Our Honeymoon in Vieques

I've been wanting to share some of the pictures from our honeymoon with you, but there was so much to tell that I didn't know where to begin! I decided to split it up into a few posts. First, a recap (and a few photos!) of our stay.

Eugene and I spent our honeymoon in Vieques, the small island 8 miles off the East coast of Puerto Rico. To get there we flew four hours from New York to San Juan, then took a cab ride from the airport to Fajardo, a coastal town on the Eastern tip of the main island. In Fajardo we paid $2 each to board a ferry that would take us the hour-long trip over the choppy sea to Vieques.

The boat was freezing and Eugene and I spent the trip huddled under my airplane blanket, eagerly anticipating our arrival. [You can also travel directly from San Juan to Vieques by puddle jumper, but I had a hysterical panic attack the last time we traveled on one of those little planes (I blame one-too-many childhood viewings of "La Bamba" and "Sweet Dreams") so Eugene promised me we'll never have to do that again.]

The boat docked at the main dock, and we excitedly rolled our overstuffed suitcases down the metal gangplank. From there we had to flag down a ride to our hotel. Since Vieques is such a small island, with a limited number of vehicles, those residents and visitors who don’t have personal cars, ride around in shared passenger vans called "publicos." We found one quickly, and were soon on our way to Hacienda Tamarindo, the gorgeous bed and breakfast that would be our home for our two-week stay.

This was our second time in Vieques and at Hacienda Tamarindo. Some of you might remember that we spent few days there last February and that it's the very spot where Eugene proposed to me. When picking the place to spend our honeymoon we tossed around multiple locations around the world, until we finally realized that we just wanted to go back to Vieques.

Our room was gorgeous! It was a large corner room with a small balcony overlooking the freshwater pool and a gorgeous palm tree-lined field where wild horses grazed and galloped all day and night. The sea lay just beyond, and from our room we could hear the crashing of the waves against the coast.

The hotel's resident (adorable!!!) sheepdog Zach, who played a prominent role in our engagement last year, was still there and I made a point of spending as much time with him as possible.

I felt we needed some pictures of the two of us so I pulled out my remote and set up a photo shoot.

It's a good thing that our room was so pretty as I ended up not being able to leave it for the first three days of our trip! It seems that the non-stop month of stress, and the many sleepless nights before the wedding took a toll on my immune system. Combined with travel and drastic temperature changes, and I was knocked flat out with the flu.

It wasn't all bad, though, and except for the coughing and the fever, it was quite nice to spend days napping and reading with the warm trade winds wafting in through our louvered windows. We could even the sunrise from our bed!

The rest did its job, and I was soon feeling fantastic, and ready to explore the island. The beauty of Vieques--and the reason why I love it so much--is that it's still a relatively virgin and unspoiled island. With the exception of the recently-opened W "retreat and spa," there are no major hotels on the island--just small guesthouses, hostels, and inns. There are also no chain restaurants or travel companies--no Hertz or Burger King or CVS or anything of the sort.

The little island was in the news quite a bit back in the late 90s due to protests against the US Navy's use of over two-thirds of the island as a bombing range and weapons testing ground. After significant pressure, the Navy eventually left the island in 2003, but the clean-up efforts continue, and concerns prevail over the health of many of its residents (the cancer rate on the island is proportionally higher than on the mainland).

Though tourism has definitely increased since the Navy left, the island will hopefully still retain its unspoiled charm as the land previously owned by the Navy was declared a National Wildlife Refuge. The pristine beaches that dot the coastline--previously closed to the public--have all been opened, but thankfully remain protected from development.

And these beaches are truly incredible! White sands, azure waters, and completely devoid of any kind of commerce, it's literally just sand, the sea, and vegetation. There are no cafes or restaurants; no cabanas or blaring radios. Even at the busiest times of day, it's rare to see more than a handful of other people in the area.

Each morning, Eugene and I would enjoy a delicious full breakfast in the Hacienda's dining room, then grab the packed lunch prepared for us by the hotel staff before heading out in our rental car--a hardy SUV to handle the unpaved roads and occasional mud holes on the short 10-minute drive to the beaches.

Our favorite was Playa de la Chiva, also known as Blue Beach, the name given to it by the Navy. That's the one pictured in the top photo, and where we did a bit of snorkeling (Eugene spotted a sea turtle!). Playa Navio was my second favorite with its baby powder soft sand and crisp waves.

Playa Caracas (aka Red Beach) is one of the most picturesque, with lush palms and interesting scenery. Media Luna (or "half-moon") is known for its gentle, practically nonexistent waves, and shallow waters. It's a good choice for families visiting with children.

Though lazy days on the beach were definitely the priority, we also did a bit of exploring. We got up early one morning to go on a horseback riding tour of the island with the Esperanza Riding Company.

We got a quick riding lesson, and then proceeded to spend two hours exploring some of the woods, fields, and beaches not usually reachable by car. We spotted trees heavy with with mangoes, grapefruit, and passion fruit, and passed through paths fragrant with night-blooming jasmine.

In the evenings we dressed up a bit and headed into town for dinner. The main commercial tourist strip in Vieques is the Malecon (esplanade) in Esperanza. The majority of the guest houses, shops, and restaurants on the island are located here.

We visited most of the 7-10 restaurants and shops, but our most memorable meal was at a restaurant called Next Course located off the strip. Eugene and I both ordered spiny Caribbean lobster tails with truffled crab risotto--a luxurious dish that I can't stop thinking about. For dessert, we had mixed berry tart and homemade ice cream.

The place where spent most of our (eating) time was a casual bar called Duffy's. I became obsessed with their dorado fish tacos with cumin-scented sour cream, and ordered them about 5 times during our trip.

Naturally, each of our meals were accompanied by some kind of frozen fruity tropical cocktail. My favorites were the pina colada, rum and parcha (a simple mix of rum and fresh passion fruit juice), and parcharita (a margarita made with fresh passion fruit pulp).

We spent our last day on Vieques by the hotel pool. I sat down on one of the steps leading into the water and spent most of my day there reading and basking in the sun. The area around the pool was rich with vegetation and wildlife, which Eugene loved.

His favorite was a friendly iguana who would walk by us every day. We also spotted a hairy tarantula and the most incredible caterpillar ever!

I hope you enjoyed this recap of our trip! In my next posts I'll share more about the amazing food we ate, and also about the couple days we spent on the main island of Puerto Rico.



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