Vieques with Kids
Where do you go for a family reunion with small children involved? It's tricky, right? In my extended family, there are 7 kids ages 4 and under (including my two). I've learned that the only vacations I want to take with that many littles involved are the kinds where we just stay in one spot. Preferably, with access to a body of water.
With that in mind, my siblings and I spent some time searching through several home rental sites. We considered North Carolina's Outer Banks, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the central California coast, and lots of places in between. But the location that had the nicest big houses for the best prices (within the US) was Puerto Rico.
Plane tickets to PR were the same as plane tickets to the East Coast, which seemed like a great deal. (And we're scattered across the country, so flying would have to be involved no matter what.) In addition, none of us had ever been to Puerto Rico, so we were excited at the prospect. With all that in mind, we booked our trip. Despite some unforeseen hiccups, I'm so glad we did! It really was one of those memorable trips we'll be talking about forever.
More about Vieques with Kids (including tips & recommendations) after the jump...
House Rentals: There are many houses to rent on Vieques. We rented this one through Homeaway.com and thought it was great. Lots of room for our big group, clean, well stocked with towels, linens, beach chairs, etc... It had a washer and dryer which we kept in constant use, and 2 kitchens. Best of all, it had a salt water pool in the backyard, beautiful views, and was close to several beaches and the charming little town of Esperanza.
Hotels & Resorts: We took a look at the W resort, which was absolutely gorgeous with infinity pools, private beaches, immaculate landscaping, a stylish boutique, and more. Of course, it comes with a high price tag. And although families are welcome, it seemed like more of a couples resort. I only saw one child there, and a group of noisy kids definitely would have seemed out of place.
I wasn't able to visit, but the Hix Island House looks stunning and modern. And I love that they use solar power and other sustainable practices.
The Malecon House is located right across the street from the beach in Esperanza. I took a walk through the lobby area, and it seemed very chic, clean, and simple.
Still under construction while we were there, El Blok was one of the most interesting pieces of architecture I've seen. I'm sad I didn't realize that the much buzzed about restaurant was already open.
The Beaches: Every morning, we'd get the kids ready, then head out to one of the many gorgeous, tropical, white sand beaches on the south side of the island. Most of the time, we were the only ones around. It was amazing. We kept looking at each other and wondering why no one else was there? At any rate, we felt incredibly lucky.
The Pool: After a morning at the beach, we'd head home, feed the kids lunch, and put them down for naps. When they woke up, we'd usually hang out at the backyard pool until dinner.
Bio Bay: Of course, we had to go to the Bioluminescent Bay! If you haven't heard of it, it's a magical place where the water literally lights up when agitated. It's caused by phosphorescent algae that thrives in the bay, due to the special combination of mangroves, fish, etc... that live there. You're not allowed to swim in the bay anymore, but you can go kayaking, which is what we did. As you move your oar through the water, it leaves a glowing streak behind you. If you dip your hand in the water and bring it back up, little points of light sparkle on your skin. Fish jumping out of the water look like glow in the dark rockets.
My description does it no justice, and it's pretty impossible to photograph. But it was one of the most magical things I've experienced in my entire life.
Eating in: As I've mentioned, we mainly ate in, which was great for both budget and convenience. One surprising thing, though, is that grocery prices can vary wildly on the island depending on where you shop. The main supermarket that everyone recommends is actually very pricey. It seemed like most things there were about twice the price as they would have been back home.
However, we discovered that many of the smaller markets hidden away with neighborhoods had lower prices. We ended up doing most of our shopping at these places. The only problem was they didn't have produce sections.Usually, they'd just have a few items of produce up at the cash register. These were usually local and very good -- things like avocados and bananas. But there were just wasn't much in variety or quantity.
And then one day we hit the jackpot. We discovered a little market with a huge refrigerated walk-in storage container full of fruits and vegetables at great prices. (Near the intersection of the 200 and the 997.) Most of it was local and delicious, too. We went through an entire grocery bag full of mangoes in one day!
Eating out: With all those little ones, we didn't feel like eating out too much. But we did get some tasty pizza from the bakery down the street (near the intersection of Calle Hucar and Calle Almendro in Esperanza.) We got burgers and fries one night at Bananas (in Esperanza) which were good (and the place was very kid-friendly). Finally, on our last night there, we ventured out to the Coqui Fire Cafe in Isabelle Segunda, which was the best food we'd had the entire trip. Really delicious and a great value.
A few last words
If you plan on traveling to Vieques, don't forget to take into account the cost of flying from San Juan to Vieques. For some reason, we overlooked this when planning the trip, and it really added onto the overall price tag!
There are wild horses all over the island. It's amazing.
The off season is from mid-April through mid-December and hurricane season runs from mid-August through mid-October. We were there in mid-August, which is probably why we got such a great deal on the house rental and why the beaches were empty. We lucked out with the weather overall, although there were a couple of days where it stormed.
It's much easier to get to Puerto Rico from the East Coast of the US than the west. We live in Utah and had to endure a redeye flight with a layover in JFK. Not fun at any time, especially with 2 small kids.
Despite a few snags, though, we LOVED our trip to Vieques and would definitely recommend it! It was a great place to slow down and relax with our family, but it would be great for anyone who loves the beach. - Eva