Vieques, Puerto Rico: 5 Travel Tips + More
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
The island of Vieques, Puerto Rico doesn't operate like other places you may be accustomed to. Get "normal" out of your head on your visit to the island. This strip of land (about 25 miles long by 5 miles wide) is an Island off of an Island so, all goods, food and construction supplies arrive by cargo boats or planes. If weather, mechanical issues or "other" occur, those goods don't arrive and locals & tourists alike have to go without them until they do. The beauty of being remote, also comes with it's own challenges like these. Most who choose to call this place home, take the good with the bad, because living on a rural island surrounded by nature makes the difficulty worthwhile.
Cargo Ferry loaded with cars for a departure to Vieques.
You're ability to enjoy a vacation in Vieques may hinge on your ability to remember that you won't have every single one of life's conveniences available to you but, for me... that's the point. Vieques isn't home to "all inclusive" resorts like you'll find scattered across the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Vieques is a unique, simple canvas derived from nature, and how you use your brush will determine your masterpiece of a vacation.
Vieques is home to a thriving Paso Fino horse population, these animals run free throughout the entire island. Also, prepare yourself for other animals like dogs, cats, pigs, iguanas, goats and chickens, specifically roosters. These loud birds may contribute to your hangover in the early mornings after a late night of rum drinks or Medalla's, the local light beer of Puerto Rico.
I am sharing my 5 personal travel tips for your next visit to the Island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Most of my suggestions are surrounding logistics, because Vieques provides you with the beautiful weather and uncrowded beaches you need in order to find peace on this strip of land nestled 7 miles off the southeast cost of Puerto Rico's big island, referred to as the Big Island or "Isla Grande". For those who live in cold climates, the winter may be your best time to visit the island because the warm air and water offer exactly what is needed to escape a cold dark winter. Some also like to travel in late spring and early summer, when the currents shift and turn the ocean into a calm tranquil body of water.
#1 FLY - If your Puerto Rican vacation is 100% about Vieques, fly into San Juan (SJU) and board a Cape Air Flight to Vieques for about $120 each way. You can also fly from the nearby airport of Isla Grande (ISG) which is about 10 minutes from San Juan International airport. Another option is to fly from the town of Ceiba for about $40, which is the same town where the ferry departs from, which means that you need to take a 50 minute Taxi or Uber ride.
The flight is a unique experience if you've never flown on a small plane. It gives you a birds eye view of the sea and mountains on your 25 minute journey. See the time lapse of my trip from San Juan to Vieques (Jan 2022).
If you're travelling on a budget, the Ferry is your other option, it departs from the town of Ceiba and non-resident tickets are only $2. https://www.puertoricoferry.com/en/
50% of the tickets are sold online in advance until they sell-out, after which the other half can be purchased upon your arrival to the ferry terminal. The trip takes about an hour and you must arrive an hour or more before your departure. There is a small concession at the terminal that serves cold beer and munchies.
#2 RENT A JEEP/CAR - Your Experience on the island will be much better with a car or Jeep Rental. So many of the must see locations on the island are easily accessable by jeep. Many tourists opt for the golf cart rental because golf carts are a few dollars cheaper per day and they "add to the experience". Not the case in my opinion. There are islands where I've visited that they work very well as a method of transportation (like Isla Mujeres, Mexico) however, these carts limit you to 20 miles per hour or less, they offer little secure compartments to store your personal items, they don't keep all items dry in passing rain showers and they can be extremely dangerous. I know many occasions where individuals have crashed these carts, causing serious injury. That said, if everyone on the island drove carts, it may be a different story.
Be cautious of horses and other animals when you drive on the island.
Book your auto rental well in advance. There have been times on the island where ALL car rental companies were fully booked 2 months in advance. If you think it's too early to rent, it means you should book it NOW.
Some rental options are:
Other options on the island are scooters and electric bikes. My hope is that in the coming years, electric bikes and other eco-friendly transportation options flood the island market, replacing the need for full size cars.
#3 SPEAK WITH A LOCAL - Don't be afraid to engage with locals! Don't be intimidated by locals or their island culture that may seem rough from the exterior. You can learn so much about the island and where to go (on what day) through communicating with locals, which is the information highway of the island. If you know a little (or a lot) of Spanish, give it all you've got! I promise they will appreciate it because so many tourists arrive and give little effort, just trying to take from the island. I've not experienced a more loving, accepting culture of kind-hearted humans anywhere else. My first visit to the island was without a car... I couldn't even walk a main road without someone asking if I needed a ride.
#4 TAKE A BIO BAY TOUR (MOSQUITO BAY) - This is must do on your visit. There are few places world-wide where you can experience a body of water that glows in the darkness of the night when it's waters are disturbed. The bioluminescent bay in Vieques is truly a wonder of the world, worth seeing. Here's a youtube video that give's you some visuals and a nice overview.
I personally recommend using the tour company Taino Aqua Adventures https://www.tainoaquaadventures.com/
#5 WATCH A SUNSET FROM THE PIER IN ESPERANZA - The small fishing down on the South Side of Vieques is called Esperanza. There are two piers that offer the best spot for watching the sun go down over the Caribbean Sea. As the sun goes down, the Coqui frogs start to chirp from the vegetation. See below shot from my recent January 2022 trip to the island. You can even take a sunset horseback trip with the Esperanza Riding Company.
By far, the most extensive island information can be found at https://viequesinsider.com/
BEACHES.... Some of the best (In my opinion) are:
Playa Sun Bay (easy access, calmer water, some shade trees)
Playa Caracas (waves on one side, calmer on the other, minimal shade)
Playa La Chiva (many private spots and huts). Great place to spend the entire day.
Here's a great beach map: https://viequesbeachmap.com/
ACCOMODATIONS... My place, of course. Or, one of the countless AirBnb's on the island.
If you need a place to stay for 4 people or less during your stay in Veiques, check out the availability at my AirBnb https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/17648809
To hear my Podcast Episode about Vieques