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Visiting Vieques, Puerto Rico: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: Mar 25


Vieques Black Sands Beach at sunset
Vieques Black Sands Beach

A Comprehensive Guide to Vieques, PR


On March 9th, I got married on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico! My now husband (hehe I'm still getting used to calling him that!) and our wedding guests stayed in Vieques for five days. Between the 23 wedding guests, we cumulatively did almost everything you can do on the island, stayed in all sorts of accommodations, and rented different forms of transportation. This gave me the unique ability to compare different options for staying in Vieques.


In this guide, I'm going to share how to get to Vieques, where to stay, how to get around, what to do, and what to eat.


Jump to:

1. How to Get to Vieques


There are two ways to get to Vieques, but both ways begin by flying into Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU). Starting at SJU, here are your two options:


Flying to Vieques


The quickest and most convenient way to get to Vieques is by flying. Both Cape Air and Vieques Air Link operate flights from San Juan. The flights only take 20-30 minutes and have beautiful views of the Caribbean.


There are a few things to keep in mind if you choose to fly:


An image from inside the plane on a flight to Vieques, Puerto Rico
Flying to Vieques from SJU
  1. The planes are small puddle jumpers that can only hold a few passengers at once. If small planes make you nervous, then this option isn't right for you. (Featured is a photo from inside the tiny plane, taken by our friend Elizabeth, to give you an idea of the size.)

  2. Flying is more expensive than taking the ferry. Flight prices always vary, but I've seen the flight costs range from $120 to $220 for a one-way ticket.

  3. The flights to Vieques are limited, so make sure you time your flight to SJU accordingly.


Taking the Ferry to Vieques


The second option (probably the most frequently used option) to get to Vieques is by taking the ferry from Ceiba. The ferry port is about 60-90 minutes from SJU, depending on traffic, and the ferry ride itself is about 30-45 minutes. This is by far the most budget-friendly option because ferry tickets only cost around $5. However, there are a few factors to consider:


  1. You will have to take an Uber or a taxi from SJU, which will increase the cost (it's still usually cheaper to take the ferry, especially if there are more than one of you traveling).

  2. Ferry tickets are limited, so make sure you book them online ahead of time! They become available 1-2 months at a time, so make sure to keep an eye on the website. They do sell tickets at the port as well, but planning to buy them day of is a gamble.

  3. The last ferry to Vieques leaves at 8 pm, so if you plan to take the ferry straight from the airport, make sure you time your flight accordingly.


Personal Experiences


Between our wedding party, only 3 out of 23 decided to fly and the rest took the ferry. Those who decided to fly said that the flight was quick and efficient. However, 2 out of the 3 said the small plane was scary and one of them had to close their eyes for the whole trip.


The rest of us scheduled shuttles from the airport and took the ferry. For a group of 8 people, the shuttle was budget-friendly (especially since there were two children and the shuttle provided car seats at $10 extra per seat). Overall, the shuttle cost $120 plus tip. If everyone in the shuttle splits the cost, that's only $10-$20 per person. Similarly, Ubers are readily available and only cost around $65-$80, depending on demand. The ferry ride was only 30 minutes and was smooth going.


Pro tip: Don't sit on the top deck if you care about the clothes you're wearing. There were bits of ash coming from the pipes that landed on clothing and coated the benches.


2. How to Get Around Vieques


If you plan to do anything in Vieques other than walk around the town of Esperanza, then you need to rent a form of transportation. There's lots to do on the island, and most of it isn't within walking distance (especially in the heat and scorching sun). That said, there are two main forms of transportation on the island: rental cars and golf carts. And each one of them comes with pros and cons.


Renting a Car


A man with a Jeep on Vieques, Puerto Rico
My husband with our Jeep rental

Pros:

  1. Versatility: Renting a car gives you the freedom to explore Vieques at your own pace. With a car, you can easily visit remote beaches, historical sites, nature preserves, and hidden gems that you couldn't access with a golf cart.

  2. Protection: Cars offer shelter from the heat, sun, and rain. Not to mention, you can lock up your personal items without worrying about theft.

  3. Comfort: Some roads on Vieques are in rough shape. This isn't much of a problem in a 4x4 car, but the huge potholes can range from uncomfortable to outright dangerous in a golf cart.

Cons:

  1. Navigating the streets: The streets in Vieques are very narrow. Many of the streets on the island look like one-ways, but they're not. Additionally, some streets around the downtown areas, like Esperanza, are so narrow that they appear to just be walking streets—but again, they're not. If you're not an experienced driver, this can be quite intimidating, especially in an SUV.

