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Thread: Vieques Trip

  1. #1
    jfinance is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Jul 2003 Cleveland, OH Posts: 57

    Vieques Trip

    My wife and I went back to Vieques last week. Our first visit was six years ago, while the Navy was still using it as a target, and we found that it had changed significantly, though mostly in good ways.

    There is one large resort on the island (where there was none). It's currently owned by the Wyndham, but there are lots of rumors about it being sold. We stopped in the bar to watch the NCAA basketball championship and it was quite empty. I think that the hotel is really struggling. The staff that we saw were quite unmotivated and not real competent. (Stay away.)

    The beaches are still great. They are a little wilder than SBH and the dirt roads to reach them are slower and bumpier, but the water is clear, the sand is white and there are very few people with you. (Tops stay on the women.)

    The restaurants have improved dramatically. At least two places would fit right in on SBH (Cafe Media Luna and Uva, both in Isabel Segundo, the larger of the two towns). There are several other places that are adequate for food and have a great view of the water (Banana'a and Bili, in Esperanza). There is a gourmet deli/grocery called Chef Michaels Foodspace that offers a selection of nice cheeses, wines, meats and munchies. The prices are high, but it's the only show in town.

    The island is slowly remaking itself from a military backwater to a tourism-based economy. The locals seemed more pleasant and slightly more prosperous, and the gringo expat community is growing quickly.

    We rented a house, so I can't comment on the hotels or guesthouses. There are some great houses that are quite remote and still affordable. We'll go back to the house that we stayed at again.

    In summary, it's a beautiful island with the services of SBH circa 1975 (I'm guessing...). It's easier to get to for us, they use USD and there's no customs to clear. On the downside, the ambiance is definitely Latin, not French.

    Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.

    Jeff

  2. #2
    onebigdawg53 is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Jun 2004 Beautiful hunterdon county new jersey Posts: 3,157

    Re: Vieques Trip

    Hi Jeff

    I was intrigued by your report. Sent you a PM
    take care
    georgedp

  3. #3

    Re: Vieques Trip

    Great trip report. I am glad that you enjoyed it. We didn't make it down there this spring like we intended, but are thinking of going back for Christmas/New Years. What was the name of the house you rented? What agency did you rent from?

    As for the gossip on the island, since my trip in Dec/Jan, it looks like several of the highly acclaimed restaurants have closed or are in the process of closing: Blu Macaw (fire); Bayahonda (lost lease) and Media Luna (its up for sale and will likely be sold this summer). These changes in the dining scene are very disappointing....have any new restaurants (besides Uva and Mbar) popped up to fill the vacancy?

    I still think Vieques is a great island, and we are still considering investing there, it just looks like the development will take longer than expected.

    Do you have any scheduled trips back to the island?

    Thanks again for reporting back.

  4. #4
    jfinance is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Jul 2003 Cleveland, OH Posts: 57

    Re: Vieques Trip

    We missed the Blu Macaw and would be sad to see Media Luna go away. We didn't see anything new besides the two that you mentioned. There will always be a lot of turnover in the restaurant business, so I wouldn't worry too much. It seems like there is enough of a consistent tourist business to support several good places. Finding the chefs and servers may be tougher than finding customers.

    We stayed here ( http://www.enchanted-isle.com/doscuervos/ ). Rented directly from the owner. It is as pretty as the pictures make it look. It sits on five acres on a remote hilltop with no neighbors visible. Loved it.

    We are likely to alternate between St. Bart's and Vieques for our spring trip, so we are planning to be back in '07 and we'll definitely stay at the same place.

    Good luck with your plans.

    Jeff

  5. #5
    StBartFan2 is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Nov 2003 NYC & Berkshires, Ma Posts: 183

    Re: Vieques Trip

    Any recent information on Vieques? Beaches, restaurants, interesting spots? Planning to go for five days in May, Hix Island House.

