I’m SUPER excited to share our Vieques film photos with you guys from our trip a couple of weeks ago!!! James and I had the best time and are so thankful we were able to take a good old-fashioned vacation for a change – no work involved (except all the photos I most obviously took for fun) and really relax after what a crazy year 2014 was!! This trip was just what we needed and really allowed us to unwind and shake off any residual stress or anxiety from this past busy season in our lives.
I’m going to tell you guys a bit about our trip here for anyone interested in possibly visiting Vieques!! First of all, my beautiful cousin, Chelsea, and her boyfriend, Derek, live in San Juan – so we originally planned this trip to visit these two (and get some fun in the sun during the cold Chicago January!) – and were going to spend some time in San Juan AND Vieques, but then found the hotel we really wanted to stay at had a 5-night minimum during their high season and so we talked Chelsea and Derek into visiting us on Vieques instead of us going to San Juan – and I’m really happy we did because it allowed us more down time and less travel days. 🙂 We are already hoping to go back another time and will maybe see San Juan then! (And if not, then we’ll just head straight to Vieques – because… seriously. So gorgeous.)
Here are a few reasons we loved about Vieques:
1. It is a pretty little remote island and the beaches were practically empty (not to mention – some of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen)!
2. There is only one big hotel (that I know of) on the island (the W on the north shore), so it still has this quaint old-school charm. We stayed in a little boutique type hotel, Hacienda Tamarindo, and it was perfection (but more on that later)! This also makes it a really reasonably priced trip compared to other locations in the Caribbean!
3. It is really low key! If you’re looking to wear fancy designer clothes, an excuse to try out a new pair of heels, or want to hit the clubs – Vieques is NOT for you. But if you’re like us, and love a low-key vacation where you basically only pack swimsuits and a few cover-ups you throw on to head to dinner – then this is definitely for you! We stayed in Esperanza (on the south side of the island) and the town was closing down by 10pm (except for one bar). It was quiet and a really lovely escape from the hustle and bustle of a big city.
4. Speaking of low-key – there were barely any TVs there! The hotel we stayed at didn’t have TV’s in the rooms, and most of the restaurants didn’t either! We were hard pressed to find a place to watch the NFL playoffs, but managed to find the Packer game on TV at Duffy’s (thank goodness)! It was really wonderful to disconnect from the world for a bit that way!
5. No passport needed and no exchange of money! It was really so nice to not have to go through customs or change out our money!
Other things to note about Vieques:
1. You’re going to want to rent a car!! The island is small, but there is stuff to do all over the island and you’re going to want to be able to drive (since the cabs there require you call ahead to schedule)! Everything is pretty much anywhere from a 5 minute drive to a 20 minute drive. (Also note: the roads are super narrow – i.e. sometimes you have to pull over to let an oncoming car by!) We rented from Maritza’s Car Rental and they were great! They pick you up from the airport or ferry and take you to their location inland (about a 10 min drive) to get you your jeep and on your way! Then you drop off the jeep at the end of your trip and they’ll run you back to the airport.
2. I would suggest flying over to Vieques right from the San Juan airport if possible! On our way there we opted to save money and had my cousin drive us to Fajardo (about an hour from San Juan) to catch a ferry over to Vieques. The ferry is only TWO DOLLARS per ticket (I KNOW!!! So cheap!) – but you get what you pay for! As with most things in Puerto Rico, you can’t buy tickets online in advance, and the ferry may or may not come on time. Our ferry was super late so we ended up taking another one to Culebra that then went to Vieques (that ended up being twice as long!) and didn’t get into Vieques until 11:30pm (when we had landed in San Juan at 3pm)! Not to mention, if you get motion sickness at all – the ferry is not for you! James doesn’t even have a sensitive stomach and he nearly got sick! And me? It wasn’t pretty. haha. Anyway – we learned our lesson and booked last minute little puddle-jumper flights back!
3. We would recommend staying in Esperanza if you go to Vieques! As mentioned above, it’s a quaint little town on the south side of the island with a strip of nice little restaurants and bars along the ocean, and is really close to the beaches along the southeast side of the island!
4. We stayed at Hacienda Tamarindo, absolutely loved it, and would recommend it to anyone! It was a quiet, remote, little boutique resort with totally reasonable rates that included a delicious sit down breakfast every morning from 8am-10am! They have a great pool with a gorgeous view of the ocean from most of the property (which you’ll see below)! It is located right outside of Esperanza (a 2 min car ride) and we loved it.