  2. Cost: Renting a car is more expensive than renting a golf cart, especially if you're traveling solo or as a couple. Make sure you factor in fuel costs and insurance fees if you plan to rent a car.

Renting a Golf Cart

Pros:

A Kawasaki golf cart on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico at sunset
The golf cart my sisters rented
  1. Quirky and Fun: There's something undeniably fun about zipping around Vieques in a golf cart. They allow you to feel closer to the island, feel the breeze, and hop on and off quickly (like to take photos of the free-roaming horses).

  2. Easy Navigation: Golf carts are compact and easy to maneuver, making parking and navigating the tight streets a breeze.

  3. Cost and availability: Golf carts are cheaper than cars to rent, especially when you factor in insurance and gas. Additionally, there are limited car rentals on the island, but there are golf cart rentals all over the island, so you're likely to find one even if you forgot to book in advance.

Cons:

  1. Limited Range: While golf carts are perfect for exploring Esperanza or the downtown area by the ferry port, they're not suitable for longer journeys or for reaching more remote attractions. Keep in mind that some areas of Vieques are inaccessible by golf cart. Also, they can only go a max speed of about 25mph (or slower depending on how many people are in it).

  2. Weather Exposure: Golf carts offer little protection from the elements. Be prepared for sun exposure and/or rain showers. Also, you can't leave any personal items in the cart or else you risk them getting stolen.

My Preference


As much as I like unique experiences, I'd recommend renting a car over a golf cart. Our guests who rented golf carts struggled to get up steep hills and over large potholes. Some complained about the slow speeds, and others were surrounded by horses that were begging for food. Unless you plan to just stay in Esperanza, I'd vote for the car, all the way! (Plus, driving around the remote parts of the island in a Jeep made us feel like we were in Jurassic Park.)


3. Where to Stay in Vieques


There used to be tons of accommodations in Vieques, but after Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, much of the island was destroyed. There are still reminders of how horrific the hurricane was all over the island, and sadly, many of the hotels were never rebuilt. So, where should you stay?


Rental Homes


I know that Airbnb has become a sensitive topic for many people these days. But, with the lack of accommodations on the island, they're the most popular places to book on Vieques right now.


There are tons of Airbnbs all over the island, but I recommend staying in one near Esperanza. Esperanza is the main hub of the island and it's where most of the restaurants, bars, and tours are.


Or, if you prefer luxury travel, there are some crazy beautiful villas you can rent as well.


Guesthouses


There are a few guesthouses on Vieques, including The Vieques Guesthouse, Esperanza Inn Guesthouse, and Flamboyan Guesthouse. Just keep in mind that Flamboyan Guesthouse is right above a popular restaurant on the main strip, so it can get loud.


Hotels


While there aren't many hotels left on the island, we did come across a few while we were there including El Blok, which is right on the main strip, and Blue Horizon Boutique Resort, which wasn't too far from Esperanza but is a bit pricey. I'm sure there are more hotels spread around the island, but those are the ones we saw near Esperanza.


4. What to Do in Vieques


Okay, now that we've gotten all the nitty gritty details out of the way, let's move on to the fun part! Many people come to Vieques for one reason, and that's to see the brightest bio bay in the world! While Mosquito Bay is truly magical, it's not the only thing to do on Vieques.


Kayak to the Bioluminescent Plankton


A hand covered in bioluminescent plankton at Mosquito Bay in Vieques
Our friend's hand covered in bioluminescent plankton

If you're planning to come to Vieques, odds are that it's because of Mosquito Bay. This bay is home to the brightest bioluminescent plankton in the world (and in case you're worried about the number of mosquitos—don't be! It's named after a pirate ship, not the insect! I did not see a single mosquito while I was there.)


Make sure you plan your trip to the bio bay carefully because they do not run tours around the full moon because of how bright it is. I highly recommend booking your excursion during a new moon, if possible. During this time, you can see the plankton at their brightest. We even saw a manta ray swim under our clear kayak and it looked like a scene straight out of Moana—it was truly magical!


There are a few tour companies that run tours to Mosquito Bay out of Vieques including Abe's Snorkeling and Biobay Tours, Taino Aqua Adventures, and Salty Spirit. We actually went on the tour twice, once with Abe's and once with Taino. Abe's tour was more family-friendly and included lots of biological and historical information. The tour with Taino included clear kayaks and was less guided and more "go off and explore on your own." I think that Abe's was perfect for a group with children or those who are nervous on kayaks, and Taino was perfect for more rustic explorers (and the clear kayaks were more wobbly, so I wouldn't recommend them for anyone who's nervous).


