Relax. Unwind. Renew.
Sacred places allow us to do this; they allow us to transform and transcend our hectic lives. The island of Vieques, Puerto Rico is one of those sacred places.
Walking the pristine beaches in quiet solitude and contemplation or appreciating simplicity by getting away from life’s complexity can revive the spirit in profound ways. Vieques offers an alternative to the vibrancy electric energy of busy vacations. This is a calming place.
The beauty natural and often unique from the secluded coves, to the verdant hills, from the wildlife to the luminescent bay glowing on a dark, starlit night. Nature is the star of Vieques attractions. Its beauty entices people from all over. The overall feeling is of going back in time to a primeval world where the traces of today’s current hustle and bustle disappears and the world becomes a clean and wild place. In Vieques Puerto Rico time stands still and allows you to enjoy Nature’s wonders.
Vieques, Puerto Rico… A place to experience and allow the experience change you.
Quick Facts about Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico
Points of Interest / Attractions in Vieques
Nature is the star of Vieques attractions. Its beauty entices people from all over. The overall feeling is of going back in time to a primeval world where the traces of today’s current hustle and bustle disappears and the world becomes a clean and wild place. Time stands still and allows you to enjoy Nature’s wonders.
The history of Vieques is much older than the Spanish and even older than the original native Arawak tribes. Archeologists have found bits of evidence that a very ancient people dwelled on this tiny island, perhaps as old as the world’s earliest cultures of Egypt and India. We encourage you to visit Vieques historical places, it is a great way to connect with the island.
Imagine kayaking in the midst of a brilliant aurora borealis display. This is what you find when you visit the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. Considered one of the “must see” natural wonders of the earth, the tiny organisms in the water leave a phosphorescent glow that bursts with waves of bright blue color. More about Mosquito Bay (bio bay), Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Ceiba Ecological Coastal Park
Vieques proudly boasts a ceibo, also known as a kapok tree, known to be over 300 years old. This venerable tree sits within a lovely nature park. There are many places throughout the world where one can see ancient trees, however this particular tree is in itself a work of art. Its thick, wide root system rises above the ground in curves and arches reminiscent of a stone cathedral.
This is one of those places nature has created that lends itself to quiet contemplation.ains were discovered, potentially dating back 4,000 years.
Fortin Conde de Mirasol
Named for Count Mirasol, this is one of the last Spanish forts built in the Caribbean. Completed in the mid-19th century, the fort held the island’s military force and provided defense against other European control of surrounding islands. The stone structure housed the armory and a jail. Eventually abandoned, conservators saw the value of this historical site, turning it into an art and history museum featuring native artifacts, local art, and displays of Vieques history, such as relics of the sugar industry.
Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust
Thanks to this nonprofit organization, run by volunteers, Vieques resources, both natural and historical, are protected. The Trust focuses on education and awareness of all Vieques has to offer. They ensure that all of their information and materials are bi-lingual so that many can learn and appreciate this jewel of the Caribbean. Their efforts help to maintain the ecological reserves, preservation of wildlife, and protect the historical and cultural heritage of the island.
Muelle de la Caña
This picturesque old pier takes one back to the days of the great sugar plantations, when boats would wait to take the products to waiting customers. Today, the pier shelters sea life and is a perfect place for snorkeling. Take a quiet morning to listen to the lapping of water against the pier supports. Photographers will appreciate the varied angles from which to see the structure. One of the best is from under the pier, where seemingly endless rows of stanchions appear to meet the horizon.
Puerto Ferro Archeological Site
Traveling down a remote dirt road, you suddenly come upon a flat green field upon which stands a grouping of dark gray boulders. It is clear that the stones are arranged for a purpose, a small Stonehenge of the New World.
When archeologists explored the area in the early 1990’s, skeletal remains were discovered, potentially dating back 4,000 years.
Rompeolas / Mosquito Pier
In the early years of WWII, U.S. military began construction of Mosquito Pier with the hope of building an area where large naval vessels could dock. When the U.S. entered the war in both the European and Pacific theatres, this plan was abandoned but the pier remained.
Mosquito Pier is now a terrific spot in Vieques for fishing, scuba, snorkeling or keeping watch for the local wildlife such as sea turtles and birds.
Like a finely-cut jewel, the beaches of Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico have many facets reflecting the island’s light. Each stretch of water meeting land is unique. Sugar-white to exotic black pearl sand. Warm turquoise water beckons.
