So this one came together rather quickly. For almost a month, Tanu and I were trying to figure out where to go on vacation in December, but we couldn’t decide on a place. And then we talked to Tanu’s cousin Sapan and found out that they were planning to go to Puerto Rico. Well, PR was one of the places on our list, so we decided to tag along and join them. Our first family vacation.
The first stop on the trip was going to be the island of Vieques. So after arriving at the airport outside San Juan, we took our rental car and drove about an hour to the port city of Fajardo, where we could catch a ferry to Vieques. We arrived at the parking lot where we would leave our car just a few minutes after Sapan and his family got there. So we were able to do the 90 minute ferry ride with them.
The former US military base is now an idyllic Caribbean island that is still relatively undiscovered. We stayed in the town of Esperanza on the southern coast of Vieques, and it was one of the sleepiest places we had ever been. There are no major hotels, accommodations being in the form of guest houses. We stayed at the Villa Coral Guesthouse, a comfortable little place run by a lovely woman named Mireya. The room, while small, was tastefully furnished and very comfortable. It had the things that are needed (AC, shower) and none of the things that aren’t (TV, internet access) on an island getaway. The only negative was that it was about a 10 minute walk away from the waterfront and the local strip, all uphill (which is a problem when you are trying to get back and pushing a stroller or carrying a sleeping baby in your arms).
But that was all forgotten the next day, when we went to the Media Luna beach (on Mireya’s recommendation). It was a gorgeous crescent shaped beach of perfect white sand, palm trees and calm waters. And it was almost deserted (there was just one family there when we got there), making it feel like we were going to a private beach. But the fact is that it is a free public beach that is better than the expensive private beaches you find at most resorts in the Caribbean.
After a lovely afternoon spent on the beach, we relaxed in our room before heading out at night for a boat tour of bioluminescent bay (or biobay), one of the main attractions in Vieques. The biobay is a unique bay containing up to 720,000 single-celled organisms called dinoflagellates per gallon of water. These half-plant, half-animal organisms emit a flash of bluish light when agitated at night. So on the tour (an entertaining and informative one run by the guys at Island Adventures), we went out into the bay aboard an electric boat. Everything was dark around us, and there were no lights on the boat, so all we could see was the brilliant starry sky above (I have never seen the sky full with so many stars) and the glow of the organisms in the waves created by the wake of the boat.
But the best part was when they stopped the boat in the middle of the bay, and let us get into the water to swim. It was one of the coolest things I have ever done. Watching the water glow around me (sort of like a halo) when I swam, or moved my arms, or kicked my legs, was just amazing. And for a few brief moments when it rained, the glow at the points where the rain was hitting the water made the water look like a reflection of the starry sky above.
And I would be remiss in not mentioning the bus ride we had to take getting back and forth from the biobay. The bay is in the middle of a nature refuge, so there are no real roads getting there. The bus of the tour company (an old school bus) seemed more like a roller coaster at some times, navigating its way through massive holes in the ground, and driving through low hanging and dense vegetation. It was pretty crazy.
That was the end of our day in Vieques. Some day I will go back there for an extended time, when I need and can better appreciate the slowing down of life on the island. In the meantime, go soon if you can, before the island gets overrun by hotel chains.
, Bioluminescent Bay
, Media Luna Beach
, Puerto Rico