FAVORITE PLACES AND HELPFUL HINTS ABOUT ISLA NENA

SUNDOWNERS! (Cocktails at Sunset). The sunsets from Vieques can be spectacular, and what a perfect day to finish a day on the beach, exploring, fishing, snorkeling, sailing, whatever…

On the Malecon in Esperanza – piers, seaside walk, open air bars

Al’s Bar Mar Azul in Isabel II (get there early if you want to get a seat outdoors on the tiny porch)

On our roof – no better place to sip rum and watch the sun go down! Especially munching chips with home made guacamole made from avocadoes and limes picked fresh in our back yard!

For the adventurous who want to feel remote, way out on the rocks at the end of the road past Blue Beach (stay to the right). Strictly BYO!

SUN AND SWIM! My favorites are:

OUR POOL! Private, sun or shade, great views across the Atlantic channel to El Yunque and the main island. Enjoy! PLEASE – NO GLASS ON THE POOL DECK!

Sun Bay – easily overlooked because its easy to get to, but horses always on the grass, protected azure water, long sweeping beach, edged with palm fronds – but can get crowded (at least, for Vieques) on weekends, when it costs $2 to get in)

CAUTION! Watch out for burrs in the grass at the remote beaches! OUCH!! Wear something on your feet between the car and the sand! (Also helps defeat the occasional sand flea!)

Playa Plata - Just the opposite of Sun Bay, all the way at the end of the road in the National Refuge but well worth the trek. Horseshoe shaped, white sand, usually some surf (but nothing radical), perfect for a romantic picnic – but bring your own drinks and food, as there ain’t nothing” out there! (There’s a smaller, even more intimate beach between Plata and Blue beaches…)

Playa Grande – Not visited nearly as much as the others, but one of my favorites, tan sand, best beach walking on the island, a place where you can really pretend you are Robinson Crusoe.

Close seconds: Garcia Beach, Media Luna, Red Beach (usually has people), Blue Beach (first 2 spots on either side of the bridge are two of the best!)

For fishing, try Porto Ferro or Pirate’s Cove – the later very rocky with an old abandoned concrete pier (good for sunning and maybe jumping in, too, if you don’t mind clambering up rocks!) and a couple of tiny beaches only accessible by swimming.

The island is literally ringed with beaches, find your own! North Shore beaches tend to be smaller, rockier, colder Atlantic water, villas built on them and access can be a challenge. You can get to Gringo Beach by patronizing the W Hotel. Or hug the shore East of Isabella II (some beautiful houses and small hotels) way out until you see a small street sign “Abador Suites”, turn in there, there is a public parking lot and Bastimento Beach which features a huge bath-tub like rock formation, there is more sand as you head East.

Snorkeling – often the most fish are right under the pier in Esperanza Harbor. Grass flats to left of Harbor usually pretty good. For brave and good swimmers, strike out around the island in Esperanza Harbor or at East end of Blue Beach. Never tried it but I bet the rocks at Pirate’s Cove would be good, too!

HANGIN’

The Malecon is best, hands down! Picturesque, small touristy shops, lots of restaurants, beachwalk vendors. Can get really crazy/noisy at night, especially Friday (often music at the West End), Saturday and Holidays. Expect horse races or honking wedding parades with the bride perched on the back of a convertible in all her finery, anything! Careful – don’t play in traffic! Live music upstairs at Bananas

Kayaks, jet skis for rent in Esperanza

Get a massage! Ingrid (787-435-1313) and Suzi (787-741-1709) really know what they are doing, and are worth the money. They make house calls. Strictly legit!

Yoga at Hix Island House – never done it myself, but for those that like this sort of thing, hear it’s pretty cool!

Sorry (?), no golf on the island. If you are desperate, fly 15 minutes (scheduled or inexpensive charter) to Fajardo, take a cab to El Conquistador, world class courses there! If you need to play tennis, there are courts at the Inn on the Blue Horizon, and maybe they’ll let you have a game if you make nice. There is a full health spa/work out gym at the W.

EXPLORING:

GOTTA go to Bio Bay, at least one night. Best in the world and truly a wonder. Caution: wear mosquito repellent (once you are on the water its fine, but waiting while people sort out their kayaks…)

Drive to Green Beach (West End), good chance to see iguanas or mongoose. Great views to the main island, picnic tables, good fishing spot. Not my favorite spot to swim! Along the way, take a walk on the boardwalk at Kianai Lagoon, who knows what you’ll see there.

Take the road up to Mt. Pirata. Park you car at the fence and hike to the top!

Drive, walk, bicycle, wander, picnic through the old ammunition bunkers at the West End. Maybe stop at Playa Grande. Head back along Route 995 – very hilly, twisty, pretty through our own mini-rain forest.