Names like Esperanza (Hope), Playa La Plata (Silver Beach) and Media Luna (Half Moon). Secluded coves romance couples. Public beaches invite family fun. Beaches in Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Vieques Wildlife Refuge
On the way to visiting the beaches on the Wildlife Refuge, be sure to stop at the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge Office. The visitor center is a great place for children with a few educational exhibits little ones will enjoy. Learn about the fauna and flora of Vieques, free educational pamphlets are available. Staff is available to answer your questions, there is also a nice restroom for use before you head to the beaches. More about Vieques National Wildlife Refuge.
Paso Fino Horses
Hearkening back to the time of Spanish explorers, horses were brought by the Spanish settlers and over centuries were left to roam free. These are the elegant Paso Fino horses of Vieques. This is a “gaited” breed, meaning they have a natural extra style of movement that is smoother than the typical walk, trot, or canter seen in most horses. Their gaited walk and trot is more of a gliding motion, perfect for a ride along the liquid glass that pours onto the soft sand on the local beaches.
Faro Punta Mulas Lighthouse and Museum
With the coral reefs and shallow coves, maritime commerce quickly recognized the importance of lighthouses. The Faro Punta Mulas lighthouse, in operation from the late 1800’s to the mid-20th century, sent its light to incoming sailors, a beacon for safety at sea. The lighthouse was restored as a museum to local and maritime history.
Sugar Plantation Ruins of Playa Grande
The last of the great sugar plantations to close on Vieques, the Playa Grande ruins reveal a window into the world of the island’s largest industry. A tour takes you through the safest of the remaining buildings, where you can learn about the processing of sugar and the history of the owners and workers. Slaves did the manual labor even after emancipation, given the lack of other work opportunities. Sugar plantations often struggled with the reliance on weather, growing seasons, and economics that would rise and fall. Eventually, particularly with the Great Depression of the 1930’s, work and income became scarce and the sugar plantations were no longer viable businesses. Now, the stone buildings used for the refining of sugar can is all that remains.
When the U.S. entered WWII, Vieques was seen as a strategic naval area to protect interests in the Caribbean. Preparation for military endeavors included the building of concrete bunkers throughout the many hills of the island. These were initially used to store armaments then used after the war for military trainings. When the U.S. military was increasingly pressured to leave, finally departing from Vieques just after the turn of the 21st century, the bunkers were left deserted. Many of the bunkers are locked to the public for safety reasons, however some are open and hold remnants of military life.
This mangrove park is perfect for nature lovers to stroll the boardwalk below the dense green canopy or to kayak along the winding waterways. The natural wonder of this lagoon includes several varieties of mangrove trees-red, black, white, named for the colors of the visible root systems. The trees carry their small clusters of flowers year-round. Although the surrounding water is bioluminescent, the park is not open at night to enjoy this marvel, however visitors can admire the nighttime glow of nearby Mosquito Bay.
La Plaza, Isabel Segunda
Every little town in Puerto Rico a plaza, what’s considered the center of the town and the cultural center where most traditional events are celebrated. Near the plaza, visitors can find local shops and restaurants. Keep in mind this is small-town life and does not have the kind of busy night life found in the capital city of San Juan or larger cities around the main island of Puerto Rico. Like much of the island, you will feel like you have gone back in time. There are grand buildings from the times of wealth and yet you will find little byways of pastel homes nestled throughout the town. Here you will find opportunities to talk with locals and immerse yourself in the relaxed culture when you allow yourself the openness of new adventures.
Things to Do in Vieques, Puerto Rico
Things to Do on the Water
Vieques is an island so it’s the perfect place for water lovers. The bay, coves, and Caribbean Sea create a paradise playground where summer is endless. Directory of services, and tour operators below.
The favorite pastime for all visitors coming to Vieques is the simplicity of driving around from beach to beach. Drop the map, get behind the wheel and drive around searching for your favorite spot on the island. All beaches are unique with the a few things in common; clear waters, soft sands, uncrowded with lush natural landscapes. Clear blue skies meet deep turquoise water and clear water meets white, golden and black sand. Bring your phone, camera, or paints to capture your beach memories. Your beach photos will be postcard-worthy, so pretty, no knowledge of composition is required. More about the beaches of Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Swim, Snorkel, Scuba
Shallow coves, coral reefs, tropical fish and rare sea animals make an ideal setting for novice and experienced alike. Swimming in the warm Caribbean, snorkel the limpid pools to glide among colorful sea life. Piers, quiet inlets, or boating will bring scuba divers closer to the mysterious underwater world.
