I’m writing from a ferry, heading back to the mainland of Puerto Rico after a couple of days offshore at this great little island called Vieques. My friend Kylie and I arrived three nights ago into San Juan after a long day of flying from Portland to Florida and then Florida to San Juan. We rented a car at the airport and then took the 40 minute drive to the port town of Fajardo, slept about 7 hours and then took the first ferry out to Vieques.
The ferry ride was about 90 minutes and turned out to be was a funny beginning to our Puerto Rican adventure. After swaying in the ocean for some time, I fell asleep (we were most certainly sleep deprived and not adjusted to the 4 hour time difference) only to wake up to an arm half asleep. Suddenly, as I was shaking my arm to life, I started to feel a few drops. As we left Fajardo, we could see a few rain clouds off in the distance, however, it looked as though we would miss them altogether. Afterall, it was a beautiful day out. On a whim, I decide it might be good just to be safe rather than sorry and I sought cover under the canopy on the top deck of the ferry. Suddenly, the sky opened and the rain started coming down in sheets. The spot I had been sleeping in previously was now soaked. And I had been spared thanks to my sleeping arm.
A little background on Vieques: The island is a former Spanish Virgin Island and was used often by the US Military for training up until about 1999 when a misplaced bomb killed a Puerto Rican civilian. Occupation ended and it now is a thriving island with several hotels, restaurants, and a number of beaches. It’s inhabited by 10,000 people which seems like a large number, but at times it feels as if there were less than a few hundred. It is extremely small with only two banks, one main store in the town of Isabella and a few restaurants and bars scattered throughout here and there. There are no stoplights on the small island, and most people obey their own set of rules on the road. Most do not use turn signals, drive the speed they wish and even drinking and driving is allowed. We also saw several horses on the island. Both being used as a mode of transportation, but also just semi-wild horses roaming free on the streets and nibbling on grass in yards or park areas.
We arrived on the island to a group of sudo-taxi drivers and hopped in a run down Chevy van that took us to our hotel, the W Resort and Spa. We arrived at the beautiful beachside resort that was built only two years ago and were upgraded to a pool view room with a partial ocean view. I was in heaven. This place was a design-lovers dream. We settled in and made a couple of drinks, then headed to the pool to lounge away the afternoon.
After, a few hours we decided to take a nap and then woke up in time to enjoy the Sunset Sip – a free cocktail every day at 6pm. The sky was a gorgeous orange and people were spread out on the lawn and around the fire pit enjoying their evening drinks. So serene.
After getting ready and having a few more drinks, we called a taxi and decided to go into Esperanza for dinner and an evening out. Esperanza is the largest area on the island and has approximately 6-8 restaurants and bars. We had a great meal at Bili’s and then made our way to Lazy Jacks, a hangout of mostly Americans either living or working on the island. There’s not much happening on the island in general and we were there during low season, so needless to say, the bar was pretty tame, but it was fun to get out at any rate. We ended up getting a ride from our new-found taxi friend, Eddie. Eddie’s service will arrange for pick up at any time and pretty much take you anywhere you need to go on the island for $5 a person. Such a steal! After riding back with a stumbling drunk American woman and her new boyfriend, we made our way back to the hotel and slept long and well into the next morning (as one should on vacation).
The following day, we stopped for breakfast at the hotel and then made our way to Red Beach on the Caribbean side of the island. Vieques is known for many of it’s white sand beaches and turquoise waters and Red Beach didn’t disappoint. We asked several of the locals which beach was their favorite and we ultimately decided to go with Taxi Eddie’s recommendation. Apparently some of the other beaches are hard to get to or are losing shoreline which makes the bugs to be a little much as well as limits your space on the beach.
Red Beach was absolutely stunning and was by no means crowded. There were several locals celebrating with picnics and barbeques (it was election day in Puerto Rico, so many businesses and schools were closed). The water had a light tide and we spent hours just running our toes in the sand and playing in the perfectly tempered water. Such an amazing day. The only downside to Red Beach was some pretty monsterous flies which we later found out are called sea flies. Though not crazy in numbers, we felt like we had a couple that just wouldn’t leave us alone. And they bit. HARD. I left Red Beach with several red bumps on my leg. Ultimately, the beach and the amazing day had been worth the bites though.
That evening, we once again made it down to sunset sip, ate dinner at the restaurant and had drinks fireside. The resort was so relaxing and stunning. We just wanted to take it all in. Later, we went back to the room to watch the results of the US election and watched as Obama was re-elected for a second term.
This morning, we went to the cafe to grab a light bite for breakfast and then made our way down to Whisper Beach at the W. A small, yet stunning beach with bright blue and turquiose water, Whisper Beach was like a little slice of heaven. We grabbed a couple of lounge chairs and just took in the sound of the waves and the beautiful scenery around us. I think I could have stayed on this piece of shoreline for days and would have been content doing absolutely nothing for hours on end.