Getting to Vieques: Is it a hassle? Would we be missing out?
September 21, 2016 8:03 AM   Subscribe

I've read all of the MeFi threads about Puerto Rico and I'm trying to figure out if an excursion to Vieques makes sense for this trip. So many people have told us to visit Vieques (and MeFi seems to confirm this), but it seems a bit expensive to get there ($400 for two people is expensive for us for a flight). I'd also like to get some opinions on whether Vieques is worthwhile for a 2 or 3 night stay, as opposed to spending more time elsewhere in Puerto Rico and saving Vieques for another trip?

We just booked a trip to Puerto Rico for one week in November (Wed-Wed). Initially, I'd wanted to spend the whole week, or at least some time in Vieques, but the cost of the flights seem to make it cost prohibitive. We've found a great place to stay in San Juan for 4 days, but I'm trying to figure out what to do with the latter part of the week. We'd like to do something relaxing and beachy and beautiful.

It seems like flying between SJU and Vieques is the most expensive option and out of our price range (searches showing 150 each way). Flights out of SIG are more like 75/ per person each way, but that would still be a considerable expenditure for this trip. The cheapest flights I could find are out of Ceiba and cost around $36/person each way, but we'd have to get ourselves there and back from San Juan. I'm trying to determine if that hassle is worth it. I'm also not sure that I'm looking for flights in the right places because I keep hearing how cheap and easy it is to get there.

Everything I've read says to avoid the ferry, and since we're on a tight timeline, I'm thinking that we don't want to spend that much time and effort.

I'm inclined to just not worry about Vieques for this trip, but nearly every person I ask for PR travel advice says that we must go to Vieques. I'm feeling really torn about whether to try and make it happen. As an alternative, I'm thinking about spending a few days in Rincon. Is this a viable alternative?
posted by pourtant to Travel & Transportation around Puerto Rico (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Vieques is awesome. We went to Puerto Rico in February of 2015 and had a great time; Vieques was definitely the highlight of the trip: amazing beaches, etc. The "silver lining" to all the horrible things that the US military did on the island is that there has not been large-scale resort development and destruction of the natural beauty that is happening on so many of the other Caribbean islands.

The ferry gets a bad rap, but it was fine for us (and we were traveling with a just-turned-3-year-old, PLUS my wife was in the throws of morning sickness with our second kid). From what I read online, I think you're taking your chances with it, but I get the sense that it's fine 90% of the time. I think the only easyish way to make the ferry work, though, is by renting a car. It isn't so expensive, but may break your budget depending on how "low budget" you want to go. You'll definitely want transportation when you get to Vieques, too; the B&B we booked with included a Jeep in the cost of the room, which was great.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:19 AM on September 21, 2016

My wife and I went to Puerto Rico about a year and a half ago, and spent half the time on Vieques. We did get there by ferry. For us, that effectively took about a day, because we landed in SJU too late to catch the last ferry, so we had to stay overnight in Fajardo. So factor that into your price calculations.

Vieques is sleepy and pretty. We would get up in the morning and decide which beach to visit, and that was about it. The one scheduled activity we had was a kayak tour of the bioluminescent bay, which I would say is a must-see if you go there (although there is another bioluminescent bay on the main island, IIRC). We ate well. We rented a car on the island—you'd need some kind of motor vehicle to get around (we were staying in the Esperanza neighborhood, on the opposite side of the island from the ferry terminal, so doubly necessary in our case), and you could do it with a scooter if you're packing light.
posted by adamrice at 8:54 AM on September 21, 2016

One quick thing to mention...if we were to take the ferry to Vieques, it would be on Sunday morning, and I keep hearing that the ferry is doubly crowded on weekends. That's another reason I'm reluctant to use the ferry.
posted by pourtant at 9:05 AM on September 21, 2016

If you're interested in amazing beaches, I'd say it's definitely worth the trip to Vieques. But know that beaching is pretty much all you'll do while you're there. There are a few fancy restaurants and a handful of tourist trap pub-style places, but chilling at the beach with nowhere to go is pretty much the main event. You will also definitely want to rent a jeep while you are there. I flew from SJU to the island and it was totally worth the expense. The beautifully scenic flight on a tiny plane was a memorable event and attraction in and of itself. I'd suggest confirming the jeep reservation before you book the airfare, as sometimes all of the vehicle rental places on the island can run out of inventory.
posted by TurkishGolds at 10:42 AM on September 21, 2016

