirt road to the right.

You will know you have the right one as it’s the only road marked by two trash cans – Black & Blue in color. This is a lovely quiet beach ideal for swimming. We tried to snorkel but on this day the water was a little sandy so we decided to head down the road a bit further to Blue Beach to snorkel Blue Beach was much stiller but the tides had placed a bunch of seaweed directly where the treasure trove of shells we found the other day was located.

We again noticed some people wading and swimming out to island a little offshore. The kids tried to get me to take them but I was apprehensive of the distance and decided against it. It would probably have been fine but I thought better safe than sorry. We did talk to some people on the way back who said you could walk all the way across over the sea grass floor though. We did snorkel where the sandy bottom turned into the sea grass and it was crystal clear down to about 6 or 7 feet in depth. The sea grass was interesting and there was an abundance of plant life growing within it that was so sharp to observe.

After this we headed over for a brief late lunch break of appetizers at Bananas before returning to Navio for some obligatory wave crashing by the kids.

That evening my kids were craving Thai Curry at the Trade Winds so I bowed to majority vote and we returned there around 8.30pm. It was packed since Wednesday was lobster special night and we were told there would be quite a wait for a table. Undaunted we noticed the bar area was empty and asked if we could dine their. That was no problem so dinner of 2 curries and a marvelous Chicken Mofongo for myself filled us up fabulously. By this time it was almost 10 and we were all beat. We headed for home and the kids were asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow

Thursday, July 13th

Reluctantly, we’re down to our last 2 days on Vieques and thoughts of leaving have started to occur. On a whim I decided to ask the kids if they wanted to fly back to Fajardo rather than the go through the cattle scramble at the ferry terminal. As we said earlier the boat ride is nice but the queue and boarding are maddening. We called Vieques Air Link and they said we could fly to Fajardo for $23 each! What a bargain – almost like a free fairground ride being able to go up in a small turbo prop and get some cool views of Vieques. We made reservations for lunchtime Saturday – I think the flight goes on demand and will accommodate your schedule!

Wow!

On Thursday morning we decided to explore a bit more of the island we hadn’t seen and I also wanted to show Kyle the fancy houses Emma & I had seen earlier in the week. While at the Fort the day before we had also bought an excellent hardback book called Vieques by Gerald Singer. This is a relatively new book and is a fabulous photo essay and history of Vieques, especially from a Vieques view. I’d recommend this book for anyone wanting to learn more about the island and it also has some stunning photography of just about absolutely everywhere on the island.

Playa Grande Sugar Estate

I had read it the night before and it details some new beaches somewhat off the beaten track that I felt like exploring. It also has directions to some old ruins of one of the original Sugar Plantations – Playa Grande Sugar Estate.

We started by taking the back road to Esperanza (995, 201 & 996), stopping to film and photograph some of the gorgeous houses and hotels. On numerous spots on the road there were squished mangoes that had fallen from trees. We decided to stop and pick a few wild ones for ourselves as so many seemed to be going to waste. I jumped up and plucked a few. Kyle decided to film me doing this and immediately one fell from the tree and landed straight on my head – much to the amusement of the kids.

We then stopped in Esperanza and visited the Vieques Historical Trust by Bananas which proudly boasts itself as the world’s smallest aquarium. It’s actually quite interesting and has some tanks of marine life and some exhibit rooms on the island. There is also a nice gift shop. Vieques Historical trust also doubles as an Internet Café, minus the coffee. You can rent computers by the half hour for $3 or have WIFI for the same price for an hour.

“Black Sand” Beach

After this we decided to try and find Black Sand Beach. This beach is named Black not because of the military color naming convention, but actually because it is a black sand beach. The sand is actually magnetite and if you have a magnet with you the sand will adhere to it. Gerald Singer’s book gave accurate directions and we stopped 50 yards south on 201 after exiting Esperanza on 996.

