48 Hours in Vieques, Puerto Rico
Get a small taste of summer with a springtime island escape.
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To the east of San Juan lies Vieques, a pint-sized Caribbean island that once served as a testing ground for the U.S. Navy. A $2 ferry will transport you to this under-the-radar destination, complete with a serene string of secluded beaches, jungle life and wild horses. The vibe here is ultra relaxed, providing the perfect backdrop for catching up on sleep, practicing your Sirsasana along the beach, or simply lounging poolside. In fact, a swimsuit, some SPF, and a thorough appreciation for island time are just about all that’s required.
Where to stay
Located in the heart of Esperanza, this hotel’s eclectic décor has a modern twist comprised of concrete structures, native wood flooring and airy spaces. You’ll have easy access to bike rentals, trails and a staff helps tailor activities to your needs. The adjoined restaurant is run by Orlando Iglesias and features a simplistic beach menu perfect for seafood lovers. Small plates include dishes like locally sourced carrucho and mesquite grilled swordfish with tomato and lemon. For a treat, opt for the chef’s daily tasting menu, with an option of three, four or five courses. Head to the rooftop after dinner for stunning 360-degree views of the island.
Hix Island House
Minimalists will enjoy staying in one of the loft-style bedrooms or at Casa Solaris, a completely solar guesthouse on the property at Hix Island House. Each room comes equipped with high-end linens and robes as well as fully stocked kitchens for a healthy breakfast (think eggs, fruit, coffee and homemade bread). But two things you won't find in the rooms: TVs and phones.
Once transported to the island via ferry or puddle jumper (opt for the ferry if you get nervous flying in a tiny plane), throw on your swimsuit and head to one of the locally preserved white sand beaches. To get in a few laps, visit Sun Bay Beach, located on the south side of the island and a well known, but not overcrowded, swimming destination. For surfing, La Chata Beach is your best bet. The beaches here are not commercial, so pack a picnic or stop by the Sol Food Truck parked along Route 997. Order jerk chicken sandwiches, empanadas and other Caribbean flavored fare. Take into consideration your appetite and then some—these beaches are pretty remote, so it'a a good idea to plan ahead. As the sun sets, head into the town of Esperanza and grab a front row seat at one of the restaurants that line the Malecon (the area's picturesque boardwalk). Top the night off with a kayak tour through the Bioluminescence Bay; trips can be booked in advance online. The tour includes a brief lesson on the ecosystem’s delicate balance, or lack thereof, which helps to explain the water's brilliant glow.
Rise and shine with a yoga class at Hix Island House, situated in the middle of the island’s jungle terrain. Their daily yoga classes are open to the public, and blankets and mats are provided. If you're looking for less zen and more thrills, Black Beard Sports leads daily snorkeling and diving trips off Mosquito Pier. For lunch, check out Tin Box, an actual tin box, tree house hybrid set back on a hill. Dine accompanied by the soothing sounds of nearby birds and enjoy nice views of the in-house vegetable garden. Happy hour takes place from 4–6pm and boasts a fresh oyster special. Vieques has a rustic edge, but good pampering can still be found. For some R&R, visit the AWAY Spa at the W Hotel. Book a massage in the oceanside pavilion with scenic views of the Atlantic and stay for a cocktail at one of the hotel’s outdoor fire pits. Following your afternoon of relaxation, head to dinner at Noche Restaurant. The local hotspot shares an owner and property with Tin Box, but with a slightly more upscale feel—reservations are a good idea, FYI. The menu is incredibly fresh, sourcing produce from the restaurant's garden and specializing in dishes such as seafood mofungo and filet mignon.