The Most Exotic Place You Can Go Without a Passport Plus 10 Reasons You’ll Love the Spanish Virgin Islands


You’ve always had the Spanish Virgin Islands on your Bucket List.

The abundance of Caribbean islands make it a challenge to zero in on one destination. But, Vieques, Puerto Rico has peaked your interest. Being a US Territory makes travel there a breeze.

You dream of sparkling, emerald waters lapping at spectacular, white sandy beaches in the Caribbean.

Imagine seeing the bright stars twinkling in the clear, Caribbean sky. Hearing the beat of the music reverberating from bars and houses deep into the night.

You want to spend time in a quaint town. To feel your troubles melt away in a warm, salty breeze.

A place where everyone greets each other.

“Todo bien?”

“Si! Todo bien!”

I traveled 39 months out of 13 years, visiting 16 countries on five continents. I gave up an address last year and have been living out of a backpack.

Regardless of the type of traveler you are, these suggestions will help you enjoy the rich culture and friendly people of Vieques, Puerto Rico!


Horses on the Malecón   ©Donna Kos

1. Horse Lovers will Love Vieques


Imagine the unmistakeable sound of the clip clop of the horses hooves while they meander the streets of Esperanza in Vieques.

You’re Inspired and awestruck.

Clearly, you’re on an amazing, new adventure.

Teenagers street racing on a Friday night happens in Vieques, just like everywhere else on the planet.

However, it’s the boys racing horses, galloping at break neck speed, that leaves you speechless.

Strolling early one afternoon, you watch two wild horses fly by in an apparent race. You hear the sound of galloping hooves behind you. You turn around just in time to see the chestnut mare bolt by you.

On the sidewalk…

The horses give Vieques an old world feel. More than likely, the horses you see will be casually wandering the neighborhood.

But, keep in mind…

A mango in your pocket is a horse magnet!


Sun Bay on Vieques  ©Donna Kos

2. Dazzling Beaches in Every Direction


Imagine all you have to do to find a magnificent beach is to hang up a map and throw a dart. On the island of Vieques, you can’t miss.

The dazzling water and extensive beach line of Sun Bay has easy access. The swaying palm trees provide plenty of shade, making it a winner for a day trip to the beach.

Playa Grande is a beautiful beach as well. It’s a little more difficult to access but well worth the trip. It’s only about a 15 minute drive out of Esperanza. Many of the roads will be dirt. Keep in mind signage isn’t a given.

Playa Negra is a black sand beach so you want to plan accordingly. It gets extremely hot. If you spread out a towel on a warm, sunny day, and lay down on it, don’t be surprised if you pop off that towel like a water droplet on a hot cast iron skillet. It’s worth the visit but plan to go early or on a cloudy day.

Navío is fairly easy to get to as well. The arched caves provide awesome photo ops! We harvested snails. Ate them raw on the beach. Brought more back to the hostel kitchen. Fired up a little butter, fresh garlic a splash of white wine and thoroughly enjoyed the decadent morsels.

Caracas is a pristine white sand beach with gazebos, bathrooms and parking. Add in perfect water that will wash your troubles away… nirvana!

You’ll likely wander on to other beaches that are just as spectacular but this will get you started.


A message of strength ©Donna Kos

3. The Revitalization post Hurricane Maria


The people of Puerto Rico are strong, loyal and proud.

Lazy Jack’s opened 3 days after the hurricane to provide a place for people to gather and heal. They were the only place open for six months.

Generators were the only thing that helped run the island. They use to have “Blackout Parties”. People gathered at the bar and hung out, partied and leaned on each for support until the lights went out.

Power was out for 186 days…

Water wasn’t fully restored for nearly three months…

That’s a long, damn time…

You’ll find a beautiful home right next to one that is still decimated after the apocalyptic Hurricane Maria. Some people just left and didn’t look back. Can’t blame them.

You wouldn’t know it to look at town now, so come to Vieques and revel in the revitalization!


CC on horseback with Jurutungo Tours ©Donna Kos

4. Amazing Tours of the Island


Horseback riding on the beaches with Jurutungo Tours is a great way to see the beaches. Carlito and Kalina provide a private tour for two to three people for $65 each.

The BioBay Tour is a must do! Experience the magic of the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. The glowing water makes you second guess your vision and your grasp on reality. The glass bottom kayaks make your encounter with this magical world unforgettable. For this tour and more:

Fishing, snorkeling and island tours are readily available on Vieques. So explore the island at your pace and see the sights that will make for life long memories.


5. Sugar Mill Ruins

Sugar Mill Ruins ©Donna Kos
Tunnels Sugar Mill ©Donna Kos

Finding the Sugar Mill Ruins is a bit challenging but worth the effort. When you get to the entrance, odds are you won’t see it. A large hole next to a large tree is where you enter for the underground tunnels. A flashlight is a must. Very cool and a bit creepy as well!

If you’re not ready to climb down large roots to enter the ruins, there’s plenty to see above ground.