    Thanks,

    Martin

  6. #6
    TimH is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Oct 2002 Richmond Posts: 151

    Re: Vieques Trip

    We just got back last night from a week in Vieques. It was totally the opposite from our many SBH trips, but we loved Vieques, and will probably return. Some random observations:

    The people are very friendly, and we had no problems with the language as most people spoke a little English.

    We rented the top floor of a duplex right on a beach out in the "country" past Isabel II. We rented directly from the owner- 1 bdrm- about $900 for the week. It was very simple, but clean, with a nice deck and large gazebo by the beach.

    Wild horses are everywhere. They are exceptionally heathly looking, and the locals seem to take pride in them. Also a lot of locals actually ride horses, even to town. It is not unusual the see a horse tied up outside a bar or local eating place. Don't see that in SBH!

    The major roads are twice as wide as SBH, and people drive twice as slow. Traffic in the main town- Isabel II- is pretty bad, kind of like Gustavia, but the locals don't seem to get very upset. The roads in town are in much worse shape than in the countryside. They have a great local road map, and getting around the island is a piece of cake.

    We did not get to do the Bio Bay tour due to a full moon last week. Very disapointed.

    We went to most of the beaches- Red, Blue, Green, Navio, Media Luna, Playa Grande, Sun Bay, and Garcia- and all were uncrowded. Garcia is like a mini Saline- no development, wide, and easy entry to the calm water. We had it totally to ourselves one day. The sand is pure white and fine. our favorite spot, but all the beaches are very nice.

    We ate at 3 local restaurants- Tapacio, Mucho Gusto, and Richards- and liked them all. On the high end, we ate at Media Luna, which was very attractive, but the food was average. Btw, it is still for sale. Bananas in Esperanza is lively, but very American, and ok for a burger. Bravo Beach Hotel {BBH} is the equivalent of a top SBH restaurant. They serve Tapas style. We ate there twice and had duck, mussels, NY strip, Dorado, Creole pork, etc, and all was wonderful. The setting and the service was great as well.

    In my opinion, the island as a whole reminded, me of French St Martin in 1980. Lots of open space, a little on the rough side, but with great potential for development, if done properly, unlike what St Martin did. The people do not appear to be in poverty, but are probably a lot like the locals in Anguilla. This is just my opinion, and only after just 1 week.

    If interested in Vieques, I would try to see it now, before it goes one way or the other [good or bad]. The park lands are great, but there is some thought of trying to deveop them.

    SUV's are a necessity for going to the remote beaches. Trust me on this one!

    Too much rambling here. I will answer any questions.

    Tim

  7. #7
    SteveO is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Jun 2003 Boston, MA Posts: 90

    Re: Vieques Trip

    Nice Trip Report Tim.

    Aren't they building a W Hotel on Vieques? Do you have any info on that? How big is the island? Twice the size of SBH?

    thanks!

  8. #8
    TimH is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Oct 2002 Richmond Posts: 151

    Re: Vieques Trip

    Steve,
    Actually, Martineau Bay Hotel {Resort?} is already open. It was built as a Wyndham, and is supposedly being converted to a {W} or something else. We drove through the property, but did not ask anything about it as it did not appeal to us.
    The island is bigger than SBH, but much of it is still restricted as to access in the former military areas.
    Tim

  9. #9
    JEK is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jan 2004 In the ether . . . Posts: 51,671

    Re: Vieques Trip

    Nice Trip Report Tim.

    Aren't they building a W Hotel on Vieques? Do you have any info on that? How big is the island? Twice the size of SBH?

    thanks!
    W Hotel goes south . . .
    The Marius 100th Birthday Party -- June 5, 2023

  10. #10
    marybeth is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: May 2004 Pittsburgh, PA Posts: 3,272

    Re: Vieques Trip

    That's interesting as there is an ad in Sunday's Pittsburgh Post Gazette for Apple Travel for the Martineau Bay Resort in Vieques and it does not indicate its is a W property. Wonder if something happened? BTW, rates are $739 for three nights.
    If Apple is promoting it, perhaps it will become the next Aruba...Sigh...More Caribbean made to look like the US...

    Also, Tim: Thanks for the report. I would love to try Vieques sometime and was glad to hear about good restaurants.

