9 February 2012
I knew about Vieques, but just a little. I vaguely understood that it was an island off the coast of Puerto Rico used by the US Navy for target practice until local protests forced the Navy to give the island back to the residents. What I did not know was that during the entire time the navy was shelling the island, there were locals living on Vieques, locals born on the island that had to put up with the thunderous booms shaking their island and their homes every time the Navy began shooting or bombing.
About 18 months ago, W Hotels built a charming hotel on a beautiful beach they call W Retreats. As a member of Travel + Leisure magazine’s travel advisory board, we met here for a few days. I’ve got to admit, it’s tough to stay inside when stunning swimming pools and a beautiful beach beckon.
While I am not a big fan of some W Hotels with their occasional “We’re so hip” attitude; at Vieques I’m finding the hospitality is warm and welcoming and the facilities are superb. I would come back in a heartbeat. In addition to the hotel’s fine restaurants, there are some great, casual restaurants not far away on the island. If you visit Vieques, don‘t miss El Quenepo.
For those taking cruises into the Caribbean, we suggest basing your cruise out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Instead of visiting just a few islands in a week (this is what happens when your cruise departs from Florida), when you cruise from San Juan, you are already in the very heart of the Eastern Caribbean. Great places such as Barbados, St. Maarten, St Barts, the British Virgin Islands, Martinique etc. are just a few cruising hours away. Most 7-day cruises departing from San Juan visit a
different island almost every day.
Though the flight to San Juan takes a couple hours more than flying to Miami, the cost is not all that much more. I looked at flights in September, as an example, and found that a flight from Oregon to Miami cost about $435 pp while a flight to San Juan was just $120 more.
We suggest combining 2-3 days of blissful beach and spa time in Vieques with your cruise from San Juan.
My brief experience in Vieques reminds me of my first visit to Cancun in the late 1970s. When we arrived, there were just a few hotels. Of course, that changed in a big way; come to the W Retreat in Vieques now. This too will change.