Where to Stay
All seven rooms at the Casa de Amistad (27 Benitez Castaño; 787-741-3758; www.casadeamistad.com), a little guesthouse in the northern town of Isabel Segunda, are under $100 a night. Though most are small, they are clean and inviting with crisp white sheets, Ikea-style furnishings and a smattering of colorful art on the walls. All have air-conditioning, ceiling fans and small refrigerators, though Rooms 5 and 6 have their bathrooms down the hall. There is a tiny pool, a common television room, Wi-Fi, an honor bar and a kitchen where free coffee is available each morning.
For a hotel closer to the ocean, Bananas, a popular bar and restaurant on the waterfront in Esperanza (Route 996; 787-741-8700; www.bananasguesthouse.com), has basic guest rooms starting at $65 for a double without air-conditioning, $80 with.
Where to Eat
For lunch, you can't beat the half-dozen roadside pincho or shish kebab stands scattered around the island that offer chicken, fish or meat kebabs for about $2 a skewer. The one on Route 200, halfway between the airport and Martineau Car Rental and just steps from a lovely beach ringed with shady trees, is a particularly nice spot to chow down. For something a bit more substantial, check out El Resuelve (787-741-1427), an open-air restaurant along Route 997 between Isabel Segunda and Esperanza run by locals. A party of five can eat well here for under $45, including beer. Try the arroz con pollo, crab empanadas, jalapeño poppers, sticky sweet plantains and — if you're brave — the boiled pigs' ears.
On Tuesday and Thursday nights, you can eat cheaply at Coqui Fire Cafe (787-435-1099; www.coquifire.com), just off Route 200 on the Enchanted Garden Inn property where the sign still says Cafe Violeta, even though that restaurant is long gone. There, Patty and Jim Cochran, creators of the island's popular Coqui Fire hot sauce, serve up gargantuan burritos ($10), heaping nacho platters ($7.50) and chicken mole enchiladas that have quite a kick ($10). Call ahead for reservations.
Jump in your Jeep — you'll need to rent one to get to the best beaches — and head to Green Beach on the western end of the island for great snorkeling. (But go in the morning. After noon, you risk getting eaten alive by little black flies). If it's surf you're seeking, drive to Navio on the south side of the island. Follow the signs along the pitted sand and dirt road until you reach a picturesque half-moon beach bordered by rocky outcroppings. Waves not your style? Just down the road from Navio is Media Luna — a favorite of families with small children — where you can wade out for yards with the placid water no higher than your waist. Among the most popular and accessible of the demilitarized beaches is Red Beach located on the island's south side in the United States Fish and Wildlife Reserve and outfitted with gazebos and picnic tables.
Where to Party
Al's Mar Azul, just steps from the ferry dock in Isabel Segunda (787-741-3400), is a turquoise-painted dive bar decorated with international license plates, old signs from the island and other flotsam. It has Foosball, dart boards, air hockey tables, slot machines and the requisite pool table. Order a piña colada ($5), stiff margarita, or the local beer, Medalla ($1.50), and watch the sunset from its deck.
What to Do
Take a dip in the island's Bioluminescent Bay, which gives off an eerie glow at night because of microscopic organisms that inhabit the waters and light up when they are touched. Reserve a spot with Island Adventures (787-741-0720; www.biobay.com) for an educational chat about the luminescent phenomenon, a bumpy ride in a school bus to the bay and a boat ride out to its middle to swim. Cost: $32.10 a person. For something a little more adventurous, book a tour with Abe at Abe's Snorkeling (787-741-2134; www.abessnorkeling.com) and paddle a kayak into the glowing waters yourself: $30 a person.
What to Buy
Along the tourist strip of Esperanza, you'll find a couple
of gift shops with T-shirts, beach gear and tchotchkes.
Otherwise, there really isn't much
shopping to speak of on Vieques. If you're looking for a
cool keepsake, bring back a bottle of Coqui Fire hot sauce for
$6. The spicy sauce comes in a range of flavors and zest, with
names like Passionate Frog and Smoldering Frog. It's made with
natural ingredients from the
Caribbean by Patty and Jim Cochran, who met on the island
about five years ago, were married at Al's Mar Azul and
started making the sauce. Look for the bottles, labeled with
the fire-breathing frog, at Trade Winds
Gift Shop in Esperanza
(787-741-8666), where you can also buy Vieques T-shirts and