Vieques + Culebra See And Do
The most popular beach on Vieques is Sun Bay, just east of the town of Esperanza. While this crescent of fine, white sand is lovely, there are three dozen other named beaches (and many more that go incognito) that you will probably have to yourself. Of these, Red, Blue, and Green (named by the rather unimaginative U.S. Navy when there was a base here) are the must-tries. Red is the most accessible and family-friendly, Blue has panoramic sea views, and Green requires an off-road trek. Since all are quite a hike from the nearest convenience store, make sure to pack your own food, drinks, and sunscreen.
Beach aficionados will want to check out tiny Culebra's Playa Flamenco. The mostly unspoiled crescent of palm-fringed sand has often earned it a place on many "best beaches" lists. But don't overlook other stretches on Culebra, such as the long, walkable shore of Playa Zoni.
Vieques's rugged mountaintop and seaside trails make for supremely challenging off-road terrain. You can rent mountain bikes from Black Beard Sports (101 Munoz Rivera; 787-741-1892) or from Vieques Adventure Company (787-692-9162). The latter also runs bike tours for both newbies and experts on mud flats, winding trails, and beaches nearly unreachable by foot. Half-day tours start at $75 per person.
When the sun goes down—and before the moon comes up—head to Mosquito Bay, one of the world's brightest bioluminescent bays. When disturbed, billions of dinoflagellates (tiny, harmless organisms, more than 700,000 to the gallon) make the water sparkle. Dive in: You'll see your body outlined with a blue-green glow. Numerous island operators offer bio-tours. Island Adventures is one of the best, as its electrically powered double-pontoon boats don't pollute the water (787-741-0720).
Vieques may be secluded, but its sister island, Culebra, is even more remote. The best reason for a visit may be Flamenco Beach, a perfect crescent that is consistently named one of the two or three top beaches in the world. But there are plenty of other beaches without the P.R. campaign that are just as good or better. There are no longer ferries running between the islands, but most people travel with a five-minute flight on Isla Nena Air Service or one of the other small airlines. (It sounds extravagant, but it only costs about $70 round-trip; see our Vieques + Culebra Fact Sheet for more details.)
Isabel Segunda , Vieques
Tel: 787 741 1717
Take in a dose of history in the port town of Isabel Segunda with a visit to this 160-year-old Spanish fort, the last built before the end of the colonial era. Today, it's an engaging museum that informs visitors about Vieques's colonial history and 40-year struggle to rid itself of U.S. military presence (up until 2003, the island was used by the U.S. Navy for target practice and training). There are rotating art exhibits as well as a fine collection of antique maps, flags, and indigenous relics. Most displays are annotated in Spanish.
Open Wednesdays through Sundays 10 am to 4 pm.
Crystal-clear waters (even by Caribbean standards) make Vieques a scuba and snorkeling paradise. Among the best dive companies is Nan-Sea Charters, which takes you for a day of diving off beaches that can't be reached by car. The company, which operates a 28-foot dive boat, can arrange to pick you up at the dock closest to your hotel (787-741-2390).