Rent bikes at Blackbeard’s in Isabel II. (They might even tell you how to get into the closed refuge…stay on the roads)

Hire a charter – for fishing, snorkeling, sailing – several are available on both sides of the Island!

Go for a guided kayak tour through the mangroves!

Take a day trip to Culebra (Flamenco Beach, rated repeatedly as one of the world’s top 10) and Culebrita (uninhabited, sea turtles and snorkeling) – BUT BE CAREFUL - don’t try it by boat on a day when the swell is up between the islands, you’ll wish you hadn’t!

Like the stuff on the wall? “Mass produced” art and tee shirts kitty corner from the Post Office in Isabel II. For more upscale, go to Siddhia Hutchinson Gallery, also in Isabel II – some very nice stuff there.

The Museum at the Fort in Isabel II has interesting history, for a short visit and some nice views.

Just drive around – great views on the North shore on the east side – Island’s too small to get lost for long!

EATING

THE ROOF! Barbecue and enjoy the evening breezes over a glass of wine, watch the lights twinkle on the main island. Steaks, chicken and pork chops can be had mid-week (usually gone by the weekend) at Superdescuentos Morales (lines can be long and slow, if you were clever you had us shop for you pre-arrival! J). In the morning, go buy fresh fish right off the boats at Pescaderia Gina Marie in Isabel II. If he has time, and you can convince him, hire Tsepo to cook a dinner for you! He has worked at many of the better local restaurants and adds an eclectic flair to island cooking! Great chef! PLEASE: NO GLASS ON THE ROOF! It’s dangerous if it breaks, especially in the dark if you have been indulging!!

Good restaurants come and go with surprising regularity on the island. The standard is pretty high and I have never been to really bad place, so explore! Here are some of our regular favorites:

- Tradewinds West end of the Malecon, for breakfast or cocktails and seafood for dinner (lobster on Friday..)

- Mucho Gusto, owned by friends Barry and Olga, on the Malecon, al frescoe grilled catch of the day their specialty.

- Quenepo, East end of the Malecon, very nice upscale.

- Bellybuttons, on the Malecon, sub sandwiches for lunch or the beach

- Duffy’s on the Malecon, for burgers, drinks, bar food

- Roadside vendors between Sun Bay and Esperanza – for lunch, snacks, be adventurous, they’re good! And cheap!

- Topacio in Isabel II, unprepossessing but friendly, very good fresh, local seafood – BUT NO CREDIT CARDS – Strictly cash!

- El Patio in Isabel II, very simple, Puerto Rican fare and can be noisy from the street, but good place to grab lunch and a cold drink when you are in Isabel II on a hot day!

- Richard’s Café – plain, friendly, no “character” but up the street from El Patio with air conditioning, quiet, good Viequenese food. Arepas, rice and beans, etc.

- Chicken King and Ice Cream – Mid island, just what it says – fried chicken and ice cream. What more could you want?

- Carambola at the Inn on the Blue Horizon, West of Esperanza, upscale, “Caribbean Fusion Cuisine” - Blue Moon Bar is nice, artsy-advertising crowd from New York frequent here!

- Panaderia Reposteria Lydia – Isabel II, always a line, got to be good! Breakfast rolls and lunch sandwiches.

 

HELPFUL HINTS

At the finer restaurants, make reservations, especially in high season – mid-December to mid-April

If you are going food shopping, do it before the weekend – shorter lines, greater selection!

Nothing much is open on Sunday, other than restaurants!

El malecón in Esperanza

Not often but occasionally, the gas truck does not make it over from the main island. Keep your tank full, and take advantage of a fill up if the gas station is open with no line! There are only two stations on the island, both in Isabel II within a block or two of each other (go figure!). If you are here on an unlucky day and if you screw up, get in the line EARLY in the morning – get a cup of coffee, have a pastry, read a book, chill – it will only get longer as the day goes on!

Vieques is a remarkably safe and friendly island, but like all places, it has its problems, and there is some petty theft. Don’t get paranoid about it, but don’t leave valuables in your car or on the beach, and don’t lock your car! Don’t leave the house without locking the door and gate. Better safe than sorry.

Be nice to our neighbor Santo, to the South – maybe he will cut you a fresh pineapple! Besides, his family lives on three sides of us!

Cell phone and wireless Internet service is iffy. ATT is pretty good everywhere, Verizon is very spotty. Best place is on the roof on the North side, or anywhere in Isabel II or in Esperanza. There are also Internet cafes in both towns.

Car rental companies will usually take you to the airport on departure day, or allow you to just park the car at the airport - call them and ask.

Hospital – 787-741-3282


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