Seven miles east of the island of Puerto Rico, in the Caribbean Sea, is the little island of Vieques. It's only about double the size of New York City but it boasts white sand beaches, seclusion and many natural wonders. Though the island has had some controversy in its past (the U.S. Navy used the island as a bombing range and weapons testing ground), those days are no more. Since 2003, the Navy vacated, the tourists arrived, and much of the government-owned land is now leased for cattle grazing -- in fact, part of the island's charm are the cattle and horses that roam free!
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Spanish and English
4 hours from NYC to San Juan, 7 hours from LA to San Juan; 20 minutes from San Juan to Vieques
When To Go: Vieques at its best
January to April with temps in the 80s
Mid-April to mid December.
What To Do
Be a beach bum:
If you want to do nothing more than plop down on the sand and unwind under the sun, Vieques is for you. Sure, there are many beaches to choose from in the Caribbean, but Vieques is a U.S. territory (so there's no need for a passport).
Go to the glowing waters:
Eco-tourism is hot in Vieques and has something special for travelers who want to see some of nature's finest: The island is home Bioluminescent Bay, or Bio-Bay, a natural phenomenon in the Caribbean. This phosphorescent body of water is literally glowing! The light is produced by tiny bioluminescent organisms that leave blue-white trails of phosphorescence in the water. It's magical to witness -- like a sea full of fireflies. The best time to see everything light up is on a cloudy or moon-free night (that way the critters really shine). And yes, it's safe to swim in the water!
Commune with nature:
The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is largest in the Caribbean (a big feat for a small island).The land is nearly untouched and is home to endangered species such as the sea turtle, manatee and brown pelican. Bird watchers will be in heaven, as will divers, snorkelers and anyone who can appreciate unspoiled beaches and habitats.