Boating, Kayaking, and Jet Skis
Several opportunities exist to explore the local waterways by boat. For open water, you can take your time to appreciate the area by sailboat. Deep sea boating will take you out for fishing or scuba diving. Fly jet skis over the waves for fast-paced fun and freedom. For inland waterways, the famous Bioluminescent Bay allows rental of kayaks to float amidst the glowing waters or kayak along the mangroves in the Ceiba Ecological Coastal Park.
Spending a relaxing day surf fishing along the shore or having the thrill of deep-sea angling can bring hours of fun to the individual or family. Experienced guides can assist with all aspects of the sport, whether you are a beginner or an expert.
Skimmer boards allow you to glide along the many shorelines, while genuine surfboarding occurs as swells break on the Caribbean side of Vieques. This is a sport that turns humans into sea birds, connecting closely with the water while flying low over the waves.
Although very tempting to drive around the island to explore every spot, be sure to take the time to simply be still, take it all in. You can always go back to Vieques to see and experience more.
Things to Do On Land
In Vieques, the fun begins on the road…Whether you’re a hiker, love bicycling, rent a scooter or jeep, the island’s roads and trails lead to breathtaking places. Even though the island is small, the treasures around the island would take weeks to explore. Directory of services, and tour operators below.
Taking a sturdy vehicle around the island can be a terrific start to sightseeing. You can get your bearings and take note of places you wish to examine further. This also will enable you to access some of the places off the beaten path, where dirt roads lead to extraordinary finds.
An ideal way to explore the island is to traverse Vieques. Pedal at a leisurely pace and you will discover the real Vieques and all the island has to offer. You can cover a lot of area without missing little gems that can be overlooked during a car drive.
Paths through the lush hills will lead you into the tropical wonders of Vieques. In the jungles, you will find exotic birds streaming their brilliant plumage as they flit from tree to tree. Shy animals will peek out from under thick foliage. Gentle lizards and geckos sun themselves on warm rocks. Choose the type of hike that best matches your skills and interests, from an easy and carefree stroll to a challenge that may include some rock climbing. It’s YOUR path to choose.
Vieques is home to wild Paso Fino horses and the freedom of their lives can be shared when rider and horse become one. Riding along the surf is romantic and breezy. Guiding your horse along mountain trails can lead to spectacular views of the bay. Their gaited walk makes for a comfortable ride that you can enjoy for a delightful afternoon or memorable evening.
Museums & Historical Sites
Vieques has a rich history that goes back millennia to original natives. During more modern history, the Taino Indians were native to the area when Columbus led Spanish explorers and settlers to the Caribbean. There are reminders of Vieques life in the museums and historical sites throughout the island.
One can’t visit Vieques without trying some local cuisine. Fried plantains, seasoned rice dishes, and freshly made empanadas filled with flavorful meat or cheese are treats that can’t be missed. Beyond the local items, you will also find continental gourmet dining and family favorites, specializing in fresh-caught seafood and fish, along with produce right from the gardens and orchards.
A Little History - Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico
The “Little Sister” of Puerto Rico has a rich history. Just a few miles off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, this Caribbean jewel holds stories from the Stone Age to WWII, from Christopher Columbus to being recognized as a National Wildlife Refuge in 2003. The spirits of this island touch all who are willing to listen. Earliest culture came from the Taino tribes that thrived until the coming of Columbus and other Europeans. These native tribes left behind remnants of their daily lives, with carved stone tools and pottery. Sadly, as with many native populations, the people could not withstand the illnesses and colonization brought by the newcomers from across the ocean. Their numbers were all but wiped out and now we can only honor the memory of these innocent people. Perhaps their voices and song can be heard whispering through the trees on a warm evening.
Spanish settlers soon followed Columbus, destroying the native population through sickness, slavery, and violence. French, Dutch, Scots, and others came to use the lush wilderness of the island. Unlike other lands dotting the sea, Vieques wasn’t “claimed” until the 19th century, when the Spanish of Puerto Rico set up a government and the “Little Sister” was adopted. The sugar industry developed and employed free and enslaved until emancipation brought contractual work for all. Sweet sugar cane became the primary industry until the Spanish-American War brought Puerto Rico and thereby Vieques under United States control. U.S. military became interested in Vieques as a strategic place to track Nazi naval vessels during WWII. By this time, the sugar industry was weak and the military was able to buy up plantations.
The land was then used for trainings and tests for bombs and missiles. These trainings led to protestations at the beginnings of the 21st century, with the Island of Vieques becoming a National Wildlife Refuge in 2003. This act has allowed Vieques to maintain some of the most beautiful and pristine beaches and guard the jewel of Vieques, its bioluminescent bay.
