Vieques is a small island about 20 miles long and 3 miles wide off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. Archeological digs have found middens of Carib Indians so settlement goes back a long way. Vieques together with Culebra are sometimes called the Spanish Virgin Islands. Before the Navy protests made front-page news, Vieques was best known for having one of the last bioluminescent bays in the world.

The Navy has been good and bad for the environment. On the one hand the bombing area and the waste disposal sites create environmental clean-up problems and possible health problems for residents. On the other hand, the Navy has protected two-thirds of the island from urban sprawl, which is good for wildlife and plants. Mt. Pirata, now in the hands of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, has virgin forests and many plant, and possible bird species, that are threatened or endangered. The mangrove lagoons are intact and the surrounding coral reefs are healthy as there is little erosion and siltation due to second generation forests on Navy lands. Sea grass beds, which are important for sea turtles, are plentiful for no sewage or other pollution degrades them. The endangered Caribbean Brown Pelican successfully nests in the bombing area for the birds are more susceptible to human disturbance than noise. The bombing keeps people off the colony! With the cessation of bombing this past year, but with the area still restricted, turtles nested on the beaches, and a flock of Greater Flamingos spent several months on the eastern end.

When all the dust settles, many hope that Vieques will recognize its unique position in the Caribbean and build on its natural resource heritage and not become another dime-a-dozen casino/golf course destination. Currently, Vieques is a rare gem where you can enjoy nature from the beautiful beaches to the Magnificent Frigatebird overhead, for it is one of the few islands in the Caribbean that still has its natural resources in tact. From a birding perspective, the island does not harbor any species that you could not seen on the main island. If, however, you just want to get way to an unspoiled subtropical island, and enjoy exploring new birding territory then this is the place to visit.

Birding Information

Birding on Vieques
A week spent birding on Vieques will usually net you approximately 60 species, including the Puerto Rican endemics--Puerto Rican Woodpecker, Puerto Rican Flycatcher, and Adelaide's Warbler as well as a bunch of Caribbean species. Vieques is a good spot to go birding during migration which peaks in September to October and March and April and for wintering North American migrants, especially waterbirds, shorebirds, and warblers. For a flavor of the birds you might see and good birding spots
click here.

Vieques Checklist

Vieques Conservation and Historic Trust
The Vieques Conservation and Historic Trust, a non-profit, is dedicated to protecting the cultural and natural history of the island. The Trust gift shop sells the Birds of Puerto Rico, Vieques Bird Checklist, and other cultural and natural history items along with souvenirs and post cards. While visiting the gift shop take time to look at their museum, for they have a small natural history collection, and they usually have an exhibit by local artists. The Trust is located on the main drag in Esperanza. Look for the sign, you can't miss it. Not only shop at the gift store but also join for you will be supporting a good cause.


A map of the island

Elenas Vieques Guide
Elenas leads natural history forays by kayak. To answer visitors' questions regarding the island she created this guide.

Getting there
To reach Vieques from San Juan, you have two choices. From either the international airport or its predecessor, Isla Grande near old San Juan, you can catch Vieques Air Link (888-901-9247 for reservations from off the island and 787-741-3266 on the island ). The flight takes about 30 minutes. (
Click here for flight schedule and reservations)

Getting Around
Once on Vieques, a car is most useful for exploring the island and rental car companies abound. Jeeps are popular for the clearance is great for many of the unpaved roads. The downside is that you can not lock your optics in a trunk. Other options are taxis, scooters, and mountain bikes though the later is somewhat risky as the roads are narrow with no shoulders, locals drive fast, and drivers are not looking out for bicyclists. Rental kayaks are available for exploring the many lagoons (
Click here for information on rental cars, scooters, bikes, and kayaks plus taxis)

Places to stay are numerous and very diverse architecturally, pricewise, location, and amenities. Public accommodations range from a high-end resort, Martineau Bay, that may open soon, to charming bed and breakfasts to wilderness lodges to avant-guard. Many people rent an apartment, or house, for their stay. Accommodations can be found in the main town, Isabel Secunda; in Esperanza, a small beach community which is more tourist-oriented and has a thriving, noisy night scene; in the quiet countryside; or on the water. What ever you prefer you will find it on the island. (
Click here for a list of accommodations)

Places to Eat
Places to eat are as varied as the accommodations. A few of my favorites are: burgers at Bananas; barbecue at Chez Shack; gourmet meals at the Blue Horizon; open-air, country dining at The Campesino; and dining with magnificent views from the Crow's Nest. Isabel Secunda has a variety of restaurants as well as chicken takeouts and two grocery stores.(
Click here for a list of restaurants,and here for listing by island location.

Tourist Information
Information on art galleries, dive shops, weather, events, and much more can be found on
Vieques Island Travel Guide, The Enchanted Isles, and ViequesTourism.com.


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Updated 01/20/05