Pro tip: Capturing photos or videos of bioluminescent plankton is extremely difficult, as they flash too quickly for normal photos to pick up. All of the photos I tried to take ended up black with hints of blue smudges. One of our friends who's more experienced with the correct camera settings took the image above. Keep this in mind so you can do your research on camera settings ahead of time!


Visit Playa Negra (Black Sands Beach)


Playa Negra black sands beach in Vieques at sunset
Playa Negra at sunset

Funny story: when we first got to Playa Negra, we were so disappointed because the sand wasn't actually black. Then, we walked about 50 feet to the right, and all of a sudden, we found the black sand!


Just a heads up, you can't drive right to the beach. You have to park and then walk through a jungley path for about 15-20 minutes (or 5 if you run!). But the views are worth it, especially at sunset!



Go Beach Hopping


Girl on a swing at a beach in Vieques Puerto Rico
Me on a swing on the beach

Vieques has some beautiful, pristine Caribbean beaches. My favorite was Sun Bay Beach (although I'm probably biased because that's the beach we got married on).


But there's also Navio Beach, Media Luna, El Cocal, Secret Beach, and more! You can't really go wrong. The water is crystal clear, warm, and refreshing on really hot days.


Just don't forget the sunscreen!



Go Snorkeling or Diving


The crystal clear waters in Vieques make it a fantastic place to go snorkeling or diving. The public beaches we went to were very clear and didn't offer much in the way of sea life, but there are tons of snorkeling tours you can take from the island that will take you to the best spots. Or, you can rent snorkeling gear for pretty cheap and try your luck on your own!


Go Horseback Riding


One thing Vieques is known for is its horses. And with free-roaming horses all over the island, it's no surprise that horseback riding is a popular way to explore Vieques. Companies such as Esperanza Riding Company will take you around to the island's most popular landmarks on horseback.


View the Wildlife


Free roaming horses on the island of Vieques Puerto Rico
A foal rolling in the grass

As I mentioned above, there are horses all over Vieques! Although they may appear to be wild, they are actually owned by locals who allow them to freely roam the island. Watching the "wild" horses was one of the highlights of our trip to Vieques. There were countless foals that made it even cuter!


Besides the horses, we spotted many iguanas, geckos, chickens, and cool bugs! And we really enjoyed the sounds of the parakeets and coqui frogs!


So, take some time to just walk or drive around and observe all the wildlife around you!


So Much More!


There's so much to do on Vieques that we didn't come close to doing it all, even over the course of five days. Vieques.com lists a bunch more activities that I didn't cover here (I'm not affiliated with them in any way, I just found them useful).


5. Where to Eat in Vieques


We ate out for breakfast and dinner nearly every day we were in Vieques, and here were our favorite restaurants.


Breakfast


A coffee at Kristy's on the Caribe in Vieques
Iced coffee from Kristy's

Kristy's on the Caribe Kristy's was a favorite among our group. It has a view of the ocean, fresh smoothies, coconut iced coffee, and the pile of french toast was drool-worthy.


Café Del Mar This cafe came in a very close second. It had the best coconut iced coffee we had in Vieques, a view of the ocean, and a simple and straightforward menu that was a hit with the kids and adults.



Dinner


Duffy's Duffy's was the go-to restaurant for dinner for most of our wedding guests. Everybody loved the food, drinks, and vibes (it's also a guesthouse!).


Mango Taphouse and Gastropub Mango's is one of those restaurants on the island that you need to drive to because it's not on the main strip. It offers much different vibes than the rest of the restaurants on my list because it's in the jungle, rather than on the ocean. Eating to the sounds of the coqui frogs was a calming experience (and the cookie skillet was amazing!).


Bananas Bananas was a hit or miss among our group, but I'm adding them here solely for their fried fish dinners. The fish and chips, fish tacos, and Key Wester sandwich were amazing! Especially paired with a dirty banana cocktail.


Groceries


Since most of us stayed in Airbnbs, we also stopped by local grocery stores to stock up on beach snacks, lunch foods, water, sunscreen, etc. We didn't have any problems finding markets to pick up what we needed in Esperanza. We frequented The Green Store and Colmado Lydia the most.


Final Thoughts


So, if you plan to visit Vieques just to see the bio bay, consider extending your stay. We stayed in San Juan for a few days during this trip as well, and, although San Juan offers tons to do, it didn't compare to the time we spent in Vieques.


Every person we met in Vieques was extremely kind and welcoming, the food was delicious (make sure you try the coconut coffee with breakfast!), there wasn't a huge number of tourists, and we weren't bored for a second!


 

If you got to the end of this post, thank you so much for taking the time to visit my page!<3


If any of this information helped you, or if you have advice of your own, feel free to give this post a like, comment, or share!


See you soon!

~Hannah

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