Measuring 21 miles long by 5 miles wide, Vieques is substantially bigger than Culebra and distinctly different in ambience. Though still a million metaphorical miles from the bright lights of the Puerto Rican mainland, the larger population here has meant more choice of accommodations, hipper restaurants and generally more buzz. It's renowned for its gorgeous beaches, semi-wild horses and unforgettable bioluminescent bay.
Vieques was where Puerto Rico’s most prickly political saga was played out in the public eye. For over five decades the US Navy used more than two-thirds of the island for military target practice.
Since the official military withdrawal in 2003, Vieques has regularly been touted as the Caribbean’s next ‘big thing,’ with pristine beaches and a coastline ripe for the developer’s bulldozer. Fortunately, environmental authorities swept in quickly after the handover and promptly declared all of the former military land (70% of the island’s total area) a US Fish & Wildlife Refuge. The measure has meant that the bulk of the island remains virgin territory to be explored and enjoyed by all.
Development elsewhere has been slow and low-key. Small hotels are the beds of choice. The island has no golf, gambling or Las Vegas–style glitz, and only one large resort. This seems unlikely to change any time soon. Vieques’ residents – many of whom are US expats – are fiercely protective of their Caribbean nirvana.
Culebra vs Vieques: Puerto Rico’s contrasting islands
Floating in a political no-man’s-land between US statehood and outright independence, Puerto Rico is an archipelago made up of four significant land masses, only three of which are inhabited: the heavily populated mai...