Vieques Vacation Guide & Planning Tips
Getting to Vieques
Vieques is just 6 miles off the southeast coast of Puerto Rico. Although this sleepy island feels like a world away, it’s easy to get here.
Getting to Vieques by AirTake a short scenic flight from various airports on the main island of Puerto Rico:
- San Juan Airport – the most convenient, most daily flights. Cost about: $130 – $160 per person RT
- Isla Grande Airport – right near popular tourist destinations in San Juan. Cost about: $144 RT
- Ceiba Airport – Cost about: $34 one way, plus the taxi cost to Ceiba from San Juan
Split your stay between San Juan and Vieques. The capital city of San Juan is a wonderful destination in Puerto Rico. Spend a few days exploring Old San Juan, head over to the Isla Grande or San Juan International Airport and hop over to Vieques. The two destinations combined make an interesting vacation in Puerto Rico.
Getting to Vieques, Puerto Rico by ferry
The most economical way of getting to Vieques is by taking the ferry, however due to the current conditions, we highly recommend you fly. Avoid using the ferry during weekends and especially holiday weekends, the wait can be up to 10 hours long and they don’t allow reservations in advance. If you insist on taking the ferry, give yourself plenty of time and be prepared to either fly from Ceiba or stay at the Fajardo Inn just in case you can’t get a ticket. Visit Vieques.com for the Vieques ferry schedule and more tips on traveling to Vieques by ferry.
What We Love about Vieques
Hmmm… what’s not to love? Once you get here, we think you’ll agree. Two thirds of the island have been declared a National Wildlife Refuge making it one of the greenest and less developed on the Caribbean. Vieques gives visitors an opportunity to experience Caribbean beaches in all their natural glory. Picture perfect beach coves without crowds, crystal clear waters, great snorkeling, sand colors ranging from white, to gold to black, the beaches are live postcards. Beautiful Paso Fino horses elegantly peacefully grace and gallop free around the island. The vibe is old Caribbean with a small population, there’s little development, At night the waters glow at Mosquito Bay, the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world.
Can’t miss attractions and activities
Go snorkeling, kayak Mosquito Bay (Bioluminescent Bay) under a moonless sky, rent a jeep and spend at least two days discovering beach coves, our favorites are on the Wildlife Refuge on the south side. Take two hours mid afternoon to visit Fortin Conde de Mirasol and the Ceiba tree.
Getting Around Vieques
Part of the fun in Vieques is getting behind the wheel and seeing where the road takes you. This island is small and easy to navigate, although a jeep / 4 wheel drive is needed in order to get to some of the most gorgeous beaches.
It is recommended that you book your car rental / scooter in advance especially during holiday weeks.
Transportation Options in Vieques, Puerto Rico
- Car Rental – This is the best and most recommended option for experiencing Vieques.
- Vieques Island Tours & Transportation – Friendly services range for transportation to and from airport / ferry terminal and custom tours of the island. Phone: (787) 397-2048
- Scooter Rentals – A fun simple way of getting around the island. (787) 741-7722
- Taxis – If you can’t rent a car and want the most flexibility, call Vieques Taxi, they’ll pick you up and take you wherever you wish on a Jeep Wrangler. Phone: (787) 741-TAXI (8294)
- Publicos – For those on a budget with little time on the island, a public may be sufficient. Publicos have fares that are regulated, rates are from $3 – $5. They can take you around town and the most accessible beaches on the US Fish & Wildlife Reserve and Sun Bay. Tourists can easily spot one at the ferry terminal, airport, Isabel II and El Malecon in Esperanza. For an additional fee, you can make arrangements for a pick up.[/box]
How Vieques Ranks as a Destination in Puerto Rico
- Top Ten Destinations in Puerto Rico
- Best Beaches Destination
- Best Romantic Destination
- Best Secluded Destination
- Best Snorkeling Destination
- Top Ten Natural Wonders in Puerto Rico – Mosquito Bay (Bioluminescent Bay).
Vieques has beaches listed on the Top Ten Beaches of Puerto Rico and Best Snorkeling Beaches.
Vieques has won several awards for Best island in the Caribbean and Bahia de la Chiva (Blue Beach) has been included on best beaches of the Caribbean lists.
Vacation Planning Tips
If you’re a first time visitor to Puerto Rico, we encourage you to start your vacation in the capital city of San Juan and then head over to Vieques for a few days. Old San Juan and Vieques are a beautiful mix, and not hard to plan. We recommend you fly to Vieques to save time and hassles of taking the ferry.