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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

{Trip Report} Island of Vieques

I've loved every single trip we've ever taken, regardless if a passport was required, or it was just a road-trip one town over. Seeing new places, experiencing different cultures and foods, meeting the people...I love it all. And even though I've loved every city, town and village we've visited, I don't have a desire to go back to most of them. Seen it, loved it, ready to move on to the next.

However, some places take root in your heart, and you just can't let them go. I've got a handful of those places...Paris, Santorini, Galveston, Cinque Terre (I promise I'll write that post someday!)...and now, Vieques, Puerto Rico.

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

The Caribbean island of Vieques is part of the United States, but might as well be on another planet. Wild horses trot through town, a bioluminescent bay glows with every paddle stroke, and pristine beaches are prime for discovering.

The whole island feels like an undiscovered gem, even though it’s just 7 miles off the east coast of the bustling Puerto Rican mainland. But places don't remain rustic and undiscovered if they are convenient, which means it's not as accessible as our Western mentality is accustomed. Nor does it have all the luxuries of home like a fully-stocked grocery store, multiple gas stations, and traffic lights.

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

But it does have tranquility unlike any you'll find on a mainland, the most glorious clear, blue water, secluded beaches, and the friendliest people we've ever encountered while traveling. I'd imagine Vieques is what the Virgin Islands were 30 years ago...before tourism set in.

You can take a 90-minute ferry ride from Fajardo, but we heard it could be choppy and unpredictable...so we opted for the 10-minute flight from Ceiba. On a teeny, tiny, itty, bitty, 6-seater prop plane.

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Did I mention it was small? But the kids did great and everything was handled as professionally as a major airline. Minus the whole 'How much do you weigh? We need to seat you so the weight is evenly distributed on the plane.' #zoinks

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

The house we rented (a full post on that magnificent place is coming soon!) was fully equipped with everything we needed to explore and experience, including beach chairs, coolers, and snorkel gear. Every morning we'd wake up to a glorious view of the nature preserve and ocean, pack the Jeep with lunch and supplies, and spend the day exploring beaches.

Some right off the main road, and other beaches hidden and unmarked. Some beaches would have 20 people, others wouldn't have a soul all day. Then every night, we'd fall asleep to the sounds of the Coqui frogs and horses clopping by.

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Most of the beaches are little coves, so the water is as calm as a lake...perfect for little sea monsters.

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR


Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

The two towns on the island, Isabel Segunda and Esperanza, aren’t much more than a few streets and shops clustered together in rustic charm. Most of the restaurants we visited are owned and operated by ex-pats who traded their busy lives for the slow island pace.

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

{Where We Stayed}

Casa el Dormilon
This home is at the top of a hill, nestled in a quiet neighborhood...and a huge part of what made our time in Vieques so magical. It's more than enough room, and had everything we needed. We literally brought nothing but shorts, flip-flops and swim suits. More pictures and info on the house in a future post.

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

The kids spent lots of time exploring the property, and never once complained about the lack of TVs. The lack of distractions gave us so much quality family time...and it was a treat to actually enjoy each other.

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

{Where We Ate}

There's a farmer's market twice a week, with lots of fresh produce, and baked goods.
This is where we stocked up for breakfasts and snacks.

Mambo
A tiny store that carries basic groceries, like milk, coffee, chips, etc.
Again, it's not the conveniences of home, but that's what makes it unique.

Buen Provecho
Great breakfasts & our go-to spot for picnic sandwiches

Restaurante Bili
Authentic Puerto-Rican food, served casually across the street from the beach

Coqui Fire Cafe
Casual, inexpensive Mexican food, always busy

Conuco
Superb Puerto-Rican cuisine, a tad overpriced, but one of the nicest places on the island

There were several other places we wanted to try, but most aren't open 7-days a week.
Everywhere on the island is the definition of beach casual.

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

{Other Details of Note}

Flights
We flew Air Flamenco from Ceiba Airport on east coast of the mainland, to Vieques (we drove from San Juan to Ceiba when visiting El Yunque...see that post here).
Our return flight was on Vieques Air Link, from Vieques to San Juan.
Note: it's significantly cheaper to fly into Isla Grande, and take a $20 cab to San Juan International.
And remember, Puerto Rico is an American territory, so no passports are required!

Car Rental
We rented our Jeep from Juergen at Abreeze Rentals.
He picked us up at the airport, and dropped us back off at the end of our trip.
His cars are very well maintained, guaranteed, and fairly priced.
Given that there are only two gas stations on the island, and they frequently run out of gas, renting from reliable people is key!

Jeeps are a necessity if you plan to explore beaches beyond the main ones.

The Bioluminescent Bay Tour
The vibrancy of bay was in decline while we were there due to tides, but it was still so mystical.
We were guided on kayaks through the darkness, and anything that touched the water glowed.
I'd highly recommend it, and we had a great experience with Abe's Tours.

Hi Sugarplum | Vieques, PR

It was a trip none of us will ever forget, and a place we all hope to get back to soon. I love spending time with these three people anywhere, but on a Puerto Rican adventure is pretty sweet! Have you been to Puerto Rico? Think you might now?! I try to make these posts equal parts personal scrapbook and useful travel information. If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments or email me!

