Less than three hours from my New York City home base, Vieques Island in Puerto Rico is a hidden treasure overlooked far too often. From the second I boarded my flight up until the minute I left the island, I was constantly in awe of the beauty hiding here.
If you will be in Puerto Rico soon, I recommend you visit San Juan, walk through the colorful streets of Old San Juan and then jet over to Vieques. It’s a land of roaming horses, serene beaches and one magical, glowing bioluminescent bay that you won’t want to miss.
Here are the highlights:
Simply the process of traveling to Vieques, Puerto Rico is a highlight of the trip. The 20-minute plane ride offers incredible views of the turquoise Caribbean Sea and of the varying landscape of Puerto Rico.
To get to Vieques, fly into San Juan International Airport (SJU) and grab a cab to San Juan Isla Grande Airport (about a 15 minute drive), where you’ll catch your pre-booked flight with Vieques Air Link. A flight with Vieques Air Link is $75 each way. The plane is tiny, but the flight is short and the views are stunning.
If you want a cheaper option, you can take a ferry for $2 each way. With the cheaper price comes a longer ride and a bit of inconvenience, though. The ferry is about an hour and fifteen minutes long and leaves from Farjado (a 40 minute drive from SJU).
Vieques is an incredibly special place because it boasts the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. Not ‘a’ bright and not ‘one of the’ brightest … the brightest. Your tour guide will do a much better job of explaining what exactly this phenomena is and why it occurs, but essentially, tiny organisms called dinoflagellates in the water produce a bright blue light when disturbed. The result is magnificent and makes for a truly magical experience.
I recommend booking your tour with Taino Aqua Adventures. You travel with your group in complete darkness to the entrance of Mosquito Bay, put your life jacket on and prepare your kayak. Once on the water, you will be greeted by the most spectacular canopy of stars. Because Vieques Island has very little light pollution, you will see almost every constellation imaginable and even a planet or two depending on the time of year. Coming from New York City, this sight was unbelievable to me and I honestly spent just as much time looking at the stars as I did at the bioluminescence.
And then you’ll run your fingers through the water and it will glow. It looks like a million twinkling blue stars, a light show that is under your complete control. Even better, the glass-bottomed kayak allows you to see the blue glow under you as you glide through the water.
This phenomena is unfortunately very difficult to capture on camera, so it is simply one of those experiences you’ll need to take home with you to treasure.
Aside from the bioluminescent Mosquito Bay, Vieques is most well-known for the 15+ serene beaches that line its coast. Most of them are fairly difficult to reach, so chances are that you’ll be one of the only people there.
To read about my favorite beaches on Vieques and tips for exploring them, check out this post.
Exploring the Town of Esperanza
Esperanza is the central town on Vieques Island and is a must-visit for shopping and dining. The main road of Esperanza stretches parallel to the coast, offering amazing views as you pick up handmade local goods and sip mojitos at an outdoor restaurant.
For lunch, I recommend Bananas, a casual joint with an expansive menu and authentic Puerto Rican food. And for dinner, I recommend El Quenepo, one of the island’s best fine dining restaurants. Make sure you try the Conch Salad and the Mofongo 🙂
Horseback Riding on the Beach
Spend ten minutes driving on Vieques and you’ll notice that horses roam freely. (You’ll notice this because they all like to stand in the middle of the road). If you want to ride one, book a tour with Esperanza Riding Company and enjoy a scenic horseback tour across white-sand beaches and through Vieques’ lush green landscape.
Watch the Sunset at El Blok’s Rooftop
El Blok is a luxury design hotel located on Vieques’ Southern coast. It’s the perfect place to stay while in Vieques, but whether you’ll be staying there or not, be sure to make time to watch the sunset at El Blok’s rooftop. The cocktails are delicious (especially the Isla Neña!), the live music is great and the view of the sun setting over the Caribbean Sea is just spectacular.
After the sun sets, head down to El Blok’s restaurant and enjoy one of the best meals the island has to offer. I recommend the strip steak, the ceviche and the conch!
If you’re interested in staying at El Blok, read my full review of the hotel.
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