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Go Puerto Rico!

THE VIEQUES ALTERNATIVE Longing for a simple island stay—or looking for an easy escape from San Juan?A 20-minute puddle jumper or one-hour ferry ride can take you from the city to Vieques, a blessedly undeveloped island off Puerto Rico's east coast (book a flight through Vieques Air Link; 888/901-9247; www.vieques-island.com; round-trip from San Juan $135; the $2 ferry leaves from Fajardo). Vieques has been in the news for its U.S. Navy battle testing—and the protests against it—but don't believe the hype: naval bases may occupy much of the island, but the military keeps an extremely low profile, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a soldier anywhere. What you will find are hilly roads with 360-degree views of both the Caribbean and the Atlantic (pick up a sporty Suzuki Sidekick from Island Car Rentals; 787/741-1666) and miles of unspoiled beaches. Sun Bay, in the town of Esperanza, is easy to get to; go off-road a bit from there to find the shallow waters of Media Luna—great for splash-happy kids. Also, don't miss the island's bioluminescent bay. Tour it at night with Island Adventures (787/741-0720; www.biobay.com; from $23, $12 for kids). La Casa del Francés (787/741-3751; www.enchanted-isle.com/LaCasa; doubles from $130), a plantation house converted into a funky 16-room hotel with a pool, welcomes families. Or rent one of La Finca Caribe's rustic hilltop houses (787/741-0495; www.lafinca.com; casitas for four from $525 a week until December, doubles in main building $60 a night) with outdoor showers and views of the sea. —H. Scott Jolley

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