  11. #11
    Seles is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Mar 2003 Beach Posts: 1,814

    Re: Vieques Trip

    Although Vieques appears moving slowly towards development I can assure you it is approaching the top of the curve...wake up in 3-5 years and you won't recognize it. Why? US Territory and available land for development.

    Wait, watch or wonder what happened. It will develop out about as quickly as anything we've ever seen. Development is always a work in progress in five year increments. The big boys have already seen, bought and have the plans on the drawing boards, but its not public yet. A PR real estate attorney specializing in Vieques could probably enlighten us all to the reality of its future.

    I'm there.

    Ric

    PS~MikeR and IV (because we've talked about this in person), another one bites the dust! Just look around in our own lifetime, and think about another short 20-30 years...where will the people go? They are already buying .10 acre homesites on the marsh in certain southeastern states for over $1 million, and the rest are staying in metro areas and buying at astronomical prices for air space in condos. You either develop for the population horizontally or vertically, horizontally in areas where land is available or vertically where we push the envelope...either way, its difficult, but not on Vieques.

  12. #12
    JEK is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jan 2004 In the ether . . . Posts: 51,671

    Is Success Spoiling Vieques? in NYT




    April 2, 2006
    In Transit
    Is Success Spoiling Vieques?

    By MICHELLE HIGGINS
    Vieques, the military bombing range turned beach resort just off Puerto Rico's southeastern shore, seems to be suffering some growing pains.

    After the United States Navy stopped bombing the island's white sandy beaches in 2003, travelers tiptoed to its newly demilitarized coasts and found warm waters, wild horses and surprisingly good restaurants. Glossy magazine spreads soon followed, and a tourist hot spot was born. But is Vieques maturing too fast for a tiny island that still lacks a traffic light?

    On a visit last month, the main waterfront strip in Esperanza, once a low-key village, was jammed with rental Jeeps and patrons spilling out of overbooked restaurants. At Chez Shack, a bohemian restaurant in the island's interior, some diners had to wait more than an hour for their barbecued chicken and fish. "My restaurant used to do 20 to 25 dinners a night," said Hugh Duffy, the owner. Now, it does 60 to 70 most nights, and as many as 260 dinners during its Grill Nights on Mondays.

    A spot of sand is still easy to find, but the days of feeling all alone are gone. That's true even for secluded beaches like Blue Beach, a former bombing test site where beach chairs and fresh towels were laid out neatly every few yards.

    The crowd has also changed. At Navio Beach, a mellow crescent at the end of a dirt road, sunbathers in their 30's shared the surf with rowdy college students playing touch football and drinking beer. Yes, spring breakers have found Vieques.

    "We didn't get that type of tourist," said David West, who has visited the island for 15 years and opened Roy's Island Coffee House there in December. "It was mostly single people or couples, and mostly not teenage groups. Now you're getting a much more mainstream visitor."

    And there is still more to come. The most anticipated new hotel is Starwood's W Retreat and Spa, expected to open in mid-2007.
    The Marius 100th Birthday Party -- June 5, 2023

  13. #13
    TimH is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Oct 2002 Richmond Posts: 151

    Re: Is Success Spoiling Vieques? in NYT

    Having been in Vieques at roughly the same time as the author, I find her report to be about as misleading as most travel articles. I am sure she may have seen springbreakers, but the impression of hordes of them was more likely one or two small groups. Restaurants were crowded, but mainly because there are very few restaurants. We definitely saw more tourists over 50 than under 30.
    Of course, every week is different, but we observed a very low key island.

    The one thing that everyone we talked to agreed on was the incredible amount of trash by the roads. Until the locals take more pride in the appearance of the island, I find it hard to believe Vieques will attract more and more of the "W" type visitors.

  14. #14
    JEK is offline
    Senior Insider Joined: Jan 2004 In the ether . . . Posts: 51,671

    Re: Is Success Spoiling Vieques? in NYT

    Thanks Tim.
    The Marius 100th Birthday Party -- June 5, 2023

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