Day 1: Old San Juan to Vieques
After the same continental breakfast with excellent coffee, we visited the rooftop deck during daylight, then got a taxi to the airport. We chose to fly rather than take the ferry to save time and the hassle of getting from San Juan to the east coast to catch the ferry. And we heard the flight was scenic. We’ll get a chance to drive that way when we come back to the Puerto Rican “mainland.”
The flight by small plane was scenic and loud, and the captain humorous. We may have been the youngest people on the flight. We saw an FBI SWAT team getting onto another plane. I bet that wasn’t so humorous.
On Vieques, we picked up our Jeep rental and headed for Trade Winds in Esperanza, right on the malecon. After checking in we immediately hit Lazy Jacks for our first Painkillers, Medalla, and lunch (burger and fish and chips). We met the town drunk there, the beer distributor’s brother. It was a fun place to hang with lots of staff joking around and good music. Then we had a siesta.
We had dinner at Trade Winds where we are staying. It was surprisingly fancy with white tablecloths and prices to match, in contrast with the guest house which is NOT fancy and the prices reasonable. The mofongo with pork and the Thai shrimp curry pasta was excellent, down to the charred vegetables. Almost makes me want to put more time into the vegetables when we eat at home. Almost. The people at the table next to us were discussing joints as a hostess gift.
After dinner, we headed to Duffy’s for craft beer. They didn’t have any local which was a disappointment but we did have Kalamazoo Stout and a Bell’s Double Cream Stout from Michigan. The bartender was very helpful in making selections. A woman with a dog tried to pick up Steve? Hard to tell. And there were Beatles lookalikes at the bar.
Day 2: Beaches and Bioluminescence
Nice breakfast with mallorcas at Trade Winds. Then we hit the Green Store (Tienda Verde) for beer and pretzels. And then we lathered up with sunscreen, grabbed our towels, and headed for the beach(es). On our travels, we saw mangroves and a 375-year-old ceiba tree. Steve had fun taking photos of the tree since there were two other people who wouldn’t get out of the way.m
Back in Esperanza, we had a pork chop sandwich and fish tacos (with great hot sauce) at Duffy’s, then a siesta before our night tour.
The bioluminescent bay is why we came to Vieques, and we scheduled our whole trip around it. Viewing is best when the moon isn’t bright so we scheduled our trip around being here during the dark of the moon. An old school bus picked up us and other guests outside Trade Winds. The ride was bumpy but not horrible. You can visit the bay by kayak or pontoon. We chose the pontoon because it sounded easier. Our Island Adventures guide, Dan, was knowledgeable and patient with idjits who wouldn’t turn off their cell phones — the point is to preserve your night vision for viewing the bioluminescence that is the REASON FOR THE TOUR — and geeky kids. We saw a school of fish go by and were able to put our feet off the back of the boat to play in the water. The tour was professional and well-done without being stuffy. We learned a lot about how the bay came to be and how it survives yet also got to have fun with buckets of water brought onto the boat. We saw a standup paddleboard while we were out there, along with either a ray or another large fish; it was hard to tell. We HIGHLY recommend visiting the bay if you’re on the island.
We hit Lazy Jack’s for pizza and beer. Lots of woo-hoo-ery. Then back to Trade Winds to sit on our quiet deck with more beer.
Day 3: Pata Prieta Beach
Today we learned mallorcas are good with cream cheese. We headed straight to Pata Prieta, our favorite beach of those we visited yesterday.
We stopped on the edge of Isabel II for gas. The Jeep is awkward: it waddles and lurches but it is fun and it feels secure. After showering off the beach we hit Duffy’s then Bananas for tropical cocktails: Tamarind Sour, pina colada, passion fruit colada, and rum punch.
Then lunch! Then siesta! We wanted to try the bread pudding at Trade Winds but they were closed due to an equipment issue so we had carnitas burritos at Duffy’s.
Did we mention Vieques is famous for wild horses? We saw a few during our travels, including one right next to our Jeep to say goodbye to us the morning we left.
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We spent three nights here in room 3. The room itself was clean and comfortable, and everything functioned. It was a bit dark since it’s long and narrow and the only windows are in the bathroom and the door to the shared deck. But that didn’t matter because we were only there to sleep and shower. The rest of the time you want to be outdoors!
We enjoyed the continental breakfast served in the restaurant overlooking the water, too, so there’s a lovely view. The staff were unfailingly polite, friendly, helpful, and welcoming.
The location, at one end of the malecon in Esperanza, was an easy stroll from the bars and restaurants, while still quiet. The shared deck on our level had a partial view of the water, and was a pleasant place to relax at the end of the day.
There are several solid choices along the waterfront in Esperanza. Isabel Segunda also had some options that sounded interesting, though we didn’t feel the need to drive over there and check them out.
You’ll need a vehicle to get to the beaches. We recommend a 4wd for flexibility. We walked everywhere within Esperanza. It’s pretty compact.