You may have heard of the British Virgin Islands or the U.S. Virgin Islands, but have you heard of the Spanish Virgin Islands?
Whether you have or not, you are in the right place, because Vieques Island, just six miles southeast of Puerto Rico’s mainland, is the largest of an archipelago of six islands considered the Spanish Virgin Islands, and is the perfect place for amazing snorkeling.
Where is Vieques island?
Vieques Island, nicknamed la Isla Nena (the little girl island) by Puerto Rican poet Luis Llorens Torris, is just six miles southeast of Puerto Rico’s mainland. In between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, the island enjoys one of the top spots in the region, with neighbors including Anguilla, St. John’s, Montserrat, and more.
Located in the pristine waters of the Eastern coast of Puerto Rico, Vieques is perfect for snorkelers. When snorkeling around Vieques, you have access to some of the most beautiful underwater landscapes across the many beaches and coves for observing the island’s exotic flora and fauna.
How Long Does It Take To Travel to Vieques Island from Fajardo?
There are two ways to get to Vieques and her neighbor Culebra from mainland Puerto Rico. You can either fly there from San Juan or Fajardo or take a ferry from Fajardo. (We totally recommend you check out Fajardo when you’re in Puerto Rico to visit the bioluminescent bay!)
The ferry is the cheapest option at just $2.00. However, be aware that you lose in comfort what you save in cost. The ferry schedule is famously fickle and can be affected by various factors that impact timing.
If you decide to take the ferry, be aware that any rental car you may be using will not be allowed on board. You will have to leave it on the mainland in a parking area near the ferry departure point. You’ll most likely want to rent another vehicle when you are on Vieques. The same is true if you decide to fly.
If you plan to rent a car, we recommend something that is adept for all-terrain so you can visit the more isolated beaches. Be sure to book your rental with plenty of time since the island has a limited inventory, especially during the high tourism season. Don’t leave it until the last minute!
Finally, there is an air taxi that is quite convenient and will have you on Vieques in no time. The company operates small planes that can accommodate up to four passengers for private flights to the island that are pet-friendly and hassle-free.
Top 3 Reasons to go Snorkeling in Vieques Island
Now that you’ve made it to Vieques, it’s time to get into the crystalline waters and explore the ocean floor. Snorkeling in Vieques is one of the most popular activities in the area. And for good reason!
The Water is Pretty Clear
Look no further than Playa la Chiva, also known as Blue Beach, to get a true understanding of how beautifully clear the Caribbean Sea can be. Considered the best place for snorkeling in Vieques, Playa la Chiva has extremely calm, clear waters and impressive expanses of coral and sea life to observe while snorkeling.
One reef close to the shore is perfect for younger snorkelers. For those who are more advanced, the beach is home to Chiva cay which is just a 15 minute swim away and boasts incredible snorkeling views.
An Impressive Variety of Sea Life
The island’s uniquely underdeveloped and unspoiled coastline thanks to a naval occupation until about 20 years ago means the wildlife has remained relatively untouched. Hurricane Maria did affect some marine life a few years ago, but there is still a lot to see while snorkeling along the coastline.
Punta Arenas, also known as the Green Beach, is an excellent spot to really get into nature. Just a few minutes in the car will have you observing wildlife in no time.
Snorkeling in the shallow waters, you’ll get to see colorful reef fish species like angelfish, parrotfish, shrimp, lobsters, stingrays, and if you get lucky maybe a sea turtle or two. The calm, shallow waters are attractive to many species and will have you snapping photos while you snorkel.
There Are Several Ideal Snorkeling Beaches
We’ve already mentioned Playa la Chiva and Punta Arenas, but Vieques is home to a large number of beaches perfect for snorkeling. The Secret Beach is a great example.
Located completely in the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, the beach is characterized by soft white sand and few tourists. The official name is Pata Prieta, and it’s an amazing spot for snorkeling on Vieques in the summer. The water tends to remain calm given the shape of the beach, so wildlife flourishes here too.
Another beach not to be missed when snorkeling in Vieques is El Gallito, otherwise known as Gringo Beach. Gringo refers to the American mainland tourists that frequent Vieques and is a reference to the beach’s close proximity to the island’s airport. An ideal beach for snorkeling, if you are lucky you may have it all to yourself since it is less well known than some of the other snorkeling spots.
Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Trip to Vieques Beaches
If you’ve made it to Puerto Rico, then Vieques is a must-see destination while on the island. Snorkeling on Vieques is an amazing way to take full advantage of the Puerto Rican coastline.
Plan to Stay for a Few Days
Give yourself enough time! Remember to book a car on the island in advance so you can explore all of the hidden beaches and coves that are perfect for snorkeling and observing Caribbean nature.
Take the time to visit the neighboring island of Culebra, where you can visit an old weapons warehouse converted into a museum that explains the island’s history. You can also visit the old Culbra lighthouse, which was recently renovated for tourists to visit.
Be sure to check out the Flamenco Beach when there! You’ll likely have the beach to yourself to disconnect and spend quality time with your loved ones.
It may seem silly to mention, but when snorkeling in Vieques, be sure to bring your sunscreen. Vieques is home to a beach that is literally called Sun Beach. This name serves as a warning to those who will be spending the day snorkeling along the shallow shores. Saltwater and sun are a dangerous combination, so you want to be sure you bring adequate protection.
That being said, one of the upsides of Vieques is that the beaches are full of big coconut palms and other trees to provide you with natural shade. Just be careful when snorkeling because there is nothing to shield you from the sun’s penetrating rays.
Visit a Vieques Restaurant in Barrio Esperanza
When you’re down snorkeling in Vieques, you’re going to want to replenish your energy with some local cuisine. Vieques is well known for their arepas de coco, a Puerto Rican coconut fry bread that is crisp on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. A native dish to the island, it is the ideal companion to ceviche or any cold, seafood salad.
Barrio Esperanza is a hotbed of nightlife and will certainly help you relax after hours of snorkeling along the coastline. The barrio Esperanza is especially well known for its fresh seafood, and you won’t go wrong when you choose from any of the local eateries like El Guayacán, Lazy Jack’s, or La Nasa. They all have excellent food and a lively nightlife atmosphere for your post-snorkel relaxation.
Spend a Day at One of Its Many Beaches
We’ve already mentioned some of the excellent beaches for you to enjoy snorkeling on the island of Vieques. They are seemingly endless. Known for being some of the most relaxed and tranquil sites in Puerto Rico, the beaches on Vieques are hard to compete with.
La playita negra, or black sand beach, is a refreshing sight for those who have ventured to the island for a snorkel adventure. The beach’s offshore volcanic rocks lend to its black sands, which are surrounded by cliffs and short bushes that make for beautiful landscapes.
Then there is the media luna beach, which is perfect for families with small children. In English, Halfmoon beach is just past Sun Bay and hosts an abundance of marine life. The tide is extremely shallow, so you can walk out about 50 feet offshore and play with the schools of tropical fish without emerging yourself in the water. Be aware that the beach is extremely secluded, so be sure to bring water, snacks, and anything else you may need without the comfort of a restaurant or public restrooms.
We are looking forward to your visit to enjoy the snorkeling on Vieques. Connect with the Pure Adventure team now to get your vacation plans in order. You will see beautiful marine wildlife, and beautiful pristine beaches, and eat some amazing Puerto Rican cuisine.