My husband and I spent our 10th anniversary visiting Vieques in Feb 2007. I booked a surprise trip back to the island for his birthday. He did not know that we were leaving until 2 nights before our trip. (He thought we were headed to Maine for a couple of days with our kids!).
Flight & Car Rental:
We departed from Boston to San Juan on a direct flight (upgraded to first class by my generous sister!). We took VAL to Vieques and had no problems. For some reason we always have a hard time finding where the connector flights are located in the airport. Everyone sends you in a different direction! We rented a jeep wrangler from Martineau Car Rental. $65/day the only issue I had with the jeep was that you could not open the windows. They had sewn the plastic shut and it was very hard to see out of them because the plastic had been scratched due to many trips down the dirt roads.
On our last trip we had stayed at Casa Alta Vista and we really liked it. This time we ended up booking at Casa de Amistad. I am so glad that we made the switch! The place is wonderful. We had room #5 that has a separate (but private) bathroom down the hall. It was the last room they had and I was worried about that but it was perfectly fine. We had a key to the bathroom so we could leave all of our stuff in there. Amistad lets you borrow their coolers, chairs, and towels. They rent out snorkel gear ($10/day) and have an honor bar & internet. They have a "warming kitchen" with coffee every morning. You can use this area to pack your coolers, keep food in the fridge, make a small meal, etc. There was one couple that bought frozen waffles at the store and would toast them each morning. You really could save quite a bit of money doing stuff like that. They have a small pool and it is great at the end of the day. We were the only ones that used the pool in the evening.
We had reservations at the Island Steakhouse for their dinner date deal. It is a three course meal with a bottle of wine for $59/couple. We ended up being the only ones there! Our dinner was very good. We had a choice between garden and Caesar salad. The entrée was surf & turf. It was skirt steak and shrimp with fries. The steak was a bit over cooked but it was very tasty. You could pick a dessert off of the menu for the final course. We had a Malbec and it was really nice.
We had breakfast on our first day at Roy’s Coffee House. It is a very cute place and the woman working there was extremely nice. However, it is VERY overpriced! $4.50 for an iced coffee! The food was not very good. It was not cooked all the way and did not have any taste. We decided that we did not want to spend $28 on breakfast anymore. The next morning we headed to the Oasis Café. It is a little place set up in the middle of the town square. The owner is very nice and the prices were great. We had quesitos ($1.50 each) and coffee ($1!). We took it back to eat at the courtyard at Amistad. We stopped at La Viequense Deli for breakfast on our last day. We had bread grilled with butter, cheese, and ham and coffee. It came to $8.50 for the two of us. The grilled sandwiches were huge and kept us full most of the day.
We had lunch at El Resuelve. What great food and quite a bargain! We had four empanadas (two meat, one conch, and one shrimp) and a huge plate of rice and peas for $12.50. We ordered pizza from Scoops one night and they delivered right to our table at Al’s Mar Azul. The pizza was very good. We had a burger for lunch from Charlie’s in Esperanza. The burgers were good but I think he’s should charge a little less. He was saying that on Sunday there were a lot of people from the mainland and they were trying to intimidate him. He doesn’t appear to speak Spanish which surprised me. I could understand how they would be frustrated when they are just trying to order in their language and he can’t understand them! On our last night we had dinner at Tradewinds. The food was very good. It was our most expensive meal but we expected that. The service is great.
Beaches, snorkeling, etc:
We went to Sun Bay, Media Luna, Navio, and Red beach. Red beach is my favorite. The water is perfect. We went snorkeling at the pier one afternoon. There were tons of jelly fish. The manager at Amistad told us about them in advance and said they don’t sting. I still had a hard time swimming around them. I just wasn’t sure if I should believe her! LOL We rented kayaks on Monday and went out to Cayo Afuera. It looked like we would easily zip across since it is not far at all. It turned out to be very windy and it was a real struggle to get there. The snorkeling was a bit disappointing there.
We decided to hang close to our hotel at nights. The driving can be tough and we didn’t want to deal with that at night. We had drinks at Al’s Mar Azul on Saturday and Sunday night. I was excited to go on Saturday night because I had heard that they had karaoke there. Other than about 3 locals that were hanging out with the bartender we were the only ones there! We stayed until a little after 9pm. They closed up the bar at 8pm on Sunday so that was a little disappointing (there were more people there that night so I was surprised they were closing).
I wasn’t sure if I had made a mistake by booking in Isabell as opposed to Esperanza. I was really happy with my choice. At first look it seems that everything is run down but when you really walk around these “run down” places are bars, restaurants, homes, etc. Things are not what they appear to be. I was also very surprised by how touristy Esperanza seemed this time. I’m not sure if it’s because we were staying there last time and didn’t notice but it really did seem to be more touristy this time. I enjoyed Isabell because I felt that I was actually getting to be a part of the island and meet locals. The people in Esperanza are wonderful too but it seems everyone is from New York and not actually Puerto Rican. The thing that I really came to like about Vieques is that there is no separate “tourist area”. Even when we stayed in Esperanza our hotel was in a residential area. You are staying near people’s homes, their places of business, and getting to experience real life on an island.
Driving is very tough in Isabell. The amount of cars is amazing! They were setting up for the festival (we left before it started) and it was hard getting through some of the streets. Do not wait to get gas. The lines can be very long.
The people of Vieques are so warm and welcoming. They are so patient with my limited Spanish. They never seem annoyed by a tourist – only helpful. They seem to truly want to make their customers happy. There are a lot of businesses in New England that could learn a lot from them!
We had such a wonderful time and hope to be back in a couple of years.