Vignettes of Vieques

I wanted to get away from New York City and head to the beach. We hesitated about going to Puerto Rico because we've already been to Culebra, but the short flight and the 85-degree F weather forecast made us visit Vieques.


Vignettes of Vieques

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by ext212 on June 24, 2005

I wanted to get away from New York City and head to the beach for a few days. We hesitated about going to Puerto Rico because it has only been 4 years since we vacationed in the tiny island of Culebra, but the quick 5-hour jaunt, 85-degree F weather forecast and a homey place to stay like Casa Ladera all convinced us that we should fly to San Juan and then take a small plane to Vieques, another island a few miles southeast of the mainland.

Just only 2 years ago, the US Navy stopped its bombing tests and military practice on Vieques after 60 years. The US bought the island in the 1940s, and many families who depended on the agricultural land were forced out to make way for military exercises. There were plenty of protests throughout the years, but it was not until a security guard was killed by a bombing accident in 1999 that the popular resistance began to have a lasting effect.

The island is currently enjoying a flush of tourists and new accommodation choices, but with only a population of fewer than 10,000, it’s still easy to find a beach and feel like you’re the only one there. My favorite was Navio Beach, where I had to walk about half a mile to borrow a beer bottle opener from the closest person to me.

In terms of food, we took advantage of our complete kitchen setup in Casa Ladera to avoid eating rice and beans during our entire stay, but Café Media Luna impressed us with their lamb chops offering and delicious cod. "The best restaurant on the island" proved to be, well, the best restaurant on the island. ${QuickSuggestions} We missed the biggest attraction on Vieques, the Bioluminescent Bay, because the moon was out and bright while we were on the island. With the millions of planktons living in the bay, I could only imagine how amazing it might have been if we did witness the natural glow of Mother Nature while on a kayak silently floating on the water. Call one of the tour operators ahead of time when you get the chance to visit.

You can get to Vieques via ferry. From San Juan, take a 2-hour cab to Fajardo and catch the ferry to Vieques. If you only have a few days to spare, like I did, and don’t want to spend a few hours on a ferry, make arrangements early and fly to San Juan by noon. I booked a flight with M&N Aviation (877-622-5566) a couple of weeks before I left New York City, and the 1pm flight from San Juan to Vieques took less than 20 minutes. ${BestWay} A car is absolutely necessary while on the island. If you stay at Casa Ladera, you can also rent one of their cars to use during your stay. You can also get around using a moped, but when we were there, the sun was so striking that all I wanted was an air-conditioned car before heading to the beach.

Casa Ladera

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by ext212 on June 24, 2005

Casa Ladera
Email: jen@casa-ladera.com
Phone: 917/570-7558
www.casa-ladera.com


Casa Ladera is a rental villa that sits on the north coast of Vieques with a view of Monte Santo beach. We stayed in the two-bedroom casita right next to the main building, which also has two more two-bedroom suites.

The casita is separate from the main house and complete with a nice bathroom and fully-equipped kitchen. It is painted tropical blue outside and a calming salmon color inside. The doors in the living room open up to the patio so you can see the garden and the pool. We've stayed in some fancy hotel rooms before, but Casa Ladera is the most civilized house we've ever rented. How can I ever go back to a cabin the size of a jail cell, like we had in El Salvador, now?

During our stay, we treated the casita like it was our own, cooking our own dinners two out of the three nights and eating our breakfasts out on the patio or on the rooftop. All the supplies we needed were in the kitchen, and we were even able to make our own pitcher of iced coffee every morning and strawberry daiquiris at night. Who washed the dirty dishes after roasting a whole chicken stuffed with rice and raisins? There was dishwasher to keep my boyfriend and I from flipping a coin.

If we did not play Scrabble after dinner, we watched one of the DVDs in the library until it was time for bedtime. There was no breeze coming in when we were there in May, but the air-conditioners provided the comfort we needed while we slept. Each morning, sunlight came through the windows to remind us that we have a beautiful day ahead of us.

I'd certainly return to Casa Ladera if ever I'm on the island of Vieques again, but if you choose to go, let the owners know that ext212 from IgoUgo.com sent you.
Casa Ladera
Monte Santo Playa
Vieques, Puerto Rico
(917) 570-7558

Cafe Media Luna

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by ext212 on June 24, 2005

Café Media Luna
351 Antonio G Mellado Street
Phone: 787/741.2594


Prices are steep in Café Media Luna compared to the rice-and-beans shack down the street, so we were a bit skeptical when we were told that Café Media Luna is the best restaurant in Vieques. Most of the ingredients that make up the menu are shipped from either the city of San Juan or from the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands, but we never thought we would see lamb chops as one of our choices for dinner.

When we made a reservation two days before we left New York City, we were told that there is no corkage fee if we decide to bring our own bottle of wine. We brought one of the two bottles of Lascaux we packed for our trip, but unfortunately, we were charged $15 at the end of our meal. Still, that did not take away from the delicious medium-rare lamb chops and nicely done fish we enjoyed for dinner.

The kitchen counter is right in the middle of the restaurant, and while we waited for our food, our mouths began to water as we watched the chefs roll fresh dough into pizza with finesse and chop brightly colored vegetables for salads. We were seated in one of the few outdoor tables on the balcony upstairs, and even though there was the occasional mosquito, the red wine swirled enough in our heads that we couldn't complain about our romantic candlelit media luna evening.
Cafe Media Luna
351 Antonio G Mellado Street
Vieques, Puerto Rico
787/741.2594

Navio Beach

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by ext212 on June 24, 2005

Navio Beach is supposed to attract the surfers because it offers the fiercest waves in Vieques, but we found it to be the most isolated at the end of May. We had to walk through a clearing to get to the beach, but as soon as we parked our car, we were rewarded with the most serene view. Once on the beach, there was no shade to protect us from the glaring sun, but I still situated myself close to the water, equipped with a book, a camera, a towel, and a cold bottle of Sapporo, without any intentions of moving. But wait, where was my bottle opener? I walked back to the car to get my boyfriend—now trying to nurse his burnt shoulders—to open my beer with his lighter, but to no avail. I was then forced to walk almost half a mile to borrow a bottle opener from the only other couple on the beach. But who was complaining? Not I.
Navio Beach

Vieques, Puerto Rico

Red & Blue Beaches

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by ext212 on June 24, 2005

We went to Red Beach, or Playa del Corcho, two times while we were in Vieques because it was the only beach with several gazebos to let us have a proper lunch. The sun was so intense throughout our stay in Vieques that any bit of shade we could get while on the beach was much appreciated. Red Beach is more of a family beach because of the facilities, and we watched as the locals and other tourists set up barbeque grills and picnics. We were even approached by young guys asking us to place pizza orders to be delivered on the beach from their restaurant.

We did not mind the family and party vibe, but there were times when we just wanted to be alone and call the beach our own. We drove the next day to Blue Beach, or Bahia de la Chiva, and we certainly got that. The beach is full of short bushes and thorny plants, not good for a beach blanket, so we used our beach chairs to sunbathe. For lunch, we backed up our car closer to the clearing to be able to set up and eat with a view of the water. It was so quiet and private, we were able to play a round of Scrabble without interruptions.
Red & Blue Beaches
South Coast, Inside Garcia Gate
Vieques, Puerto Rico

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