Many people take a beach break on the island of Vieques – an island off Puerto Rico – to enjoy a beautiful sunshine getaway and the gorgeous beaches, the unique snorkelling and diving adventures and other aquatic excursions. But let’s not forget there are a ton of colonial-era ruins, abandoned naval facilities, and plenty of other activities to enjoy on this island. Just make sure you spend the extra money to hire a car, it will be totally worth it throughout your trip. Heading to any type of island can become expensive (just getting there, sometimes) but if you’re looking to stay within a budget, visiting the island of Vieques can still be crossed off your bucket list, and it’s by far one of my favourite places in Puerto Rico.
Vieques’s bioluminescent bay, or as the locals call it the Bio Bay, will have such a magical effect on you and is truly an experience of a lifetime. Bio bays are formed by microscopic single-cell organisms called dinoflagellates and when these little guys get agitated (when any object in the water comes splashing through), they release energy in the form of light. That is, they glow. And when they glow, so does anything that comes in contact with them, like fish, the oars of a kayak, or people.
Vieques hosts one of the best bio bays in the world; however, there are only two ways to experience the magic glow; kayak or boat. After doing a little searching on the web I was able to find a variety of tour companies that are on average $40 per person. This is one of those you-must-see-before-you-die types of ordeals so the money spent is completely worth it.
Vieques also has plenty of history to explore all within the island. The largest and most important historic monument on Vieques, the tiny (by fort standards) Fort Count Mirasol will probably disappoint if you’re looking for something like the castles of Old San Juan but it’s still a lovely landmark. This fort is actually the last military fort ever built by the Spanish empire. The fort later served as a barracks, and then a jail, before becoming a museum displaying artefacts and chronicles of the island’s history. There are also hundreds of bunkers that were used for ammunition storage, built into the hills, on the western side of the island. They’re a bizarre and eerie reminder of what once took place on the island. A few are even unlocked, if you want to venture in. So make sure to explore the interesting and complex Spanish history that surrounds the island.
Walking is always a fun and free way to explore what’s around you. Vieques has a nice mile-long space of man-made seawall on the northern shore of the island. Mosquito Pier, as it’s known today, was the beginning of a massive land bridge that the Navy began in the 1940s during World War II to connect Vieques to the mainland Puerto Rico. You can find great spots for fishing, beaches, and a cool phenomenon that has earned Mosquito Pier the nickname rompeolas, or the English version“wave breaker.” Look east on the pier and you’ll see choppy waves and strong winds; look west, and all is calm.
And, of course, the best part of Vieque is free: lounging all day by the beach, pool, or both.
Posted : Thursday, February 14th, 2013 at 11:00
Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.