The book said to follow an old Quebrada (Dry River bed) for half a mile down to Black beach. It did note that the river bed can start to have some water if it rains. Unfortunately in our case it had rained some and it became more watery the further we went. It’s a nice hike though and you pass more mango & coconut trees. Some coconuts had fallen to the ground and rooted and flowered. I would love to take one back to Houston & grown our own Vieques coconut tree but it was highly impractical. Also unfortunately after we got to within 25 yards of the beach we encountered an impassable small lake. Reluctantly, we had to turn around and retreat to the car.

Another car driving travel tip for Vieques. If you ever tire of the non stop selection of Puerto Rican radio stations in Spanish, we found our that on Vieques you can pick up stations from St. Croix. We ended up permanently tuned in 96.1 FM Mongoose / Pirate Radio. It broadcasts a selection of retro 70’s through 90’s rock – perfect for those of us who graduated in the 80’s! Listening to the DJ’s talk English and all the adverts for local St. Croix & St. Thomas businesses is cool. As I write this at the end of the day nursing a cool beer on the Seagate patio in the still night air they’re playing Stairway to Heaven – ah the Caribbean and Led Zep! Picture the image.

Back to earlier in the day, following on from Black Beach earlier, we then continued down 995 to Playa Grande. This is a long windswept beach and has some largish waves crashing onto the shore, sometimes over some rocky outcrops. On this day, it was pretty to look at but not well suited for swimming or snorkeling so we got back in the car and headed to the end of 995.

Just where the road stops the Navy have built a radar snooping station – ROTHR (Relocatable Over The Horizon Radar). This station is designed as part the war on drugs and to listen on Central & Southern American guerrilla groups. You can actually get a glimpse of this facility if you turn right when 995 ends and head up a paved road which goes over the Vieques mountain range and exits close to Mosquito Pier on the north side of the island.

BioBay

We then decided to have some simple R&R as we’d been running around all week. Thursday was also our booked trip for the famous BioBay trip so we decided to relax back at the Seagate in the afternoon prior to the trip. We booked with Island Adventures (787 741 0720). This is the original BioBay company although more have sprung up over the years. Elsewhere, you can also rent Kayak’s for a guided tour as well. Island Adventures have a most professional setup and are located close to the Inn on The Blue Horizon & Hacienda Tamarindo on Rt. 996.

We checked in at 6.45pm and it costs $30 per adult & $15 per child. Their facility has a souvenir store and offers some neat glow in the dark BioBay shirts for $15 along with other gifts. In the waiting area there are also some educational movies playing about the Bay. When everyone was checked in we boarded a big yellow school bus for the 10 minute ride to the Bay. As we traveled the guides answered various questions on the bay from the guests. We sailed out on an electric pontoon to the middle of the bay and dropped anchor.

We then were allowed to jump in with all kids 12 and under having to wear life preservers and adults a small floaty belt around the waist. When you jump in the water explodes in blue neon light. It’s an awesome rush and everyone is splashing around like 5 year olds. The water is warm and calm – it might be a little apprehensive for the young ones to get into the water in the dark but it is perfectly safe.

You can stay in for around 20 minutes and then re-board the boat. As an added plus, particularly on the night we were there, was that it was a cloudless night. The view of the stars was spectacular and I can never remember seeing so many at one time so crystal clear. The guide had a strong laser pointer and also pointed out the various constellations, the Planet Jupiter, the Milky Way and many other things. This was really neat.

Afterwards when we finished around 9 we went to Bananas for a late dinner. Note, that most restaurants close at 10pm so kitchens shut at around 9.30p. Bananas kitchen stays open till 9.45pm and to 1am in the bar/eating area so this is one of few places you can eat and drink late.

Friday, July 14th

Next morning Emma wanted to go horseback riding again so we found Ruben and politely asked if this would be possible. He said it would be no problem and fitted up one of the horses and took Emma for another ride. I made sure we tipped him well. Afterwards my son pleaded with me to go back to the Vieques Historical Trust Internet Café. He’d been offline for a week and was having a hard time dealing with it!

We decided to head over there and spent the rest of the morning there. For lunch we decided to try somewhere new and went next door from Bananas to Bili. Bili is quite similar but a little bit more upmarket. They have a wide and varied menu and we really enjoyed our lunch there. As soon as lunch was over we it was beach time again. The kids chose Navio again so we headed over there again. It was now that we had our one “unpleasant” moment of the trip.

