Local Island Life | Vieques, Puerto Rico
Lesbian-Friendly Rating: Tolerant
The local islanders seemed tolerant of our relationship, but did not seem to accept it as valid. We were affectionate on the beach, but exercised caution while showing affection when walking around the town in the evening and nighttime hours...sometimes avoiding it altogether for fear of our safety.
Fun Fact: The US Navy bought Vieques to practice bombing
Daryl and I saw an abandoned tank in the shrubs of one specific beach, and there were multiple signs warning beachgoers in that particular area to “recognize, retreat, and report” munitions. The military occupied the island from 1941 until 2003. After a civilian was killed by a bomb that dropped too close in 1999, protesters caught the eye of former President Clinton who ceased military operations. There are still hundreds of munitions around the area, and the Navy says it should have everything cleaned up by 2025. While snorkeling on one beach designated as "beach with potential munitions", we thought everything was a bomb... however, our focus quickly redirected to the gorgeous fish around us. This was only specific to one beach and we were glad there were cautionary signs. We laughed about it later as an example of how we’re sometimes a little too easily scared.
Local Experiences: The 3 beaches and 1 kayak tour
1. Sun Bay Beach - Navio Beach
Starting at this beach was a fantastic idea. It was perfect for settling into island life, taking in the gorgeous views, and being around others who were doing the same. We brought our chairs, camera, sunscreen, snorkel gear, and snacks so we could hang out on this gorgeous beach for most of the day. After snorkeling and smooching for a while in the water, we decided it was time for a photo shoot! This beach had great photo ops!
2. Green Beach
A great spot for snorkeling! The water was crystal clear and the fish were gorgeous! This beach is really only accessible by a jeep as the roads are super bumpy (Ace Ventura Hi-Ho Chiti Chiti Bang Bang bumpy).
It is a 15 or 20 minute drive from town, but we saw beautiful parts of the island unseen by many tourists. We witnessed wild horses galloping about, local kids riding horses bareback around town, and we stopped for snacks at local food trucks. Once we reached the beach, parking was limited, but there weren't many people there since it is so far from town. Green Beach is where we saw warning signs about potential munitions in the are and an abandoned tank in the brush (see fun fact post above).
3. Playuela Beach
A beach with silky white sands, majorly secluded, and pristine sparkling water! We parked our jeep at the lot and took off on a 10 minute walk down the trail to the beach. It started to rain as we were about 5 minutes into our walk, but we were covered by trees and the rain was a much needed mist to cool us off! Once we saw the beach, we got so excited! It was still raining, so we went to find cover under some rocks and trees where we met the only other couple on the beach! We chatted until the rain let up, and then walked to the other side of the white sand cove. The couple left soon and Daryl and I got into our birthday suits and frolicked around the beach. We lounged in the shallow calm water and observed beautiful blue fish and a substantially sized sting ray off the waters! We didn’t even need snorkel gear to appreciate the marine life since the water was so clear!
4. Tourist Splurge: We kayaked at night as the water magically glowed around us
We went on Abe's bioluminescent bay kayak tour late in evening. We met the tour guides in a parking lot. As we waited, a handsome herd of white wild horses meandered by. Once everyone on the tour arrived, we boarded a bus to the bay. It was almost pitch black, but the moonlight provided the light we needed. Daryl and I donned our life vests and got in a double Kayak. We paddled in a pack of 10 kayaks as we followed our guide for about 10 minutes down the bay into pitch darkness. I remember hearing every sound of nature as we quietly kayaked into the bay. I felt like I was traveling back in time with a nomadic pack of comrades. Once we reached our spot, our paddle movements began to light up the water around us. Our guide described bioluminescence in detail, and we started to play with the water around us. People used to be able to jump in the water on these tours, but the bay happens to be a nursery for sharks, and someone was bitten recently. While we didn't jump in the water, we were in awe of the water lighting up around us with every movement. The bioluminescence wasn't as strong as it had been in recent years due to the change in weather patterns, but we thoroughly enjoyed the wonder that nature afforded us that night.
