Secluded, unspoiled, and laid back is what you will find in this island paradise only eight miles off the coast and just about a 20 minute flight from Puerto Rico. Less is certainly more on this island that has over 20 beaches set in their natural beauty, with a variety of beaches that feature black and white sand. Free of any crowds, sometimes, you are the only one on the beach!
After a jeep ride along the soft gravel roadways amidst the brilliant sunlight and a quick flight from San Juan, I arrived on the stunning island of Vieques. I am staying at the beautiful W Retreat and Spa for the next few nights. This lovely, albeit unspoiled, island offers both the chance to relax and unwind. There are also opportunities to enjoy active adventures such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, kayaking the mangrove channels, and bird watching to name a few. Since there is not a single stop light on the island, but you need to watch out for the wild horses that roam freely. I even saw a few wandering the parking lot at the airport!
Waking up on my first day at the W Retreat and Spa, I participated in Strala Yoga by the beach, which was a great exercise in meditation as well as solid stretching. What a way to start the day followed by a breakfast of poached egg with salmon and avocado and a banana smoothie. Speaking of food, Viequenese cuisine is a delightful combination of fresh ingredients and spices. Dinner at the Source restaurant, included a flaky white fish called Branzini which was drizzled in butternut squash puree with wilted garlic arugula. The final course of our meal was a chocolate fudge with orange confetti garnish.
The style of the W Retreat and Spa is Bohemian Chic, with splashes of bright colors and earthen decors throughout. The entry level category rooms are very large; many feature beautiful ocean views. I was particularly fond of the rust colored tin bathtub, nestled in the wooden slats of the bathroom and the round wide cushioned chairs with bright colored pillows. One of the focal points of the resort is the living room area with its fire pit and large couch area for evening sunset viewing and relaxing times with a cocktail.
While the island is small (only about 22 miles) it’s mighty exciting in terms of activities. My sightseeing excursions included visiting the north shore of the island and a lighthouse called El Faro Punta Mulas. Built in 1895, this beacon of historic beauty doubles as a maritime museum. From the top, you can see the main island of Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St. Johns Island. Further exploration included a visit to the Mirasol Spanish Fort, which is located high above the town of Isabelle. Mirasol served as a fort and also a prison.
Continuing our island exploration, our guide stopped along the way and we wandered into a thick brush part of the island, only to be delightfully surprised to see astounding boulders and hear the fascinating story of the great archeological find on Vieques. In 1990, archeologists discovered the skeletal remains of a 4,000 year old man surrounded by multiple enormous boulders. Interestingly enough, they are unsure to this day if these boulders are natural or if they were moved there. During the excavation process, they also found a variety of artifacts, including stone and shell tools from the same time period. This is the earliest known site of inhabitance in Vieques and is a great cultural and historical site to visit.
Within the two towns on the island, of Esperanza and Isabel, boutique shops and colorful buildings are full of local wares ready for purchase. Night life is pretty low key, with an emphasis on local cuisine with lively music and festive atmospheres.
Evenings glow, literally when you visit the magical Bioluminescent Bay, which was an amazing experience for me. This is one of the few bioluminescent bays left in the world, and recently named the brightest Bay recorded by Guinness World records, where the concentration of the bugs called Dinoflagellates (Dinos) create a liquid glow when the water is agitated. Setting out in our kayaks in the pitch black waters of the bay, until your eyes got used to the lack of light only from the stars in the night sky, was a really cool experience. I ventured out and marveled at the amazing luster of blue light that my paddles and fingertips made as I skimmed the water.
The W Retreat and Spa in Vieques Island is an amazing find; it’s just a short flight in distance, but provides the illusion of being far away. Revel in this perfect place to relax, regain your inner child, and rejuvenate your spirit. This trip makes for a great combination island visit along with a few nights on Puerto Rico’s mainland.