Navio was quite fairly quite. However, there were one group which consisted of a mom & dad with two teenage children with what I figured were the teenagers’ boyfriends/girlfriends. The kids were clothed but Mom & Dada were stark naked (and it wasn’t a pretty sight if you’re reading this folks!). I’m no prude but there is a time and place for everything. Being nude on a public family beach in Vieques isn’t one of them. Plus I believe it’s illegal as well.

In any case Mom & Dada were romping around in the surf like a pair of aging hippies. My kids were aghast. I started giving the group dirty looks and eventually they left. I can’t imagine what the adults children felt – being with your girlfriend/boyfriend while your parents are romping around in their birthday suit must be embarrassing. In any case once they left we ended up having another marvelous time at Navio. As this was our last day I also wanted to check out Media Luna which we hadn’t been to yet so we then headed over there. This is a really nice beach and is large, calm & perfect for swimming.

In the evening we decided to visit the Crows Nest (787 741 0011) for dinner. It’s located on Rt. 201 in the middle of the island. It’s a lovely place and has a very nice steak & lobster restaurant. The only drawback is that there website advertises a kids menu but when we got there we found it had been discontinued. However, the kids found something they liked on the adult menu and also went overboard on the excellent deserts. The steak restaurant is set higher up and offers some nice views. Beneath it by the hotel pool is a more casual restaurant which we must try on our next trip. By the end of dinner the kids were exhausted and being our last night we headed back to pack before flying out in the next day.

Saturday, July 15th

Time to leave Vieques. This proved quite a wrench as the kids were so at home and in love with the island. However, this was tempered slightly by knowing they were going to get to fly in a small airplane for the first time. First we went to Marco’s to drop our jeep and to our pleasant surprise when we asked if we could get a ride to the airport they simply said to take the jeep and park it there, leaving the keys beneath the seat! So off we went.

Once in the airport we checked in Vieques Airlink, paid our tickets and were then told since everyone who had reserved had arrived we’d take off right away. That was nice and would save us 30 minutes waiting around. The plane ride ended up being really cool and afforded us the opportunity to shoot some nice aerial views of the island before we landed 10 minutes later in Fajardo. And thus ends a wonderful trip to Vieques. We’ll be back soon.

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by Evan from Houston, TX



5 Responses to “Returning to Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico”

xq

Says:

i’m heading to Vieques next week and staying at the SeaGate, i’m so excited, esp now that i read your post about how great it is =)

thanks!

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Clarine Barbot

Says:

Outstanding article over again. Thanks a lot;)

Brazil Property

Says:

Sounds idyllic picking and eating mangos of the trees, turquoise blue waters and a small engine plane ride for a great view of the island as you leave. Pretty cheap and friendly to. I want a holiday now. 😉

Greg

Says:

Evan, this was a really excellent travel post. I appreciate all the detail, plus the specifics of road names/numbers and phone numbers. The descriptions of areas and situations were perfect, too. I know this is going to help us on our first visit to the island this coming July. So, thank you very much for taking the considerable time to write all this.
But I must comment on something that was disappointing: when you all went to Navio beach and that group was already there. You made all sorts of assumptions about what was happening. You actually had no idea what the teens thought about the adults or what their collective lifestyle was. Plus the shaming comment about how the older couple looked naked. How good do YOU look naked, or even in your bathing suit? Who are you to make some sort of judgement about their attractiveness nude? And who cares about what you think?
Those people were ALREADY there. As far as they were concerned a deserted beach on a quiet island was exactly the “time and place” to frolic naked in the water. You aren’t the police, either. You could have moved somewhere else on the beach or simply gone to another of the 50 or so beaches. Which you actually DID a little later that day. OR you could have been a more accepting, mature, cool Dad and said “well, kids, some people like to do that” and been chill about it.
I’m so disappointed when people behave the way that you did: all disapproving and judgemental about other people. It’s really lousy.

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