February 17, 2009


The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Vieques is wild dogs. Droves of wild dogs. If having to avoid stubby little families of homeless dogs while you drive isn't your thing, then you can stop reading now. Vieques isn't for everyone. If traveling the Caribbean via cruise ship, waiting for the dinner bell horn to sound is how you like to vacation, then you also should stop reading now. Because when you are in Vieques, you need to enjoy, well, nothing.

There isn’t much to do when you are in Vieques. The restaurants are few and far between—though the distance shrinks a bit when you are driving with a Medalla in your hand—and the supermercados are in the habit of having very little of what you might need—unless, of course, you are out shopping for canned bacon. If you are willing to spend a little extra, there are a handful of top notch boutique hotels that you can stay in. If you aren’t willing to spend the money, there are plenty of places to stay for under $100 a night that consequently resemble a college dorm. We chose to spend the money and stayed at Evamer. While I don’t mind roughing it during the day, I want my head to hit a well linened pillow at night.

When you wake up in the morning, you have two options after you eat breakfast. First, you can drive out of town on one of the myriad winding, rutted, dirt roads, through the jungle, and out to the beach, where you will promptly find no one there to greet you. The second option you have, is to drive out of town on one of the myriad winding, rutted, dirt roads, through the jungle, and out to the mountain, where you will promptly find an abandoned sugar cane factory or abandoned army bunker to explore. After you have spent an hour trekking around and poking your head in doors that haven’t been opened in years—thusly finding an alarmingly creepy bunker full of…coke machines—you then head out to the beach where you belong.

If you didn’t already know, Vieques was home to the United States Navy from 1941 until 2003. Strangely, I have never read all of the details that are linked to here. However, skimming the articles, particularly the one about the dangers of depleted uranium—Wait they were using nuclear weapons on a 100 square mile island? And people were still living there? Okay, if you haven’t stopped reading yet, then Vieques is definitely for you.

When the Navy left, one half of the island that they “used” was cleared of any “ordinances” and opened to the public. Left over is mile after mile of open land and pristine beaches, other than ruined families and radiation poisoning, that is. Think about this, if you wanted to use the beaches on much of Vieques before 2003, you had to be lucky, crazy, or a high ranking government operative. This means that the reward at the end of the drive is as sweet as you can imagine. When my wife and I went to Vieques for the first time, in November of 2005, we would leave any beach in which we saw a single other person.

After you have spent the day on the beach, there are now almost three options for a nice dinner. They are all simple in fare and light on the wallet, but if you have a good guide—like the incomparable Mark at Evamer—you will find yourself sated and ready for either bed, or a few more Medalla’s. Should you find yourself on the island on a Tuesday or Thursday, eat at Coqui Fire. Order the carnitas, unbutton your pants, and watch the restaurant’s namesake hop amongst the trees that surround you.

Last week, we were lucky enough to be sharing the island with 80 of our closest friends. We were all attending a wedding, so we got to see parts of the island previously hidden to us. The house where the bride and groom stayed all week was straight out of Scarface. It was the perfect setting for a wild reception, in which the normally easygoing police were called to the scene, and the normally easygoing blogger was the first into the pool—in his wife’s bikini bottoms, no less.

When all was said and done we had one of the better weeks of our lives. Did I mention we left the kids at home? Naturally all of the sleep we accumulated was swept away upon our return to a house of puking babies, no computer, and much less sleep than we quickly grew accustomed to.

Oh, you want to here about our escape from Vieques that I alluded to earlier? In brief, here goes. Vieques has a few airlines that fly to and from San Juan. Some are larger than others. On the way in, we hopped a flight on Vieques Air Link, a reputable outfit with something near eight planes. On the way out however, we decided to fly one of the island’s less celebrated airlines, MN Aviation. We arrived at the airport and saw all of our friends, in different stages of readiness and drunkenness, getting ready to board other flights. Our “counter” however, was dark. Knowing the pace at which things move on Vieques, I called the airline and made sure we were still flying that day. The woman on the phone assured me we were and then transferred me to, well, a guy with information. The guy let me know that the pilot was on his way from a neighboring island with three other passengers. He was in a rush. Evidently, there was a storm approaching. When a surprisingly new plane emblazoned MN landed, we hustled out the door to meet the pilot. We had yet to show an ID, check a bag, or see another MN employee. Nonetheless, the pilot shooed us up into the cabin while carrying our bags himself. Once onboard, we met our three co-passengers…a stoned-looking beach bum, a rottweiler, and a German shepherd. Seconds later, the plane lifted off, out and over the ocean, a full 45 minutes before it was scheduled.


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