It’s a sign of love when you adore something despite it’s faults. The bomb warnings on the Vieques beaches are kinda hard to avoid at the main entry for most beaches and are a reminder of the serious issues the area faces, though I have to admit I also found them a little amusing. What kind of vacation did I book? And yet, I love you Blue Beach.
While portions of Vieques have always been civilian, the beaches were largely used as former military zone for training drills so finding old bombs is not just warning, it has happened to tourists. The signage is a reminder and sets the protocol for handling (Recognize, Retreat and Report). This is slightly unsettling for a moment, until you see the beach. Granted this is my first dance with a Caribbean beach and I have nothing to compare it to currently, but Blue Beach will always be my first love. During our visit it was only open on the weekend as it is still under environmental rehabilitation, or bomb clean-up. Yeah, they are finding and disarming Navy leftovers. But pay no mind to fears of children finding explosive toys and stick to the main areas where all is well and the water is lovely. I did say this was not a location for everyone, so this is something to keep in mind, though I do think that it will improve with each passing week.
But back to the good, while swimming in the waters of Blue Beach, I could not only see to my feet but I also beautiful Caribbean fish swimming up to our legs and checking us out. Note that snorkeling gear on trips like this should be considered mandatory. As it was the weekend, the beach was fairly crowded by Vieques standards. This is something that I noticed as a point of contention on discussion boards- that the popularity of the beaches is increasing and you no longer have the beach to yourself. But let’s be real, our beach neighbors were well over 30 feet away from us and as the day progressed and families left for lunch that space increased. It still felt like we had a slice of the beach all for ourselves. And in that moment, all the stresses of driving and bomb signage went away. I think that visit to the beach was key because we finally were able to achieve island time. Once we slowed down and really integrated ourselves into the culture then the whole trip began to fall into place.
Our next favorite beach was Red Beach, which is a little more structured and ideal for families. There are gazebos and paved roads. There is a cove and the left side of the cove tended to be more calm with the other side having rougher waves but lots of snorkelers. This was a great easy beach and one morning we went at 8AM and were the only ones there for a little while.
Green Beach was great for snorkeling and has a jungle environment that is unique to the rest of the island. This is where our paddleboard tour began and I think it is perfect for those water sports, but it was not as ideal for beach lounging. The surrounding areas are also interesting as they have the former military bunkers that are now being taken back over by the island. And right where you park for the beach, there is an old sugar mill tank that was used to load syrup into ships. It has also been taken back over by nature.
As far as the other beaches, they were a little more rough due to winds but we tried to beach hunt for each and every one of them. And to do that, expect rocky roads, branches hitting your Jeep, tight spots to get out of, and again single lane roads for two-way traffic. For people with snorkel gear, some of these options might have been more appealing but, for beach bums like us, they were usually more aggressive waves that were not ideal for lounging. I still think that beach hunting is part of the fun though, but on future trips I think we will likely stick to our top three. And we will rent snorkel gear for sure.
My best tip, which came from the locals and the travel boards is to bring along a ziplock bag or purchase a waterproof container of some sort. Though we had not troubles with theft at all, you do not leave anything in your car (in fact, leave it unlocked and open) and any valuables that you take to the beach should be in a sealed bag, buried under your beach chairs. We heard this over and over. We followed these rules and never had a problem.
So remember your ziplock and your snorkel gear, along with all the usual beach paraphernalia and you will be a happy beach bum in the gorgeous waters of Vieques. Enjoy and tell that gorgeous Blue Beach that I look forward to seeing her again soon.