Vieques & San Juan

Posted by on Oct 30, 2012 in North America, Puerto Rico, Travel | Comments Off on Vieques & San Juan

Vieques & San Juan

An easy flight from New York, Puerto Rico is a Caribbean destination that will have you feeling like you’ve been on holidays for months.

 

Isla de Vieques

Before getting on the ridiculously small plane to go to Vieques, each piece of baggage and every passenger is weighed to work out the weight distribution.

Then the captain tells us “I’m going to need someone to sit in the cockpit with me, in the co-pilot seat”.  My hand immediately shoots into the air.

When we begin landing I have a spectacular 180 degree view, but also notice that we are being blown around in the wind and begin to worry that we won’t be landing safely.  Of course we do and it’s all fine (no thanks to the copilot though that’s for sure!)

After the short flight from San Juan we have arrived on Vieques, an quaint little island about 35km long and 6km wide.

Our plane to Vieques

Our plane to Vieques

We stayed at the stunning Quinta Jabali, a private villa with phenomenal views of the coastline.

This is what I had been dreaming of.

We allowed ourselves to fall into island time, our days spent exploring the local beaches all of which are postcard perfect with white sand, turquoise water and no-one around.

You need a 4WD to get around the island and access the beaches, we hired a Jeep which did the trick nicely.

Watch out for the usual road block of horses roaming the island, they belong to people but are left to wander the island to find grass.

We were drawn to Vieques to see Mosquito Bay, one of the brightest bioluminescent bays in the world.  This bay has the perfect conditions for the micro-organism dinoflagellate Pyrodinium bahamense, which glow when the water is disturbed.

We went out with a tour company one night, down the bumpy dirt track to the bay to go kayaking.

Once car headlights were turned off and the moon went behind the clouds the magic happened.

With every paddle and every touch of the bottom of the kayak the water would light up with a trail of neon blue sparkles.  It was like nothing I have ever seen before, I felt like I was in Harry Potter or some other magical universe, it was so surreal!

No photos can do it justice, it’s something you need to see for yourself.  It’s not permitted to go swimming in the water as the ph from human skin (and from any creams people put on their skin) disturbs the very specific conditions these organisms need to survive and thrive.

Local traffic

 

We also went horse riding with Esperanza Riding Company, a great way to see more of the island.  My horse Avispon was wonderful and all the horses were healthy and well cared for.

We spent a day with Jorge from Little Boat Sailing out on his Hobie-cat, he was really knowledgeable and took us to beautiful snorkelling spots, and we watched a glorious sunset as we sailed back.

Food wise there is an awesome food truck called Sol Food that will rock your world with jerk chicken, pulled pork and empanadas.  It’s only open a few hours each day and sells out quickly, so get it when you can!

Wayne also says he had the best pulled pork burger he’s ever tasted from an American guy with a small stand out the front of the airport.

If you are looking for a tropical holiday on an unspoilt island that has genuine character and isn’t overrun with tourists, this is the place.

 

The view from the back of Avispon

The view from the back of Avispon

 

Enjoying a drink in our private pool

Enjoying a drink in our private pool

 

Watching the sunset over the sea

Watching the sunset over the sea

 

San Juan

We spent our time in ‘old San Juan’ which is full of rich culture and history, with an obvious Spanish influence.

We stayed at Hotel El Convento, an old convent that has been beautifully restored and turned into a hotel.

Located in old San Juan it’s easy to get pretty much anywhere you want on foot from the hotel, and the rooftop pool is a great spot to relax in the afternoon.  Each afternoon they also have a “Manager’s Reception” where they serve wine and hors d’oeuvres on the terrace, free for guests of the hotel.

Old San Juan is full of shops (many international brands like Coach, Guess, Ralph Lauren are much much cheaper here), historical places, museums, cafés and restaurants, tree-shaded plazas and cathedrals.

The city has an old world charm and colonial architecture fused with tropical colours that makes you feel like you’ve travelled back in time.

My advice is take your time to wander around and soak it all in.

Be sure to visit the forts, and take a sunset stroll along Paseo La Princesa promenade.

You really can’t go wrong with food, and we did a wonderful food and drinks night walking tour with Flavors of San Juan.  This is good to do when you first arrive as if you like some of the places (you will!) you can go back later yourself.

There are plenty of good bars with live music and cheap drinks.

A city with history, beauty and a relaxed atmosphere, it’s hard not to fall under it’s spell.

 

san juan town

 

san juan