5. We did the Bioluminescent Bay Tour with JAK Water Sports on our last night there and it was unbelievable. You can read more about the Bio Bay here if you aren’t familiar with it – but basically plankton in the bay glow when the water is disturbed (like when you touch the water, or fish swim)! We kayaked out to the middle of the bay at night with a small group (6 or so other kayaks & 2 guides – wearing little glow sticks so we didn’t lose them!) – and it was such an amazing experience with the water sparkling/glowing every time fish swam away from kayaks, or our paddles hit the water – or when you dunked your hand in! And the stars above were just as beautiful as the crazy glowing water below! I’d definitely recommend doing this while there & this group was nice because they take smaller groups out, so it was really peaceful and beautiful.
6. There are wild horses everywhere (2,000-3,000 to be exact)!! Technically they aren’t “wild” because they have owners, but they are free to roam/graze and the owners come find them when needed. Anyone from young kids to grown ups have horses, and we saw lots of people riding theirs around town!
Anyway – enough chatter from me!! I’m sure you guys want to get to the photos!! If anyone is contemplating going to Vieques definitely shoot me an email and I’m happy to answer any questions or give you additional tips/suggestions! Now on to the film photos!!
This was our first day in Vieques (after arriving late the night before). James and I recovered from a long travel day and explored the property at Hacienda Tamarindo! Below is the owners’ dog, Zach, who is a fixture at the hotel and such a sweetie!
Lots of sun and pool time!!
Then we went to pick up our rental car and went to grab a late lunch and explore Esperanza!
We had a few too many margaritas at Bananas and went to enjoy the view by the ocean…
The next day we really relaxed (i.e. didn’t get out of the hotel until 4pm or so) – when we went to grab a late lunch/early dinner at this awesome little farm to table restaurant, Tin Box! They grow all their own veggies and are the only place on the island with local draft beer! It was an open air restaurant (as most everything in Vieques is) and had a view from the table overlooking their gardens (which looked more like the rainforest to me)!
Then we headed to downtown Esperanza to watch the sunset and it did not disappoint!
Chelsea and Derek showed up late that night and the next day they took us on quite the adventure!! We spent the first part of the day with their friend, Mark, who works for the Vieques Conservation and took us snorkeling to catch/release marine life at Mosquito Pier! James and I had never been snorkeling before and it was really amazing!!! We swam 2 miles and were in suuuuuper deep water under the pier for most of it! It was definitely out of my comfort zone, but so much fun! We saw lots of beautiful fish and even some sea turtles!!!
After snorkeling we were all sooo hungry, so we headed to town to fill up on a gigantic and delicious lunch at Duffy’s! We all may have had a few too many margaritas (the theme of the trip!!) and decided to go jump off this giant old pier into the ocean (something I would probably not have been brave enough for had I been 100% sober – LOL).
Chelsea’s face here is too funny to me!!! haha!
James is really zoned in to this jump! LOL
Ours is far from in focus – but I don’t care!!! This was so much fun that I had to post the photo and remember this moment!!!
Honestly, this was one of my favorites times from the trip! It wasn’t planned – a totally spontaneous decision from all of us to go jump in the ocean of this old pier and swim around – and we had the best time! It was so, so beautiful as the sun was close to setting over the ocean. I’ll never forget that feeling!
This photo is of a college student we met there while jumping off this pier! I told him I’d take this film shot of him! So if you are out there, guy who is in this photo, contact me and I’ll send you a copy!! Talk about perfect timing! You showed us all up with that epic lay-out!
Love these two so much!!! 🙂
Chels, going all spread eagle on us!
Our favorite vacationing buddies!
The next morning James recovered a bit from our crazy and amazing adventures from the day prior while Chelsea, Derek, and I explored Red Beach!
Obviously: It. Was. Gorgeous.
Back at Hacienda Tamarindo enjoying our final night in Vieques!!
A couple photos from our tiny little plane ride from Vieques to San Juan!! (The plane was so tiny James and I were hitting our heads on the ceiling of the plane!! Seriously! But we forgive them – because we had a gorgeous view for the flight!)
Ugh!!! So much pretty!! We just loved Vieques and would recommend it to anyone looking for a little escape!!!
If you want to see more photos make sure to check out the #VitaminVieques on Instagram for all our trip photos not pictured here!!!
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Shot on Mamiya 645 with Porta 400 (and one roll of Porta 800). Film scans by Richard Photo Lab.