Vieques Island is part of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. It is part of an island group often referred to as the Spanish Virgin Islands. While the island was once used by the U.S. Armed Forces as a military target range, protests against it led to the departure of the Navy in 2003. The military land was reclaimed as a national wildlife refuge, some of which is now open to the public and Puerto Rico tourism.
This wildlife refuge offers much needed sanctuary to many species of sea turtles, including the green sea turtle. While many of these species have used Puerto Rican beaches for nesting sites, the advent of modernization was having a negative impact on them. The wildlife refuge offers a haven for them and many other native species.
While the military has gone, over 9,000 people still remain on the island. Most of them live in Isabel Segunda, on the north side, which is where ferries from Cieba dock. There are several hotels and restaurants in the area. A smaller community, Esperanza, faces the Caribbean Sea on the southern side of the island.
Esperanza caters to tourists with a strip across the street from its charming waterfront. The strip contains guest houses, shops and eating establishments tailored for foreigners. Many of these come to the island for its beaches.
These are some of the most beautiful in the Caribbean, known for their pure white sand and pristine azure waters. During the days of military presence, these beaches were a well-kept secret. They include Playa Caracas, Pata Prieta, Punta Arenas and Playa La Chiva. Thanks to being late to the tourist scene, many are remote and free of commercialism. They provide a unique, private experience for visitors.
In addition to the beaches, tourists can visit the unique Bioluminescent Bay. It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the brightest of its type in the world. Its vivid blue-green glow is due to micro-organisms that move through the water. For first time visitors to the island, a tour of the bay is a must.
Those who are interested in history might find the Vieques Conservation and Trust’s museum worth visiting. Here they can learn about the cultural history of the island as well as its ecological system. They might also enjoy visiting the Hombre de Puerto Ferro archeological site. Built by the original inhabitants, the Taino Indians, it was where the skeletal remains of an ancient man were found. Surrounded by boulders, these remains were discovered to be 4,000 years old.
Another unique feature of the island is its population of wild horses. Many decades ago, horses were turned loose by their owners to roam, and, as time passed, they began to spread out and reproduce. They are a charming tourist attraction, as many modern people have never encountered the joy of having a horse come up to them on the beach or in town.
Yet, due to the limited resources such as fresh water that are available, it was decided that the population must be controlled. In 2015, the Humane Society of the United States therefore teamed up with the island’s government. One program that has helped is the administration of contraceptives. Not only has this proven effective, it’s also had health benefits for the treated mares.
As you can see, there is much to recommend beautiful Vieques Island for Puerto Rico tourism. It provides visitors with many unique opportunities and experiences.