Puerto Rico’s Vieques Is Home To Wild Horses And A Glow-In-The-Dark Bay
How often do you wish you were on a tropical island? We at Swirled have some island wanderlust in us, so we’re spending the winter months sharing our favorite islands with you. Check out this week’s pick for where we wish we were today.
Vieques is an island just off the coast of Puerto Rico, and it makes a perfect day trip or weekend trip from the big island for the mindblowing beaches, wild horse residents and glow-in-the-dark bioluminescent bay.
It’s a small island; there are only two towns connected by beautiful green hills dotted with farmhouses and beach residences. Vieques was hit hard by Hurricane Maria last year, but the hot spots on the island have reopened to welcome tourists back to the idyllic isle via ferry from Fajardo, just outside capital city San Juan.
If you’re lucky, you might spot “wild” horses roaming around the island (these are actually local animals given free rein around the island). If you’re even luckier, you’ll spot sea turtles swimming in the clear waters off the coast. But no matter where you spend your time, you’ll catch some Caribbean sun and have to grab a mojito while you relax on the sand.
What To See
You can’t go wrong with the beaches in Vieques. Even right around the corner from the main stretch of Esperanza, within easy walking distance, you’ll find a pristine white sand beach (we like Navio Beach and Media Luna Beach). For a slightly different kind of dramatic look, hit the black sand at Playa Negra. Want to spot some of those sea turtles? Try Mosquito Pier for the best chances.
After the sun goes down, you’ll want to see Mosquito Bay. Not to be confused with the home of the sea turtles, Mosquito Bay is Vieques’ bioluminescent bay, filled with glow-in-the-dark plankton. It’s affectionately called the “Bio Bay” by locals and travelers, and you can do a guided tour across the glittering water in a clear-bottomed kayak (for between $50 and $100).
Where To Eat
Although you can still see the hurricane damage along the main strip of restaurants in Esperanza, the eating options are plentiful and varied here across the island. For breakfast, Panadería La Viequense serves pastries and eggs perfect for a bite after the ferry from Fajardo. For local Puerto Rican dishes, try Shawna’s or Restaurante Bili. Looking for classic beach food? Bananas is your spot (and also the spot for tropical cocktails). Barbecue? Tin Cup. We’re also big fans of the beach picnic method, grabbing food from local food trucks on the way to the sand. Oh, and please try some tostones — you won’t regret it.
Where To Stay
Some of Vieques’ more glamorous hotels closed after the destruction of Hurricane Maria, but more than a year after the storm, there are plenty of comfy places to call home for your Vieques venture. There’s charming guesthouse Malecon House (starting at $180 a night) and creative architectural hotel El Blok (starting at $140 a night) in Esperanza, as well as the plethora of private Airbnbs across the island (the average Airbnb on Vieques costs about $165).