Catch up on the other stops of this trip:

30 comments:

  1. Can we please talk about your killer bod?! What are you doing to maintain it? Did you have to make a pact with the devil? You're a martian, aren't you? It would explain so much. :) Just kidding. I've never commented before, but this post made me do it! I LOVE your blog, your photos, everything! Will you adopt my kids? They need a positive female role model. ;) Haha, thank you for starting my day off right with these amazing pictures! Have a lovely day! Blessings, J (I'm friends with that sweet and sassy Nya, soooo, can I join your sarcastic sisters club? I like wine.) :)

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    Replies
    1. LOL -- I love you for so many reasons, Juanita!!! thanks for the fun comment...and yes, I'm martian. ;) xoxo

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  2. Okay, is it summer yet?! What a gorgeous place! And can I mention your rockin' bod? Hello hot momma!

    The thought of getting on that tiny plane terrifies me, but if it brought me to a gorgeous place like that, I guess I could manage :)

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    1. hey little miss...I recall a post of you boarding a private jet...equally small!

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  3. Well now you are making me want to book my trip! Looks like such a fun time!

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  4. This is somewhat embarassing but I was born and raised in PR and have never been to Vieques island. Thank you so much for this recap, I will most definitely be booking a trip there with my little family :)

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    Replies
    1. so not embarrassing...I live in Dallas and have never been to Southfork! ;) But yes, Vieques and Culebra would be top of my list if I were you!!

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  5. My husband an I just got back from a week in New Orleans and I said our next vacation needs to be on an island - I want a vacation where we do nothing but sit and swim! :) Emailing this post to him as a little nudge... lol

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    Replies
    1. I'm happy to enable your travel habit! ;)

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  6. what a great place to visit! your kids look like they had such a fun time. and those horses are beautiful! xo jillian - cornflake dreams

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  7. Not sure if you have touched base on this yet, but who did you go through to book your vacation? Thanks Cassie!

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    Replies
    1. I book everything myself, Rebecca...that way I get the best deals, and stay exactly where we want. Check out my Travel tab for posts on how I do it!

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  8. WOW. That place is breathtaking! What an amazing place to vacation!

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  9. Beautiful...and 5th generation drip castle makers!!!

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    Replies
    1. Yes ma'am...passing on the important stuff! xo

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  10. I got distracted by your hot bod in a swimsuit & had to scroll back thru to re-read your post. Amazing vacation. The whole fam is adorable!!

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  11. Pictures are beautiful ! Your cute string bikini, checked shirt and hat though.... What do you do to get that body ? Please share !

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    Replies
    1. Thanks girlie...but I think it's just a combo of fortunate angle and strategic bag placement!!!

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  12. I have just one thing to say.......HOW DO YOU LOOK SO AMAZING in that picture where you are loaded down like a freaking pack mule??????? I'm going to start carrying around A HUGE BAG AND A CHAIR everywhere I go. This is going to make for some great outfit posts for me. Off to look for a cute chair......

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  13. My husband and I are always on the hunt for quiet, rustic, REAL vacation spots. All inclusive where we see the same thing as any other hotel with beach front? No thank you! This spot will have to go on our list of potentials. Sounds like the perfect mix of sun, sand and exploring. Love your blog!

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  14. My husband and I are always on the hunt for quiet, rustic, REAL vacation spots. All inclusive where we see the same thing as any other hotel with beach front? No thank you! This spot will have to go on our list of potentials. Sounds like the perfect mix of sun, sand and exploring. Love your blog!

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  15. I was so surprised to see this post- I am in the middle of planning our trip to the same spots! Question- was it hard to meet the bag weight limit on the flight to Vieques? I think it's like 25lbs. per person. Is everywhere in San Juan/Vieques casual ie. could my husband get away with tennis shoes/flip flops everywhere? I'm getting more excited about our trip now after seeing your posts!! :)

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    Replies
    1. YES...super casual. Shorts, tees, and flip flops everywhere. In fact, you'll feel fussy if you're in anything but! Our house had a washer/dryer, so we didn't pack much, and the weight limit wasn't an issue. But we saw people with roll bags, so I'm not sure how firm the limit is?! Maybe it just depends on how many people are on your flight. Have the very best time, and feel free to ask me any other questions!

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    2. Perfect! That's what I figured- island casual :) We are excited- going over Thanksgiving so we have a while until we leave but I'm excited already. Thanks for your posts- will definitely be using your tips for our planning!

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  16. No I've never been and now I've decided I'm taking this trip!!! Seems so relaxing and low key. Sounds great right about now...

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  17. I'm glad to see you enjoyed the Island of Vieques viequesbeachbums.blogspot.com

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  18. It is great to see you and your family enjoyed the Island of Vieques!
    http://viequesbeachbums.com

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  19. I am trying to find Abreeze Car Rental contact info online and having no luck. Can you let me know how to rent a Jeep from them?

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    Replies
    1. Hmmm, I just did a quick search and didn't see them either. Maybe Juergen is no longer doing it? Maybe try calling one of the others and see if Abreeze is still around. But the second time we went to Vieques, Abreeze was closed, so we rented from Island Car Rental, and had a great experience with them. It's right next to the airport too, so very convenient! have a great trip!! xo

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Your comments are like popcorn with milk duds, I just can't quit them. Thanks for taking the time to share your positive thoughts! xoxo, cass

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