Facts about Vieques

car3Vieques Island is 55 square miles and has less than 10,000 inhabitants. The Island is about 21 miles long by 5 miles at its widest point and it is located between Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, just 6 miles from the south-east coast of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is located 1000 miles southeast of Miami, Florida and 2 1/2 hour flight.

Although Vieques has been named many things lately, Spanish Virgin Island and Green Isle among others, these names are not recognized nor accepted by the locals.  Internet search rules forces the use of “Island” or “Isla de” but the reality is that the island is named Vieques. Pronounced “Bee-eh-kes”.  To keep up with the Internet game I will use Vieques Island or Isla de Vieques on this website.

Fact No. 1  Vieques and the neighbor island of Culebra are not Virgin Islands, they do not share in the history and culture of the neighbor islands. Vieques and Culebra are part of Puerto Rico.

Fact No. 2 The inhabited sector of the island is located in the center, while the east and west sides are currently natural reserves.

Fact No. 3 This island is SMALL. It will take you 15 minutes to drive from the north to the south or from the east to the west within the inhabited part of the island (depending on exactly where you are going and whether you find a horse blocking your way or not).

10395165_394619464046928_2999282958074901469_n Picture by Vieques Locksmith

Fact No. 4  La Isla Nena, as it is known by Puertorricans, is bathed by the Caribbean Sea in the south and by the Vieques Sound and Vieques Passage in the north (not the Atlantic Ocean like may other sites will have you believe). Because the north shores are not bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, it makes a lot of difference at the time of checking for marine forecasts. Waves, tides and currents behave very different here than in the Atlantic side of Puerto Rico and Culebra.

Vieques is politically divided in barrios or wards and its capital city is Isabel II, the political, economic and transportation center of the island. Other barrios as they are called in modern times are Santa Maria, Monte Santo, Florida, Esperanza, and others. The actual legal names of these barrios are names like Puerto Diablo, Puerto Ferro, Puerto Mosquito, and other names. Because most of these inhabited legal barrios were obliterated by the Navy when they took them over in the 1940’s, their names dissappeared from the local lingo.

Fact No. 5  There is only one Downtown in Vieques (not two as other sites state) and it is Downtown Isabel II, Vieques capital. In Spanish we call it “el pueblo”. There is only one “pueblo” the rest are “barrios”.

Esperanza has become popular in recent years because of the fishing tradition, the fight against the Navy by the local fishermen, and the boardwalk or malecon. There are several restaurants and inns along the malecon across the beach at Esperanza. But that does not make Esperanza our Pueblo, it is still a Barrio.

The currency is the U.S. dollar, major credit cards are accepted in most establishments. There is an ATM at the local bank in downtown Isabel II and one across the street at the local Coop. Other ATM machines are popping up around the island, for example at the harbor, the supermarkets and the gas stations.

There is a 5.5% or 7% sales tax in Puerto Rico (depends on the Municipality), Vieques sales tax is 7%, there is also a 9% hotel tax, 11% if the hotel has a casino, 7% for paradores or short term rentals.

The postal service is U.S. Postal Service.

English is spoken by most locals (Spanish is the spoken language of choice although there are two official languages Spanish and English).

Most (if not all) cell phone companies operate on the island. The coverage is weak on the extreme east or west sides of the island because the population is located in the center and that’s where the antennas are located too. The signals are weak on the beaches beyond Sun Bay in the south. In my experience AT&T, seems to have the widest coverage in Vieques although that depends on the state of their communication towers.

For travel requirements for U.S. Citizens, see the U.S. Department of State web site. Passsport is not required for Americans traveling from the States to and from Puerto Rico but it is required for foreign nationals (for more information call the Puerto Rico Department of State at 787 722-2121).

The electrical current is the same as in the U.S., 110-220 volts, 60 Hz.

The temperature does not fluctuate outside the 60-90 degrees. The average temperature has been quoted by different sources to be 79 F (National Climatic Data Center, 1994) or 82 F from November to May with an average beach temperature of 80 F in summer and 76 F in the winter (PR Tourism Company, Feb-Mar 2005). There are constant mild easterly trade winds. Rainy season is from August to November although weather patterns have been out of the usual the last couple of years. We have had no direct hurricane or tropical storm hits since Tropical Storm Irene, which entered as a depression and went all the way to hurricane over Puerto Rico in 2011. Prior to that was Tropical Storm Jeanne in 2004. The damage on both was mostly by wind on toppled trees. Vieques does not suffer the usual flooding problems of Puerto Rico.

The time is Atlantic Standard Time (AST) all year. Daylight savings time is not observed. This is one hour later than U.S. Eastern Standard Time (EST) from October to April, and the same as Eastern Daylight Saving Time from April to October.

The legal age for drinking in Puerto Rico is 18. It is illegal to have an open alcohol container in the car. Seat belts are required for all passengers and the police are in the lookout for that. Observe posted speed limits, specially around Isabel II.

The Police Station is in Downtown, 787 741-2020 or 787 741-2121, next to the Middle School. If you have an emergency of any type dial 911.

All health care facilities and a pharmacy are located in Downtown Isabel II, in the north side. Farmacia (pharmacy) San Antonio 787 741-839, on Calle Benitez Guzman across from the Tourism Office. The local clinic, CDT Susana Centeno is on Road 997 close to the entrance to Isabel II. The clinic has a 24 hour emergency room service. All doctors’ offices are also in Downtown.

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