Coming from the U.S., traveling to Puerto Rico is no different than traveling to anywhere else in the United States. You won’t need a passport, there is no customs inspection, the money is the same, the electricity is the same, the laws are very similar, the water is safe to drink, etc, etc. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory rather than a state, but Puerto Ricans are U.S. Citizens and all of the usual federal programs and offices are in evidence.
What is delightfully different in Puerto Rico is the Spanish language, the Puerto Rican culture and the tropical climate. This is a different world! And really, aside from the weather and the beaches, isn't that partly why you're coming?
An important thing to appreciate is that Vieques is a very small island. Going to Vieques is like going to Nantucket or Captiva Island, or perhaps a small town in rural Vermont. There are no big roads, no major shopping, no casinos, no chain stores, and no major commercial development. If there is something specific that you may need during your visit, plan to bring it with you! If you have a favorite brand of coffee, bring it along. Medicine, sunglasses, special dietary requirements, a particular brand of toiletries, bring it with you. This is not a place where you could shop ’til you drop.
There is good food available, certainly everything you would need for eating at home and entertaining. But the range of products is smaller than your average supermarket. Food is shipped in by ferry, and our markets have better selections on some days of the week than on others. For example locals know that Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days to buy produce. Wine, beer and spirits are readily available, there is a local health food store, two fish markets, and there are small neighborhood stores all over the island. In our neighborhood there is a market and a bakery within a block from the house.
We offer an option to use the wifi at our house. We don’t include it automatically because some people really look forward to unplugging for a few days. (And presumably they would rather not pay for internet service.) So it’s optional. We get to the internet through the cell phone tower, so the data service is a little pricey and we charge $20.00 per week to help offset the cost. The speed isn’t fast enough for streaming video, but it’s perfectly fine for email, staying in touch with the news and weather, or sending pictures and attachments.
Another option, for just getting on-line once or twice, might be to take advantage of the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust. This is an island volunteer organization dedicated to protecting the island’s eco-system and preserving historical buildings. Their office/museum is a short walk from the house, and they offer high-speed internet access for a very modest donation. You can use one of their computers, or you can use your own computer and connect via WiFi. This arrangement is reasonably convenient, and it’s a nice way to support a worthy organization.
Or, if you have a cellular data plan, you could connect using your smart phone or an iPad. AT&T, Sprint and Verizon all support 3G or 4G on the island. AT&T in particular has great coverage in Esperanza. Finally, there is Roy’s Internet Cafe over in Isabel. WiFi and espresso – together at last!
Cell phone reception is reasonably good everywhere on the island. The central part of the island is hilly and you may occasionally drop a call as you drive around, but you can usually reconnect a moment later. Reception at the house seems fine.
Remember, this is a tropical island right? The average daytime temperature, winter or summer, is 85°F. The average evening temperature is 76°. Temperatures are warm and the island dress code is very casual. Many people seem to over-pack on their first visit.
You will never feel under-dressed in sandals, khaki shorts or slacks, and a nice Hawaiian shirt. Set the mark there for your finest evening outfits, and then plan to dress down for the rest of your visit. Swimsuit attire would be out of place at the market or in a restaurant, but shorts and a shirt will work everywhere. The sun can be ferocious at times, especially around the water. I often wear nylon/lycra shirts at the beach or while snorkeling or fishing. These are sometimes called rash-guards or “rashies”, and they provide great sunburn protection. And don't forget a hat!
If you have
If you are dreaming of a vacation that includes pampered luxury, glittery evening entertainment, fabulous shopping and first class amenities - Vieques may not be for you. You will not be enclosed behind a wall or be wrapped in a cocoon of resort magic. Rather you will be living in a real neighborhood surrounded by our friends and neighbors. The main entertainment here is beaches, exploring, restaurants, books, dominos, and hopefully an opportunity to really connect with your friends and family.
You may want ear plugs! In the tropics there is no need for glass in the windows, only screens. That means it is noisy at night. Tree frogs, insects, wind rustling the banana plant leaves, distant surf, rain showers, barking dogs and most of all, roosters - you will hear it all. Actually our street is pretty quiet and most folks get used to it very quickly. But if you are sensitive to noise, bring ear plugs. (You can also get them in the local pharmacy). And please, we have no control over the roosters. Locals just laugh if you complain about them!
We love it here, and we believe that Vieques is an excellent destination. Most of the time everything works fine. But this is a tiny island in a tropical climate. When things go wrong, they may take longer to fix than they would in suburban USA or Europe. Spare parts may need to be shipped in, or the mechanic may need to ride over on the ferry. Water and electricity come underwater from the main island of Puerto Rico. Gasoline comes over on a barge. Sometimes there is a hiccup in the system, and it might take a day or two to get it fixed. Please don't misunderstand us, 99% of the time everything works great. We and our guests love it here. Be prepared for an occasional glitch and it’s just part of the adventure! Relax, stay flexible and you'll have a great time.
There is health care on the island and there are emergency services. In an emergency dial 911 just as you would at home. Our hospital is the equivalent of a small community clinic like you might find in a rural town. Major medical emergencies may require an airlift to San Juan. And there is a pharmacy. We've found the pharmacist to be very helpful and she speaks excellent English.
Personal safety shouldn't be a concern on the island. We've found the local people to be a pleasure to deal with at every turn. If you are going to be cautious about anything, try not to leave valuables lying around. A fancy camera left on your dashboard, or a gold watch lying on a beach towel make tempting targets anywhere.