Six miles east of the island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea is the little island of Vieques. It’s only about double the size of New York City but it boasts white-sand beaches, seclusion and many natural wonders. Though the island has had some controversy in its past (the US Navy used it as a bombing range and weapons testing ground), those days are no more. Since 2003, the Navy vacated, the tourists arrived and much of the government-owned land is now leased for cattle grazing. In fact, parts of the island’s charms are the cattle and horses that roam free!
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Language: Spanish and English
Flight time (to San Juan): 4 hours from New York City; 8 hours from LA; about 30 minutes from San Juan to Vieques
Getting around: Taxi and car
When to Go: Vieques at its best
Best weather: January to April with temps in the 80s
Best prices: Mid-April to mid-December
What to Do
Be a beach bum: If you want to do nothing more than plop down on the sand and unwind under the sun, Vieques is for you. Sure, there are many beaches to choose from in the Caribbean, but Vieques is a US territory (so there’s no need for a passport).
Go to the glowing waters: Eco-tourism is hot in Vieques and has something special for travelers who want to see some of nature’s finest. The island is home Bioluminescent Bay, or Bio-Bay, a natural phenomenon in the Caribbean. This phosphorescent body of water is literally glowing. The light is produced by tiny bioluminescent organisms that leave blue-white trails of phosphorescence in the water. It’s magical to witness, like a sea full of fireflies. The best time to see everything light up is on a cloudy or moon-free night (that way the critters really shine). And yes, it’s safe to swim in the water.
Commune with nature: The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is unspoiled natural beauty. The land is nearly untouched and is home to endangered species such as the sea turtle, manatee and brown pelican. Bird watchers will be in heaven, as will divers, snorkelers and anyone who can appreciate unspoiled beaches and habitats.