For queer travelers, Vieques is a special place to be free and unabashedly yourself.
About a forty-minute flight from San Juan exists a little piece of paradise. Vieques is an island where wild horses roam and tiny tree frogs sing. It’s a sleepy, beachside paradise where homemade mofongo is served in rustic shacks along the ocean, and warm, welcoming locals join visitors in sharing the beauty of black sand beaches. Come for the snorkeling at playa La Chiva (also known as Blue Beach), or paddling through the bioluminescent bay while it glows in magical neon blue.
For queer travelers, a remote island this special is a place to be free and unabashedly yourself. Imagine yourself with your partner, barefoot on the beach, eating authentic local cuisine while roosters strut around your feet. The beauty of Vieques is organic, authentic, and ready to be discovered.
The trip to Vieques is half the fun. From San Juan, you can take an eight-seater Cape Air flight that flies over the lush, verdant El Yunque National Forest — a magnificent, unforgettable experience. Once you land, you’ll rent a bright red 4X4 Jeep to get around the island. Your other option is to take a $2.50 ferry from Ceiba, though there are only four ferries per day and wait times can be long during busy season.
Where to Stay
Vieques provides several unique accommodations that warmly welcome LGBTQ guests. There is a charming gay-owned guest house offering cozy intimacy with a personal touch, a boutique hotel overlooking the water, and a unique hipster escape with direct access to the beach and live jam sessions at night. Each embodies the spirit of Vieques in its own special way.
Casa de Amistad
This cozy, eight-room getaway (owned by an adorable gay couple) has a full kitchen, its own pool, quiet spaces to read and work, and a rooftop to take in the sunset views. Whimsically decorated with shabby chic knick-knacks, pink guitars, and tasteful art, and boasting a terrific location in Isabella II close to nightlife and restaurants, Casa de Amistad is one of the best choices for LGBTQ travelers in Vieques.
El Blok, an aptly named 22-room cinder-block hotel, is located in Esperanza, the island’s main seaside village on the southwest coast. The unique charming inn boasts an incredibly hospitable staff.The rooms are minimalist, with locally-crafted furniture and concrete walls adorned with sexy, colorful art. Head to the rooftop (maybe the island’s best!) for cocktails and Instagram photos. At night the fire pits blaze, live music thrums, and queer slam poets give voice to current political injustices. The restaurant — Placita — by chef José Enrique, is among the island’s best with an emphasis on local cuisine. All this, plus you’re a stone’s throw from the ocean.
Where to Eat
The restaurants in Vieques are whimsical and unpretentious, helmed by locals cooking a Creole-style blend of American, Spanish, and African cuisine. The mofongo on the island is legendary, but from food trucks to fine dining, the island has become a foodie haven for those in the know.
In Isabel II, local favorite Biekes Bistro serves up authentic, freshly prepared, inexpensive Puerto Rican comfort food. Prepared in sauce with a kick, the rice and red beans are addictive, as are the arepas stuffed with shrimp. The shrimp is cooked to perfection in red criollo sauce. They also serve plantains, chicken, octopus, or churrasco, mofongo, and have other vegetarian options. Parking is limited — say three or four spots — so plan accordingly.
Ooh, this place is cuteness! At Coquí Fire, the best date-night spot on the island, you’ll find a charming, intimate ambiance at one of the top-rated restaurants in all of Puerto. Start with spicy margaritas and finish with some of the tastiest pork you’ll ever try. If you come with friends, do it on Taco Tuesday and make an afternoon out of it.
Mama Mía is renowned for its authentic Italian food, its local vibes, and its rotating roster of bands and DJs. Joel, the owner, is a queer ally and an all-around awesome, welcoming host. On the second floor, you’ll find a lovely open-air deck where you can sit with a cocktail and take in the views. For a thriving, buzzy spot serving fresh pizza and pasta, this is the best choice on the island.
Mamasongas reopened in fall 2018 under new gay ownership. Take the wooden stairs to a rooftop bar and restaurant for an island-inspired menu, homemade pies, cold beer and $3 margaritas. You’ll find plenty of American tourists there on the rooftop taking in the gorgeous ocean views, the treetops, and the wild iguanas.
La Placita at El Blok
In Esperanza, La Placita is the restaurant inside the El Blok hotel. The open-air restaurant, helmed by executive chef José Enrique, has a wood-fire grill, sleek surroundings, and live music at night. Go on a weekend night for the fire, the live music, and a dreamy atmosphere.
Duffy’s is a cute open-air shack serving homemade mofongo, cocktails, and desserts right on the water. Eat dinner at sunset while roosters roam around for a unique Vieques experience. Just down the street from El Blok, it’s a reliable lunch and dinner spot.
Vieques Food Park
One of the absolute best places to visit in Vieques, this food truck park is an outdoor space strewn with lights and picnic tables. You can grab coffee and breakfast as early as 6:00 a.m., or local eats for lunch and dinner. You’ll find a friendly atmosphere, authentic local specialties, and hospitable vendors sharing their homemade food with you. Parking is limited.
Where to Drink
With an impressive selection of Caribbean dives, rooftop bars, and sexy lounges, Vieques is a fun, relaxed island where you can sip some local cocktails and feel truly transported far from home.
Mar Azul is the quintessential Caribbean dive bar, packed with locals, gays, straights – everyone together, eating cubano sandwiches and eagerly accepting shots from the super handsome Oklahoman bartender. Come for an afternoon of day-drinking, order a Panty Dropper, and play darts until it’s time to saunter upstairs to the roof to watch the sunset. (Note: Views are best experienced on the back deck with a rum punch.)
For some of the island’s best sunset cocktails on the waterfront, Tsunami is one of the best on the island. They’ve got $1 shots, strong Wi-Fi, and a covered terrace overlooking the water. The bar menu is basic but tasty and very affordable. A great neighborhood spot.
What to Do
Yes, the beaches are swoon-worthy, but there are endless adventures to be found in Vieques, including hiking to famous landmarks, snorkeling, paddle-boating through the glow-in-the-dark bay on a moonless night, and exploring the coral reef. For outdoorsy folks, Vieques is pure bliss.
Puerto Ferro Lighthouse
On the south coast of the island, you’ll find the ruins of an old lighthouse where the Camp García Naval Training area used to be. On the hike there you see signs warning of explosive hazards. You won’t see any unexploded ordnance: just gorgeous cliffs, surging whitecaps, wild horses, and the lighthouse itself.
This lesbian-owned sporting goods outfitter specializes in diving and other adventure options throughout the island — including sites with seasonal humpback whale sightings. They also rent mountain bikes, kayaks, SUP boards, Surf Boards, camping equipment, as well as snorkeling and scuba gear.
Vieques is home to the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. A variety of tour operators provide clear-bottom kayaks to fully experience the bay. Go on the darkest possible night when the moon is gone; the less light the better to get the full experience.
Playa Negra (Black Sand Beach)
A favorite of the wild horses, Playa Negra is a must when visiting Vieques. We recommend you rent a 4x4 to explore this iconic beach. Playa Negra remains one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, maybe the world.
A gorgeous postcard beach of turquoise water and soft sand make this a local favorite. It’s pretty remote, and the gravel road to get here is a bit rocky, which is part of the reason we recommend renting a Jeep which can easily handle the terrain. To find Playa Navío, enter Sun Bay beach and continue down the road to the left until you see signs for Navío. Other stunning beaches to visit are Playa Caracas (also know as Red Beach), Playa Media Luna, and Pata Prieta beach.