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