• Photo: kai hecker / Shutterstock


Looking for a place to play Robinson Crusoe? Well, here you can wander along almost any stretch of sand and rarely see another soul. You can also while away the hours underneath coconut palms, wade in the warm water, or get a mask and snorkel and explore coral reefs that ring the island.

For many years the island was known mostly for the conflict between angry islanders and aloof federal officials. Over the course of six decades, the U.S. Navy used two-thirds of Vieques, mostly on the island's eastern end, as a bombing range, and the western tip as an ammunition dump. After an April 1999 bombing accident took the life of one resident, waves of protests brought the maneuvers to a standstill, and political pressure from the island's governor helped force the military to leave on May 1, 2003.

Ironically, the military presence helped keep the island pristine by keeping resort developers away. Today, the military's former holdings have been turned into Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. The island's woodsy western end is laced by trails that offer fabulous cycling around the base of Monte Pirata, the island's highest peak. More and more of the eastern area is being opened every year, granting access to stupendous beaches shelving into calm turquoise waters. The park also protects Puerto Mosquito, a flask-shape bay populated by microscopic organisms that glow when disturbed at night—a thrilling experience for kayakers.

Just because Vieques is sleepy doesn't mean there's nothing to do besides hit the beach. In its two communities—Isabel Segunda and Esperanza—you can dine at a variety of excellent restaurants, stock up on supplies, or book a kayaking trip.

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