Trip Number: 12407A
Staff: Richard Johnson
- Snorkel in crystal-clear Caribbean waters
- Kayak to Vieques' famed bioluminescent bay
- Learn to paddleboard through beautiful scenery
- All on-trip meals (except one dinner) & on-island transportation
- Guided kayaking, snorkeling, and paddleboard trips
- Shared guesthouse accommodations for six nights
Come explore world-class beaches, crystal-clear waters, rich ocean life, lush
tropical flora, and one of the brightest bioluminescent bays in the world on
this beautiful island. Vieques is a small island about seven miles off the east
coast of Puerto Rico. While it belongs to Puerto Rico, Vieques has a lot in
common with the Virgin Islands. It has a moderate climate year-round (average
temperatures of 79-82 degrees) and more than 50 beaches. Vieques is home to
over 120 species of birds as well as Puerto Rico's famous coqui and other tropical
frogs. Wild horses and cows roam the hills of Vieques freely.
Photo: Carol Marty
Vieques has a long history and is home to the last Spanish fort built in the
New World, now a history and culture museum. Until 2003, the U.S. Navy controlled
roughly two-thirds of the island, which is now primarily nature preserve or
open land. Vieques' complex history and the limited availability of private
land has kept large-scale development and cruise ships off the island and helped
to keep Vieques relatively undiscovered. But, according to some sources, this
serene island won't stay this way for long.
We will visit the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), which is managed
by the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife. One of nine NWRs located in the
Caribbean, it is the most ecologically diverse and largest NWR in the Caribbean,
encompassing 17,700 acres. It contains several ecologically distinct habitats,
including beaches, coastal lagoons, mangrove wetlands, and upland forested areas
-- both subtropical dry and subtropical moist forest.
Our main activities will include swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding
in the warm Caribbean waters, as well as strolling scenic beaches. We will enjoy
fascinating snorkeling right off the beach. We will kayak on tandem (two-person)
sit-on-top ocean kayaks, which provide a stable, easy-on-and-off platform for
swimming. And the trip includes a special opportunity to learn the fast-growing
sport of paddle boarding on wide stable boards in gentle, warm waters. The leaders
will help you learn, or improve, techniques for these activities.
The BioBay tour will be a highlight of the trip. We'll paddle to mangroves,
a snorkeling area, and a secluded beach that's only reachable by water. At sunset,
we'll gather to enjoy a picnic on the beach. After dark, we'll paddle to the
center of the BioBay where we'll tie up, have a discussion about bioluminescence,
and enjoy the glowing bioluminescent water of Mosquito Bay. Mosquito Bay,
also known as the Bioluminescent Bay, is the healthiest and best example of
a bioluminescent bay in the world. With the slightest agitation of the water,
tiny bioluminescent creatures emit an electric bluish white light. The organisms
responsible are dinoflagellates, and the BioBay in Vieques contains more than
720,000 bioluminescent organisms per gallon of water.
We will meet on Vieques, with pick-up both at the ferry dock and the airport.
Everyone should plan to arrive in Vieques between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m. on Sunday,
February 19. Our first meal will be dinner on Sunday.
Day 1: The leaders will pick you up at the ferry dock or the
airport. We’ll get settled in our rooms at the guesthouse and have a "meet
and greet" party and evening meal as we become acquainted.
Photo: Richard Johnson
Day 2: After breakfast, we’ll have a morning snorkel,
a picnic lunch, and an afternoon kayak. We’ll make dinner at the guesthouse.
Day 3: We’ll snorkel and walk the sands at another scenic
beach with a picnic lunch. We’ll kayak through the interesting and ecologically
important mangroves, and have a picnic dinner on a secluded beach. The highlight
of the day will be our nighttime kayak paddle in the world-famous
Day 4: Our history and shopping day. After a talk on island
life in the 1800 and 1900s, we’ll explore the major sugar mill ruins.
We’ll have lunch at the guesthouse, wander the streets of Isabel II, and
visit the island history museum. Then we’ll check out the local vibe and
the conservation museum in Esperanza, followed by our restaurant dinner.
Day 5: After breakfast we will head out to explore the sands,
enjoying snorkeling and picnic opportunities at two more beaches.
Day 6: We’ll learn to paddleboard in protected waters,
and enjoy the perspective of looking back at the island from the sea. We will
revisit our favorite snorkel beach or drop in at a secret spot. We’ll
enjoy a freshly prepared meal back at the ranch.
