Renting a car was not optional based on our visit, or based on the suggestions and feedback from travel forums that I read before our departure. Advice forums stressed to secure a car rental early so I booked ours months in advance with Maritza’s Car Rental. And once on the island, everyone has a Jeep – I mean EVERYONE. The tourists are obvious, driving around in new Jeep models. It is also extremely apparent that some visitors are not comfortable in the role of Jeep driver. With frequent Jet Blue flights to Puerto Rico, some could be New Yorkers who are not comfortable driving at all.
We actually owned a Jeep Wrangler so we felt fairly confident as we embarked upon our adventure. And I have to say that the freedom was really great. But even as experienced Jeep drivers, we had a fair share of challenges and not until the latter part of our trip were we really able to settle into a relaxed driving state. I think that driving stress is the biggest warning that I have for visitors — something that I felt we did not anticipate.
During our brief visit we caused $2,000 worth of damage backing into a beach tree trying to find Black Sand Beach (suggestion: park on the side of the road and walk to it) and also got two parking tickets; one where there was no signage and locals were also parked, and one where I misread Spanish signage. Each day we had new warnings and advise from locals, but the most repeated one was in regards to driving after cocktails. I have never been warned about drinking and driving so often. But, I expect it is a more serious problem because the roads are difficult to maneuver when you are sober, let alone with a Pain Killer in your system. In Vieques, animals roam wild and at night with very little street lights (or traffic lights of any sort actually) the risk is much increased with even a modest amount of those delicious sweet rum drinks in your system. We also found that some local drivers speed, which was very jolting once we achieved an island pace. The roads are not much bigger than a single lane road for the most part and so it is shared with wild dogs, horses and bad drivers. It is important to heed the local warning about driving slow. I think we stuck around 15-25 miles per hour in general.
So here is my warning: If you are not up for a driving adventure that is a little rough around the edges then this might not be the right location for you. And if that is not a problem, then slow down and make sure that your personal car insurance or your credit card will cover any damages in advance. Oh, and just don’t park along the street, look for established lots, even if other people are parked there too. Now that you know what to expect, take off that Jeep top and enjoy beach hunting!