Family Vacations to Vieques, Puerto Rico

Family Overview - Vieques, Puerto Rico
Six miles off the coast of San Juan, Vieques lures tourists with lush flora, rolling hills, and stunning coastline (courtesy, Puerto Rico Tourism)

Vieques Family Travel Tips

  • Discover secluded beaches.
  • Bathe in bioluminescence in Mosquito Bay.
  • Bicycle back roads through the wildlife refuge and former Navy base.
  • Learn about the sea creatures in the touch tanks at the conservation center.
  • Snorkel reefs.

Even in the Caribbean, where turquoise waters and sugar-soft sands abound, secluded oases are becoming increasingly rare. Off the eastern shore of Puerto Rico, less than a 30-minute flight or a short ferry ride from bustling San Juan, is the island Vieques. Located six miles off mainland coast, Vieques has certainly been "discovered." Although there's much land speculation, at least for now the island has few crowds, great beaches, and interesting eco-adventures.

On Vieques, Mosquito Bay, nicknamed Bio Bay, offers the Caribbean's best—some say one of the planet's best—examples of bioluminescence. Disturb the mega-millions of dinoflagellates living in these waters, and they light-up like fireflies, creating electric blue flashes in the water. Choose from a nocturnal kayak ride (quieter and calmer) or boat tours. Jump in the bay, float on your back, and wave your arms and legs to fashion foamy glowing "water angels." During the day, kayak through the bay's mangrove-lined banks and listen for the mangrove cuckoos, found near the tamandrillo and mesquite trees.

With the cessation of artillery drills and the departure of the Navy in 2003, came the establishment of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. On a guided bike tour, pedal back roads through the refuge and areas formerly off-limits as part of the U.S. Navy base. In the huge bunkers, once ammunition storehouses, bat colonies now hang from the ceiling. Most bike trips end with a well-deserved swim at one of the 30-plus beaches on the island, typically the secluded Green Beach.

Coconut palms and sea grape trees shade mile-long Sun Bay Beach, which has picnic tables and bathrooms. Snorkelers head to the waters off Blue Beach, known for its sea fans, brain coral, and parrotfish.

One of Vieques' two towns, Esperanza, on the south shore, is home to the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust. Along with educating locals and visitors about the island's wildlife, the facility maintains several touch tanks of critters. Young kids especially like the turtles and starfish. In Isabel Segunda, on the island's north shore, the restored Fort Count Mirasol, built between 1845 and 1855, is the last fort constructed during the Spanish Empire in the New World. It houses a small museum of island history and an art gallery.

Tip: The best time to experience Bio Bay is when there is no moonlight.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 8 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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