Day 7: We’ll breakfast, clean our rooms, pack up the
trucks, and return everyone to the ferry dock or airport, making drop-offs until
Please note: The leaders will make every reasonable effort to meet the goals
outlined in the itinerary. Please keep in mind that weather or other conditions
beyond our control may cause us to modify the itinerary in order to ensure the
safety and well-being of the group.
Photo: Richard Johnson
Most people fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico and travel to Vieques from there.
There are two main ways to get to Vieques from the main island of Puerto Rico:
by plane from Luis Marin International Airport (SJU) in San Juan, or by ferry
from Fajardo on the east coast of Puerto Rico. Some helpful travel info is available
Vieques (VQS) is a 30-minute plane ride from San Juan. Most people fly on Cape
Air (flycapeair.com 800-352-0714). There are also at least two other flying
Vieques is a one-hour ferry ride from Fajardo. You will need to take a taxi
(or Publico) from the international airport in San Juan to Fajardo (generally
costing $50-80 one-way and taking 90 minutes, but it could be longer, depending
on the day/time) where you will purchase a $4 round-trip ferry ticket. The phone
number in Fajardo is (787) 863-0705. The ticket booth generally opens one hour
before the ferry time, and you should give yourself a good hour in Fajardo to
buy your ticket.
Accommodations and Food
We will have shared bedrooms in a quiet and secluded ranch guesthouse on three
acres in the middle of Vieques. Self-described as one part summer camp and one
part homey wilderness lodge, the guesthouse is complete with living area, full
kitchen, pool, several bathroom facilities, and private -- but outdoor -- showers.
You'll awaken to birds chirping and enjoy a constant breeze on the wrap-around
deck, with a view of the Caribbean in the distance. After a day of snorkeling
or kayaking, you can hang out by the pool, or sneak off to doze in a hammock,
serenaded by tropical frogs. Of course you are also free to skip the excursion
and just hang out at the guesthouse.
We expect to have a varied menu with many fresh foods. All meals will be vegetarian-friendly,
but will not be exclusively vegetarian. Please discuss any dietary needs or
restrictions you have with the leader. Each participant will help cook and clean
up at least one day of the trip. We'll have dinner out at a local restaurant
one night at participants' expense.
This trip requires a moderate level of fitness. The tropical environment,
while beautiful, can be hot, humid, and contains some biting insects. The water
is generally smooth, but there may be some small waves if the wind comes up.
You do not need to have kayak, paddleboard, or snorkeling experience. We will
help you to learn. However you must know how to swim. You should
also be able to paddle a kayak at least 20 minutes at a time comfortably. We
will stay in a group for the water activities and use the buddy system when
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Richard Johnson
Casual, warm weather clothing will be fine. We suggest that you also bring
a light rain jacket and a sweater in case we have a cool evening. Bring a hat
with a brim for sun protection, sturdy shoes for jungle walks, and a daypack
or bag that's large enough to carry your lunch and water for our outings. You
may also want to have a bag for your snorkel gear. A more detailed packing list
will be sent to confirmed participants.
Snorkeling equipment may be rented or purchased on the island. However, to
ensure you have equipment that fits you well and that it's available every day,
we recommend that you bring your own. All kayaking and paddle boarding equipment
If you are traveling by the ferry, you will be carrying your bags on and off
the ferry. There may also be size limits on the small plane flights to Vieques.
It is best to pack light.
- Vieques National Wildlife Refuge [electronic resource], U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Service. Atlanta, Ga.: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife
Service, Southeast Region, . Comprehensine conservation plan and environmental
The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding waters are home to at
least four plants and 10 animals on the federal Endangered Species list, including
the Antillean Manatee, Brown Pelican, four species of sea turtles (Green, Loggerhead,
Hawksbill and Leatherback), and the Roseate Tern. We'll spend time with the
U.S. Fish & Wildlife staff, who can share information about Vieques' most
important environmental issues. We'll also be discussing the mangrove and bioluminescent
bay conservation efforts with our outfitter.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Rich Johnson is a longtime Sierra Club member and software instructor who lives near Seattle. He is active in the Sierra Club's Cascade Chapter and is a board member of the Washington Trails Association. Rich has a passion for teaching and learning and gets out to explore wild areas -- by foot, with paddle, or on skis -- whenever he can.
Tom Brown has a lifetime of outdoor experience. He is a bicyclist, hiker, fisherman, and skier. Tom is a certified snow skiing instructor, certified in Wilderness First Aid, and he's active as a trail maintainer on the Appalachian Trail in his home state of Virginia. Tom has a passion for sharing the outdoors with others and believes that the best way to instill a spirit of conservation is simply to spend time with nature.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips