Just returned at the end of last week from Vieques and I know how much everyone on this forum appreciates a trip report, so here goes!
My husband and I flew to Vieques on Friday 4.19 from Ceiba, after 3 days on the big island. This was not our first trip to PR but first to Vieques. We flew VAL and although delayed 45 minutes, it was a very quick and smooth flight. It was my first time on a plane that small, but it was really fun.
Juergen from Abreeze met us at the airport; we rented a Jeep from him based on the advice of our rental home's owner. Juergen was great, picking us up and dropping us off at the airport, showing us around a little bit when we arrived, asking all about our stay at the end. I highly recommend him. Note that his rentals are all 2WD Jeep Liberty; we drove down many dirt roads and the 2WD was totally fine. I imagine you only REALLY need 4WD when things are muddy.
One thing Juergen showed us was the Farmer's Market, which was open on Friday! I had read on the forum it was only on Tuesday and Wednesday, but there it was on Friday. We visited it in the afternoon and they had plenty of produce. The woman working there said they are now opening on Fridays in addition to Tuesdays and Wednesdays, based on demand.
We stayed at El Dormilon, a rental home in Monte Carmelo. The house itself and the view of the refuge and the ocean behind it were just spectacular. The owner and the house manager were excellent to work with. Also, Abe of Abe's Bio Bay Tours lives right next door! We found Monte Carmelo to be a quiet neighborhood (other than the roosters and the dogs!) that was very convenient for getting to both Isabel II and Esperanza, along with the eastern refuge beaches.
We grocery shopped at the Morales on 200, the Green Store, and the Colmado Mambo, in addition to the farmer's market. We cooked breakfast most days and dinner a few times, and we found everything we needed/wanted without any problem. Our favorite store was the Mambo; while very cramped, it is super clean and organized. If you are looking for a cold six pack, they are in the back coolers on your right when you enter. (I had to ask since they aren't visible!)
As for the beaches, we visited La Plata, La Chiva, Playa Grande, Sun Bay, Punta Arenas, and Caracas. Our favorite was Punta Arenas. We went there on two different days, from around 9am until 2pm each time knowing that the bugs are out earlier and later. We had a lovely spot under a palm in the 3rd turn-off there, near the rocks. The snorkeling was extremely easy (I am a novice) and the beach was the most deserted of all we visited. The water was very clear and warm, and the views of the big island were great. We saw turtles and lots of fish, and a couple snorkeling nearby saw a ray.
The most crowded beach we visited was La Chiva, but I have to imagine that is due to only being open on weekends right now. When we went on Saturday and Sunday, all the turn-offs had multiple groups in them by the afternoon. We arrived early both days and had turn-off #13 to ourselves until lunch time each day. We spent time at Sun Bay and Caracas on late afternoons after Punta Arenas, and they were both great for late afternoon reading, drinking, and napping.
We ate at many different spots and I'll write reviews for many of them, but here's a quick list: Duffy's, Bananas, Al's Mar Azul, Belly Buttons, Sol Food, Roy's, La Viequense, Isla Nena at the airport, La Zafra, Next Course, and Conuco. We wanted to eat at El Resuelve twice, but our timing was off both times. Our favorite restaurant was La Zafra, in Isabel II. The owner and her staff are very nice, the food is simple but very well-cooked and seasoned. We ate dinner there twice because the fish was so fresh and the flan was so delicious (and the fact that they are still BYOB didn't hurt of course...we just brought a bottle of white with us each time!).
While the people watching in Esperanza was great and the open air bars are good for lunches, my husband and I both preferred the atmosphere of Isabel II. We spent one morning strolling around, going in the few shops, getting coffee. We also did a lot of driving around the western part of the island and exploring, which was great fun. (But you must drive slow...there truly are horses EVERYWHERE.)
For our flight out on Thursday 4.25, we flew Cape Air directly to SJU for the convenience of quickly catching our Jet Blue flight back to Boston. As we were grabbing some quick breakfast at Isla Nena before our flight, the woman working there (I cannot remember her name!) asked us when we would be coming back to see them again. I said "as soon as we can."
That "soon" will not be soon enough, but at least it's almost summer here in the Northeast!