June 1, 2000  

Hola Amigos!

Hola Amigos!

The island of Vieques is not for everyone. If it were, everyone would be here, and we wouldn't! When I first moved here four and a half years ago, I used to be highly insulted when a tourist would whine and complain about what "should be", or what they would change, or what they didn't like about this island, my home. I would argue with them, or reason, or explain. At some point, I realized what I was doing was equivalent to teaching a pig to sing. I was only annoying the pig. Now, if a tourist expresses his or her negative opinions about our beloved island, I merely say something like, "Maybe Disney World would be more appealing to you. I bet you can get a flight out first thing in the morning!" Hey, I'll even call and make the reservations for them!

My advice to you before coming to Vieques is to do your homework! Scour the Internet. Call some of the guesthouses and business owners and ask questions. Talk to friends who have visited here. If you want a ritzy tourist trap, then this island is not for you. You will not find bellhops, room service, or, for that matter, anyone to impress here.

Vieques if the most untouched, undeveloped, undiscovered island in the Caribbean. There is not one high-rise hotel, casino, condo-complex, or hamburger stand on any of our beaches. What you will see are coconut palms, free-roaming Paso Fina horses (originally brought over by Christopher Columbus), wild orchids, miles of white sand, and breath-taking views of the clear aquamarine ocean. We have a wide variety of tropical plants, cacti, birds, rolling hills, one of the most spectacular bioluminescent bays in the world, and we are the only island in the Caribbean that has water (from the Rain Forest in Puerto Rico) pumped to us-thanks to a pipeline the Navy installed under the ocean 20 some years ago. (Well, OK, now Culebra has water too, since it is pumped from here.) And, oh my, the Flamboyan trees are beginning to bloom-one of the most beautiful sights on which my poor old eyes have ever feasted!!! 

We have virtually no violent crimes, however we do have petty theft. Do NOT take valuables to the beach (airline tickets, cell phones, passports, credit cards, large sums of money), or leave possessions unattended. Just because you are on vacation doesn't mean you leave your brain at home! 

The Viequenses are modest, conservative, and family oriented. Nude sunbathing on our public beaches is not only the epitome of bad manners, but also could result in having you "banned" from the beach. Please respect the mores of their culture, and keep your bathing suit on while on the public beaches. If, and /or when, the 20 or so beaches on the Navy bases are opened again, and you can go to a beach where you don't see anyone else all day-then you can work on your all-over tan.

The people here appreciate a well-mannered and friendly approach. Looking people in the eye, smiling, a handshake, etc. will go much farther than appearing demanding or snooty. Patience is a virtue here-remember; we're on "Island Time"! Vieques is not a "Kiss The Tourist's Whatever" kind of place. No one here will jump if you snap your fingers or appear disrespectful and arrogant. . Be kind, patient, gentle, and friendly. Relax, take it easy, have a tropical drink, slow down, chill out, DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY!

In my three previous columns, I've told you about some of the great places to dine-fine on Vieques while you are on vacation. I want to mention three of our favorites now (meaning those of us who live here).

For breakfast and lunch (everyday except Mondays), Coconuts, in Isabelle Segunda, is THE BEST. Sit inside at the counter and catch the morning news on Everett's TV (NBC's Today Show or CNN), and also get the most up-to-date scoop on local island gossip. Have some questions? You'll get all the answers (though not all of them will be the same!) from Barbara, Annette, Everett (cook and owner), and the "regulars". The Coconuts staff will go out of their way to please you and the food is ALWAYS good. Want to take some sandwiches to the beach? Everett's turkey, turkey salad, or "sub" sandwiches cannot be beaten! Hours are from 7:30AM until 2:00PM. 741-1051.

Another favorite here is La Dulce Pizzeria (741-0085) in Esperanza. Their pizza is unquestionably the best on the island. AND THEY DELIVER!!! (They also make delicious homemade breads, cookies, and pastries.) They offer a variety of toppings for their pizzas, and they will even "custom-make " your pizza for you. Want half of your pizza with just cheese, and the other half with pepperoni, olives and anchovies? They can do it!! If, after a grueling day sunning, swimming, and drinking cold beer at the beach, you just don't want to go out for dinner, call La Dulce Pizzeria!

