Vieques, an island about the size of Martha's Vineyard (20 miles by 5miles) off the southeast coast of Puerto Rico, was probably best known for years for the US Navy base there. But when the Navy left in 2003, after a 50 year stay, Vieques found itself in a unique position. While other islands in the Caribbean had seen high-rises go up on their beaches, and gambling take over their hotels, Vieques woke up having escaped all that, and started the new century largely, and beautifully, undeveloped.
And that's what many of us love about it. Rather than allow developers to rush in and build Hyatts, the former Navy land (approximately 2/3 of the island) is now a US Fish and Wildlife nature preserve--the largest in the Caribbean. With zoning laws that forbid buildings over 29 feet tall, there are no high-rises on the beaches to block the beautiful views. And with a year-round population of only 9,000 people, there are never enough people on the island to make the beaches crowded.
The island retains an incredibly casual, relaxed feel that's unique these days in the Caribbean. There's not a single stop light on the island. There's little in the way of mall shopping or loud nightlife. If you're looking to gamble, dance all night, dress to the nines, and shop til you drop, Vieques is not the island for you. But if you're looking for exquisite natural beauty, excellent restaurants that welcome people even when they're wearing flip flops, white, sandy, almost-empty pristine beaches, friendly people, and palm trees under which you can read a book and fall asleep, Vieques is one of a kind.
With its famous wild horses grazing by the side of the road, chickens and roosters in people's yards, and kids riding their horses down the streets on weekend evenings, Vieques is said to have the feel of Cuba in the 1940s. Combine that with spectacular weather, a handful of truly great restaurants, and all the amenities at Los Arcos, and you'll see why Vieques is a place many people return to year after year.