When seeking out a destination for our fifth anniversary there were a few considerations that were important to me. First, I really wanted Caribbean water- that crystal clear gorgeous Corona commercial worthy beach. We have spent most of our major vacations on the Pacific side, and while I adore the waves crashing on the rocks, the water is not as pretty and the surf can be aggressive. Next, I wanted it to feel authentic and not touristy and, finally, we needed it to be relatively affordable. In these things, Vieques was a very strong choice.
Vieques maintains a laid-back island atmosphere that can be hard to find on more developed Caribbean getaways. Isla de Vieques is an island–municipality of Puerto Rico that recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary of the end of 60 years of U.S. Navy test bombing there. Yet the legacy of this occupation remains as well. The beauty of Vieques hides environmental contamination, a high cancer rate for locals, animal welfare issues and crime. A struggle between the locals and the government continues with continued restricted access to nearly 18,000 acres outside the bombing range now strictly controlled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior.
Looking back today, almost a month after our trip, I would not change the decision and would encourage others to visit as well… BUT I think it is important to set a realistic expectation and be aware of how that history shapes the island today. This island is not for everyone and that is important to think about before you plan your visit. If you are seeking luxury and service, then bubble up at the W Hotel with a first-class resort ambiance and contained environment, or this might not be the place for you. If you are not comfortable driving, then this definitely is not the place for you either. And while we did have some really great meals, this not a foodie destination in my opinion.
But if you are seeking an affordable Caribbean beach destination with several modest and homey accommodation options, absolutely fabulous water activities, and have a can-do spirit for navigation or adjusting to new environments, then let me tell you this place is really lovely. We would go back in a heartbeat and I expect that future destinations will have a hard time meeting the standard that this beach location set.
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