Transportation + Lodging: A taxi drove us to the ferry, and we rented a jeep once we got to the island, and our Airbnb allowed for a hyperlocal experience of being woken up by roosters every morning
We flew into SJU (San Juan Airport), and took a taxi (Publico) to Fajardo for about 1 hour 15 minutes in order to catch a ferry to Vieques. The taxis were lined up waiting for passengers as soon as we stepped out of the airport door. We paid around $70 for the ride in total as they charge per party, not per passenger. The more people, the cheaper it is! We made sure we asked and confirmed the price before stepping in the taxi to be safe.
Our taxi driver suggested we stop halfway to Fajardo for some awesome Puerto Rican empanadas and thirst quenching Medalla beer at a little spot on the side of the road. It was yummy!
Once we reached Fajardo, we bought a ferry ticket for about 2 US dollars one-way. While we were waiting for the ferry, we grabbed some delicious pina coladas to start the ferry ride off right! The ferry was filled mostly with locals and it took about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get the the beautiful island of Vieques.
We rented a car from our Airbnb host to get to the beaches of Vieques. The going rate for renting a car from a private party on Vieques is $60 per day, as opposed to about $100 per day to rent from a car companies. The reason it seems high is the island, being only 5 miles wide, gets an entire salt spray every minute of every day...since salt destroys metal, you can imagine how expensive it is to maintain a vehicle on the island.
We stayed at an Airbnb studio in the fishing district Morropo just 2 blocks away from the ferry! We had our very own patio with a hammock, and woke up every morning to a cock-a-doodle-doo from the friendly neighborhood roosters. Our host rented us her jeep for the week, and gave us great local tips for nearby restaurants and beaches!
Our host provided snorkels, maps, beach chairs, and even a free smoothie when she sent us off on our way! There is a W Hotel located in a secluded portion on the island, but we preferred having a dedicated local host who would help us navigate and experience the island from an authentic perspective. After we had returned home, we received a message from our host informing us that when our ferry left Vieques for San Juan she had placed a flower in the ocean as sign that someday we would return to Vieques. We were touched by this thoughtful gesture and we also hope to return someday.
Food: Fish and fried foods were the main options for us on the island
Our Airbnb was a short walk to a local grocery store and local breakfast take-out so we didn't have to eat every meal inside of a restaurant. We definately had our fair share of mofongo, plantains, bacalaito, alcapurria, and paella. On beach days, we stopped alongside of the road whenever we were hungry. We ate and drank in the cute town of Esperanza. Most of the restaurants near the ferry were walkable, and we especially loved dining at one outdoor eatery while surrounded by iguanas! We paired most meals with a Medalla Light beer, leaving every meal full and satisfied!
A 5 point summary
Lesbian-Friendly Rating: Locals on the island were tolerant of us, so we were cautiously intimate
Fun Fact: The US Navy bought Vieques to practice bombing
Local Experiences: In addition to taking a bioluminescence tour by kayaking at night as the water magically glowed around us, we thoroughly enjoyed Sun Bay Beach - Navio Beach, Green Beach, and Playuela Beach for relaxing and snorkeling
Transportation + Lodging: A taxi took us from the San Juan airport to a ferry in order to reach Vieques, we then rented a jeep from our Airbnb host on the island, which came fully stocked with all the snorkel and beach gear we needed for our trip
Food: We loved Belly Buttons as a pit stop on the way home from the beach, or Cafe Mamasonga to dine outside with huge iguanas, beachside at Duffy's in Esperanza was pretty sweet, and we were able to stock our fridge and coolers with goodies from a decently priced local grocery store called supermarcado morales
Our trip was taken 27 March 2014 -30 March 2014 for a total of 3 nights, 4 days before spending some time in San Juan.