Courtesy of Bravo Beach Hotel
Best for Quiet
When the U.S. Navy closed its base on Vieques, off the northeast edge of Puerto Rico, the cognoscenti predicted that this tranquil getaway would emerge as the next St. Bart’s. Significant upgrades are in the works: the Inn on the Blue Horizon, once the only A-list accommodation, is expanding to include villas and condos; the Martineau Bay Resort will reopen as a W Hotel in 2009. But it’s still a rustic and relaxed destination with a tranquil fishing village vibe and not much to do besides hit the beach and chill under a palm tree.
A Jeep or scooter is essential, since public transport is virtually nonexistent and taxis are scarce, so book a car right after your hotel confirmation comes through—it’s not uncommon for rental agencies to sell out during high season. For the best prices, try Maritza’s Car Rental (787/741-0078; islavieques.com/maritzas.html) and Martineau Car Rental (787/741-0087; martineaucarrental.com). For mopeds, contact Extreme Scooter Rental (787/435-9345).
Worth the Splurge
Casa de Crystal (Puerto Real; casadecrystal.com; 310/498-4942; villa rental $787 per night, three-night minimum) is a Modernist glass-walled villa that sleeps four and has L.A.-style touches—like a pool connected to a gym.
Bravo Beach Hotel (787/741-0490; bravobeachhotel.com; doubles from $175) is a former hacienda that dates from the sugarcane era and has been transformed into an affordable boutique hotel. It also has a popular poolside bar, the Palms; a rooftop movie theater; and sushi and tapas restaurants. The innovatively designed, open-air Hix Island House (787/741-2302; hixislandhouse.com; doubles from $235) is for travelers who fully embrace the eco-experience, bugs and lizards included.
Navío is known as the island’s finest, and that means it is also the most packed; the path to the sand is lined with haphazardly parked Jeeps and scooters. Head to García Beach for a quiet escape with a palm tree–dotted island just a short swim away.
At Uva (Antonio Mullado, Isabel Segunda; 787/741-2050; dinner for two $110), Argentinean chef Carlos Alzogaray serves up innovative Caribbean and fusion dishes like seafood cassoulet with octopus, shrimp, squid, and scallops in a tomato, paprika, and red wine stock.
Bar Plaza (Plaza del Recreo, Isabel Segunda; 787/741-2176) is the oldest bar on Vieques, with a pool table and an ancient jukebox that spins salsa hits; the backdrop is the newly refurbished town square, ideal for a late-night stroll.
The motorcycle aesthetic inspired the black-and-red interiors of trendy Kama (Muñoz Rivera, Isabel Segunda; 787/741-4000). A 1964 Triumph Thunderbird hangs above the bottles behind the bar.
Every visitor hears about the must-see bioluminescent bay soon after arriving, but many don’t know that they can skip the touristy boat trips in favor of the more intimate option of kayaking through the eerily glowing waters with Blue Caribe Kayaks (787/741-2522; enchanted-isle.com/bluecaribe).
—James Patrick Herman