I used to live in Puerto Rico about a decade ago, so my information is obviously a bit dated. Vieques is my favorite part of Puerto Rico and I tell everyone who's visiting not to miss it. If, however, it's going to be a source of stress financially and logistically, Rincon is a pretty great back-up option. Vieques has more secluded beaches and the real bioluminescent bay (that, atleast ten years ago, was one of the natural highlights of my life), but Rincon has some pretty solid beaches in its own right and a very laidback, relaxing vibe. Have a great trip!
posted by buddha9090 at 11:25 AM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Vieques is great, my partner's family used to live there. That said, it's not a place I'd want to try to squeeze in to a PR trip. The ferry is fine but if you can't get from a flight to the ferry you have to do a bunch of machinations. Biobay is great but I'm not sure it would be worth the hassle and hustle of doing that. Agree with others Vieques is very much a lazy hangout go-to-beach place. Which is great! But other than that, there's not much else going on. I'd give it a pass this time and plan it at the beginning of another trip t PR so you can just go straight there.
posted by jessamyn at 11:41 AM on September 21, 2016

I didn't know I was supposed to be afraid of the ferry. It worked fine for us. Nothing fancy, but with 2 small kids and their 2 grandparents, I would call it unremarkable. Lots of taxis at the ferry terminal in Vieques, which we used to get to the airbnb we stayed at.
posted by Doc_Sock at 11:53 AM on September 21, 2016

We visited PR in 2008 - 4 days on the main island and 4 on Vieques. We flew from San Juan - it was a little spendy, but time was tight. At the end, we wished we'd spent more time on Vieques. San Juan was cool, and El Yunque was great, but we really liked the slower, less-developed pace of Vieques. SItting on the beach all day reading a book was exactly what we were up for. And the Bio Bay was awesome. Plus there are wild horses wandering around! You'll definitely need a Jeep to get around the island.
posted by chbrooks at 12:23 PM on September 21, 2016

Not been to Vieques, but have been to Culebra a couple of times, and the ferry was fine. If you want to do it as a daytrip then the flight from San Juan is pricey, but it doubles as a really great sightseeing flight in a small plane a couple of thousand feet all the way around the coast. The return flight will often make its downwind leg banking low over Old San Juan which is spectacular, so ferry-out-flight-back would be good.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 12:27 PM on September 21, 2016

Have been to Culebra, via ferry. Went to Vieques, last year. When I booked our flight, I added the Vieques airport code as our end destination, and low and behold, we were able to book the complete flight! In San Juan, we boarded a very small island hopper, and had a thrilling 12 minute flight to Vieques. I don't remember what the total cost of our flight was, but I do remember that we were very happy to be able to get there so easily. It was money well spent. We experienced the ferry when we went to Culebra, and had no problems, other than a very rough trip on the return ride, but as long as the price isn't exorbitant, we will fly. I like as much vacation for my buck as possible!
posted by LaBellaStella at 3:09 PM on September 21, 2016

I did a similar trip two years ago - three days in San Juan, one day at El Yunque, two on Vieques - and it was kind of a perfect mix of culture and chill. We got a rental car when we were ready to leave San Juan - it's a fairly short and easy drive from there to El Yunque and again from El Yunque to Ceiba. We just left the car at the airport in Ceiba while on Vieques and had no problem. The little puddle jumper flight over was actually one of our favorite parts of the trip! We stayed in Esperanza and did not get a car - just rented bikes and pedaled around to a few nearby beaches. Can't remember how much the car was but we were on a pretty tight budget so I am sure we stayed well under $400 for car and flights.
posted by tinymojo at 7:17 PM on September 21, 2016

I've been to Vieques a number of times and love it but I'm not sure it's worth it for just two days. Perhaps saving it for when you can stay the full week might be the best use of your time and money.

One thing that I've love about flying to Vieques is that I've often gotten to sit in the copilot seat. Try asking at the check-in counter if you can sit in the front. It's such a beautiful flight -- although I do end up spending the entire flight imagining scenarios in which I have to save the day by taking over the controls and landing the plane by following instructions over the radio. If you haven't watched as much bad TV as I have, this might not be an issue for you...
posted by mcduff at 7:26 AM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks everybody! I'm leaning towards saving Vieques for its own trip. I think it'll give us more time to explore the main island and relax, plus save a bit of money.
posted by pourtant at 7:41 AM on September 22, 2016

Vieques was idyllic for me, but mr. sixswitch handled all the ferry logistics. I don't think it's worth it for two days. Take a few more days and rent a Jeep when you return.
posted by sixswitch at 12:45 PM on September 22, 2016

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