Vieques is an island-municipality of Puerto Rico that’s located eight miles (13 km) off the eastern coast of mainland Puerto Rico in the Spanish Virgin Islands. Interestingly, Vieques was used as a military base by the United States Navy for more than five decades, during which time the island was largely closed off to visitors. The Navy withdrew from Vieques in 2003, leaving much of the island largely undeveloped. The former military base comprised roughly two-thirds of the island, split between the east and west ends and has since been declared a National Wildlife Refuge by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service.
Despite an increase in tourism over the past decade, Vieques remains an idyllic Caribbean paradise with miles of unspoiled beaches and vast natural areas. It’s a popular destination for travelers looking to escape the crowds and enjoy secluded beaches. Vieques is home to a wealth of natural attractions including forests, lagoons, salt flats, coral reefs and mangrove swamps, and visitors to the island can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as sailing, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, snorkeling, cycling and horseback riding on the beach.
The town of Esperanza on the south coast of Vieques is one of the few places on the island that caters to tourists and it’s where you’ll find many of the island’s guesthouses and restaurants. Esperanza is also home to Mosquito Bay, the largest of Puerto Rico’s three bio-luminescent bays. Bio-luminescent bays, or “bio bays,” are bodies of water that contain millions of marine plankton called dinoflagellates that give off a fluorescent glow when agitated or disturbed. Mosquito Bay can be visited on nighttime kayaking adventure tours from the capital, San Juan.