The Puerto Rico islands are well known for vibrant people, exotic food, and plenty of ways to stay busy, but if you’re the type of traveler looking for unspoiled adventure and quiet reflection, the Isla de Vieques might be a better fit than the mainland. Just eight miles east of Puerto Rico’s mainland, Vieques remains largely untouched by commercial development, apart from a handful of sleepy boutique resorts. Rimmed by white sand beaches and populated with amazing wildlife, Vieques makes the perfect getaway when you’re seeking a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Vieques is home to some of the best beaches in the world, and there are 40 to choose from when visiting the small, pristine island. The handful of hotels and resorts there range from the renowned Bravo Beach Hotel to a number of comfortable bed and breakfasts, like the lush Malecon House.
Despite being just 21 miles long and four miles wide, Isla de Vieques offers plenty for you to enjoy. Due to Spanish colonization in 1811, archaeological sites and architectural features show heavy Spanish influence. The island, however, was ceded to the United States and was utilized by the U.S. Navy during World War II. Because of this, commercial development in Vieques was extremely limited. Today, much of the Isla is dedicated as a National Wildlife Refuge, making wildlife and plant life some of the best sightseeing.
Of the Puerto Rico islands, Isla de Vieques is the only one to boast the Bahia Fosforescente (Bioluminescent Bay) at Puerto Mosquito. The ethereal result of dinoflagellate Pyrodinium bahamense, you’ll be able to watch as the water in the bay actually glows blue when disturbed. Gliding over the glowing water in your kayak is an otherworldly experience—especially at sunset.
Though not as developed as other Puerto Rico islands, you’ll enjoy Vieques’ own brand of boutique shopping, as well as the robust and colorful fruit markets in the island’s capital, Isabel Segunda. There, you’ll smell the fragrance of fresh flowers, tropical fruit, and homegrown vegetables. Small markets, convenience stores, and souvenir shops dot the island, making shopping a unique, simple pleasure.
Make sure to visit the local eateries for which Vieques is famous. From authentic local food trucks to sumptuous seafood, Vieques offers an entire tasting menu of the island’s specialties, including shrimp, seafood, tropical fruits, exotic desserts, and local favorites. The restaurateurs of Vieques will make sure you leave the island with a full stomach and wonderful memories.
While Vieques might not have the fast-moving, festival atmosphere that you’ve enjoyed elsewhere in the Puerto Rico islands, it caters to a different kind of traveler. Exploration and discovery await, along with a slower pace and a delicious slice of Caribbean life.