Vieques is a small island off the east coast of Puerto Rico, close to the Virgin Islands. We chose this location for our traditional January trip over St. John in the Virgin Islands because our favorite place to stay on St. John had closed. We paddled a kayak on the bioluminescent bay under a sky filled with bright stars. We snorkeled at four different places, seeing lots of fish, coral, and a pair of squid. We hiked on trails up hills and down to beaches, including a beach with black sand. It was warm, very comfortable and relaxing.

Our adventure began at 3 A.M. January 14 with a text from United Airlines telling us that the first leg of our journey was delayed by an hour. This was a problem because we only had one hour in Newark to catch the second leg of our trip. When we got to BWI an hour later, we found that United had re-booked us on American to Miami and then on to San Juan. At the American counter, we found that United had failed to tell American of our final leg from San Juan to Vieques via Cape Air. Therefore, American would only check the suitcase containing our snorkeling gear through to San Juan. This caused us some anxiety because with very little time, we would have to get our suitcase off the carrousel in San Juan and run it over to the Cape Air desk to re-check it. When we arrived in San Juan, Gail headed for Cape Air to get our seats while Al went to the baggage carrousel. Our bag came quickly, but Al did not get to Cape Air in time. Fortunately, the Cape Air staff were able to get him and our snorkeling gear on a flight 2 hours later, so we were able to spend the first night of our vacation at our destination together.

United Airlines had mixed up our travel plans before. We made our reservations in September. Then in mid October the Cape Air flight we were scheduled on was cancelled. When that happened, United moved us to a substitute flight that left San Juan three hours before our connecting flight arrived. Just a little error in the scheduling algorithm!

Sergeant majors, and one small bar jack, under Mosquito Pier.
On our first day on the island, we went to the north side to snorkel at the Rompeolas (or Mosquito Pier) because a southeast wind stirred waves on the south shore and because the manager of the house where we were staying recommended it as a great place to snorkel. The US Navy began construction of Rompeolas in 1941 to create a sea wall to house the British Fleet in the event that Britain fell to the Nazis. Never finished, it is a mile-long causeway sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean with a pier angled off near its end. We snorkeled under the pier, where we found thousands of sargeant majors and small bar jacks feeding. We did see a few other species, but the dominant feature was the large concentration of these two species.

Near Rompeolas there was a small park dedicated to an old Ceiba tree. The sign said it was 375 years old. We were the only people visiting at that time.

A Sea Star in the water alongside the causeway

Al and the 300+ year old Ceiba tree

The following day was a highpoint: we took a nighttime tour to Puerto Mosquito, Vieques's bioluminescent bay. When we paddled out in kayaks, the water glowed from the dinoflagellates each time we dipped the paddle or our hand into the water. Even a passing fish would leave a luminous wake in the water. We could see faint pin-points of light where the dinoflagellates flashed spontaneously. We did not capture any of this with our cameras so you'll just have to trust our memories.

A bonus from the dark sky required for the bioluminescent bay was that the stars from Cassiopeia in the north to Canopus in the south stood out brightly. Orion and Canis Major were spectacular nearly overhead.

It was a magical evening.

While we were on the island, we stayed in the upper level of the Pink House, a Vacation Rental By Owner ( in the village of Esperanza on the south shore of Vieques. It was comfortable and had everything we needed for our stay, even WiFi. The Pink House is far enough from the Malecon that noise there did not disturb us, yet we could walk anywhere we wanted in town. On the map, Esperanza's streets had names, but there were no street signs. There weren't even any Pare (stop) signs, except at the intersections with the highways. Drive with caution.

The Pink House The Malecon in the village of Esperanza.
The sea is just off to the left, restaurants to the right.

Gail had a sore throat and didn't feel like snorkeling for a couple of days, so we did a little hiking instead. One day we went to Cayo de Tierra, a little almost island that helps form the bay at Esperanza. Another time we walked the Vereda Cerro Playuela trails in the National Wildlife Refuge.
Hiking on Esperanza Beach, one of many beautiful beaches on Vieques,
to explore the trails on Cayo de Tierra in the right background.
Caracas Bay seen from an overlook
on the Vereda Cerro Playuela trail

Eventually we did get back into the water, visiting La Chiva (called Blue Beach by the U.S. Navy when they used the island as a bomb range), Caracas (called Red Beach by the Navy), and Pata Prieta (Secret Beach).
A juvenile Beaugregory in Bahia de la Chiva A Sanddiver in Bahia de la Chiva

A squid amidst the coral at Caracas Beach

A garden of brain coral and Venus sea fan coral at Pata Prieta

A Blackbar Soldierfish at Pata Prieta

Relaxing on the beach after snorkeling at Pata Prieta

Horses descended from those brought by the Spanish colonizers roam freely on the roads, streets, fields, and, yes, on the beaches. Watch where you step.

Other animals also wander freely: dogs, chickens, cats. It is hard to know whether they belong to someone or whether they are strays.
One of the roaming horses Playa Negra, the black sand beach on Vieques

One of the pleasures of visiting a distant place is sampling the local dishes. We cooked many of our meals at the Pink House to economize, but we did eat at three Vieques restaurants: Duffy's, Bananas, and Conuco. Our favorite dishes were the fish tacos at Duffy's and the mofongo at Bananas.

We arrived on a Wednesday and flew home the following Wednesday, bringing good memories and lots of photos, but leaving behind beaches unvisited, attractions unseen, and dishes unsampled.
Dining on mofongo in the Restaurante Conuco in Isabel Segunda Faro de Vieques, the 1896 lighthouse in Isabel Segunda

Created: 26 Jan 2015; updated: 29 January 2015