Vieques – Puerto Rico, Greater Antilles (U.S. Commonwealth)
Small-Island Life and a Fragile Bioluminescent Bay
Puerto Rico’s small sister island Vieques is not for everyone, but its uneventful lifestyle, a throwback to the old days in the Spanish Virgin Islands, can feel heaven-sent. The sixty-two-year presence of the U.S. Navy (who pulled out in 2003) kept the island and its forty-odd beaches from being developed (so far), making it a perfect escape for wound-up mainlanders and San Juanitos, who travel here (and to neighboring island Culebra, whose beaches are even more renowned) for natural beauty and the restorative pleasures of doing next to nothing. Wild descendants of the paso fino horses left by the Spanish centuries ago roam freely. Some have been tamed, and horseback riding across the hills and dunes of the island is one of its finest pleasures.
More psychedelic pleasure is to be had at Mosquito Bay, one of the few bioluminescent bays left in the world. The concentration of dinoflagellates (called pyrodiniums – “whirling fire”) creates a liquid green light when the water is agitated. The phenomenon is best viewed during night-time tours, when boat propellers cause the billions of microorganisms that live near the surface to illuminate. Troll your hand overboard and leave a sparkling trail of shooting stars behind you, or dive in for an even more magical experience.
Vieques’s limited accommodations were funky and eccentric until the arrival of the Hacienda Tamarindo, named for the ancient tamarind tree that anchors the villa’s open patio. Set atop a windswept hill, the hacienda’s breezy rooms are open to the refreshing trade winds and sweeping views of the Caribbean. An eclectic mix of art, antiques, and collectibles accumulated by the American owners – Viequans by adoption – testify to their former life as interior designers.