You’ll also see bunkers as you get near the Sugar Mill Ruins.

The historical parts of the island won’t disappoint and you’ll leave with some amazing stories to tell.


Tracy returns ‘Big Daddy’ back to the ocean Photo by Travis Shack

6. Snorkeling in Vieques

Mosquito Pier is on the north end of the island and visible if you fly into Vieques. You want to snorkel on the left side of the pier if you’re facing the ocean. Under the pier is a plethora of colors, shapes and sizes of so many amazing creatures. Seeing the majestic sea turtles is a bonus.

Navío is another snorkeling winner. While you enjoy the underwater scenery, gather some of the caracoles to eat later!

Esperanza Pier is also teeming with underwater life. And it’s the easiest place to get to making it hard to beat.

Where ever you break out your snorkel it’s sure to please.

Common area at The Lazy Hostel ©Donna Kos

7. Accommodation Choices


You can’t beat The Lazy Hostel’s location. Budget oriented, social and fun accommodations on the Malecón. Rooms start at $65 for private and $25 for dorm. It’s attached to Lazy Jack’s where they serve food, stellar cocktails and stay open longer than any other place on the island making it the ‘go to’ on the island. Thus The Lazy Hostel is a very convenient place to hang your hat at night.

Duffy’s has accommodations that won’t disappoint. Quieter vibe than a hostel and on the Malecón too.

Airbnb is also a good choice if you’re looking for more private digs.


Preparing to land in Vieques ©Donna Kos

8.Transportation Options to Help You


You’ll be awestruck during your brief flight on Vieques Air Link or Cape Air from San Juan to Vieques. It’s by far the best way to get to the island (and off the island). And the nine seater plane leaves a lot to take in on your brief 10 minute flight.

The Ferry can take you from Ceiba to Vieques but it’s far less reliable.

To say the least…

And you still have to get from San Juan to Ceiba which is about an $80 car ride. If you’re traveling with numerous people and have a lot of time on your hands it may be worth it. Schedules change hourly as we like to say here. If you’re traveling solo and on a tight time frame, you may want to rethink taking the Ferry.

Scooters & Golf Carts are a great way to see the island and there’s no shortage of places to rent them. Read the contract and lock them up when you stop around the island.

Cars are also a great way to see the island and won’t be hard to find.

Público is the local bus/taxi/van for getting around. If you’re leaving early in the morning call the night before. Don’t expect the taxi to show up right when you call or exactly when scheduled.

You’re on island time in Vieques.

Armed with transportation recommendations will help you make the best use of your valuable time.


Caracoles we gathered on Navio ©Donna Kos

9. Food and Drink to Tickle Your Palette


There are numerous food trucks that are scattered around the island. Jump out of your comfort zone and give them a try. It might be your most memorable meal!

Mussels from Banana’s are outstanding and might have you placing a second order.

Snails gathered from the sea while you’re checking out beaches are an amazing treat. You can break them open on the beach, clean them and pop them in your mouth. For the less brave foodie, take some back to your kitchen. Boil in some water or white wine, garlic and butter for about 15 minutes and you’ll have delectable morsels that are sure to be etched in your memory.

Fish and Chips, Grilled Fish Sandwich, Southwest Salad and pizza are favorites at Lazy Jack’s. Throw back a few Puerto Rican Medalla beers at the busiest establishment on the island for a local experience.

There’s no shortage of restaurants for any palette, so let loose and try them all!


Esperanza Pier ©Donna Kos

10. A Few More Unique Things to Do on Vieques


Watching the sunset and jumping off the pier is a daily ritual for many locals and tourists alike. There is a ladder at the end of the pier for climbing back up so you can do it again!

El BLOK affords you a spectacular view of the sunset. You walk through the front door. Take the elevator to the top. And on Sundays can enjoy a DJ, some dancing and drinks while taking in the amazing sunset.

On the north end of the island is the 375 year old Ceiba tree. It holds a special place in the hearts of locals. The Ceiba tree is a survivor like the residents of Vieques. Standing next to the Ceiba tree for a picture can be humbling.

Now you have a long list of places to see and things to do on Vieques!


Herd of horses at Sun Bay ©Donna Kos

Locals stir as roosters crow at the crack of dawn.

Another exquisite sunrise is waiting for you on Vieques.

The herd of horses meandering along the beach in the early morning light is breathtaking.

Imagine getting out of your cab. You study your surroundings and are blown away by the pristine water, beaches and vibe that Vieques delivers.

That’s why Vieques made your Bucket List.

With these locally tested recommendations, you can plan your epic adventure with confidence.

Now you just need to book your tickets!


10 thoughts on “The Most Exotic Place You Can Go Without a Passport Plus 10 Reasons You’ll Love the Spanish Virgin Islands”

  1. Alvin Almodóvar

    If they were Spanish Virgin Islands, they would belong to Spain and not to the United States of America.

  2. This may be the most accurate report on Vieques that I’ve read. Very well done. Thank you for the excellent reporting, writing, and photography!

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