Last, but not least, The Oasis, at Water's Edge (741-0655) is the perfect spot for those seeking an excellent dinner at very reasonable prices. Jason's appetizers and entrees, and the young enthusiastic bartenders and wait-staff, will please even the most discerning diners. You may choose to enjoy your dinner inside the restaurant, close to the beach poolside, or on the upper veranda under the stars with a magnificent vista of Puerto Rico in the distance. The young men and women who mastermind The Oasis have made this restaurant an extremely pleasurable and affordable OASIS in which to quench your thirst and appetite in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Don't miss it!

The one thing you must do while on Vieques is a visit to our bioluminescent bay. A trip into the bay is a magical and educational experience. Island Adventures (Call Sharon at 741-0720) offers excursions to the bay in non-polluting electric boats staffed by a bilingual captain and crew who explain the delicate balance of this rare ecosystem, and its impact on the health of the Caribbean Sea. Fish flash by creating a mysterious blue-green light created by micro-organisms which thrive in an environment uniquely suited to their needs. When you scoop the water into your hands, it looks like someone added stardust to it. But, when you swim in the water (which you must do!!), you turn into an angel with an aura of lights encompassing your every move. 
Included in each trip is a stargazing session, as your guide points out the constellations of the tropical sky. I promise you, it is one of the most amazing experiences of a lifetime. Visit their web-site www.biobay.com.


Another must-do is to tag up with The Blue Caribe Dive Center in Esperanza-the only dive shop on the island. Denny, Patty, Chip, and the other instructors and guides are the most qualified, professional, and friendly people you will ever meet. No need to pack snorkeling gear-just rent it from Blue Caribe! They also offer Resort Dives, Open Water Referral, Scuba Tune-Up, Advance Open water Certification, two tank Dive Trips, Night Dives, Rescue, Dive Master, and Specialty Courses, Bioluminescent Bay kayak Tours, and a really way-cool snorkeling adventure on Blue Tang reef-perfect for the "first-timer" or the experienced snorkeler. Call 741-2522, and visit their web site www.enchanted-isle.com/bluecaribe.

There are other sea-faring adventures on Vieques also! Spend an afternoon on a sailboat (call Jann 741-SAIL). Go kayaking (call Blue Lagoon 741-0015, or Aqua Frenzy 741-0913). Marvel the mysteries of the under-sea life with Captain Richard on his glass bottom boat (call 741-1980). Spend the day deep-sea fishing with Franco on his beautiful boat (call 741-0495).
Want to go horseback riding? Call Billy the Kid 741-2607. Bike rentals are also available. Call 741-0495.

After all of those activities, you are going to need a healing massage! Call Judy at 741-0806, or Ingrid at 741-1037. They'll bring their tables and expertise to you!

The Beach-Comb'R, in Isabelle Segunda, is a full service salon and day spa for those of us that need a little pampering. Getting ready to go on vacation can be a little hectic, and you may not have the time for the trim or pedicure you want before you leave. No Problema! The Beach-Comb'R is bursting with "be-good-to-yourself" opportunities!

Lynn can add curl, volume, body and definition to your hair. Want color? Go for the glitz-fun streaks, hi-lites, lo-lites, henna, or touch-ups. Try some braids and beads for fun. Try a new cut and shape-a new you! Kenra Professional Hair products are for sale here too.

The Beach-Comb'R also offers: manicures and pedicures-with healing stones or paraffin wax, massages and therapeutic body work-relaxing or energizing-by nationally certified and licensed professionals, and face and body waxing.

Also available are a variety of great arts and crafts by local artists-paintings, prints, jewelry, candle and incense holders, and handmade soaps. Lynn also has caps, t-shirts, beauty products and Avon for sale. (Don't forget to stop by and pick up some Skin-So-Soft bath oil-the best mosquito repellent there is!)

Lynn has had 35 years of pampering-you experience in New York, California and Vieques. Stop in her newly renovated shop for a free consultation. You deserve to feel wonderful! 741-0625

I know this column is longer than my previous ones, but that is because (Alas!) it is my last. Parental duties require that I return to South Carolina for a while. It has been my pleasure acquainting you with the happenings on my Isla Nina. I am sure someone else will be taking my place here before long, and I'll eagerly read every word while I'm back in the states! Thank you to Jim for allowing me this opportunity, and to Helen for your advice, corrections and kind compliments. To my friends here-you know how much I'll miss you all, but I will be back!!!

HASTA LUEGO,

   Peggie

WM's Note: 
Thanks Peggie, we will miss you. Good Luck and God Speed to you and Stella back in the real world!


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