lady in hat and a bathing suit sitting in a chair in front of a water view in Vieques Puerto Rico

A Perfect Vieques Itinerary: Full Day Trip from San Juan to Vieques Puerto Rico

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Last Updated on February 25, 2024

2 ladies standing in front of an I Heart Vieques sign beginning their Vieques Itinerary in Puerto Rico

Chances are that if you are visiting this blog post, you have Vieques on your radar and are looking for things to do in Vieques and what to put on your Vieques Itinerary! 

I most likely don’t need to convince you to take a day trip to Vieques, but just in case you are still on the fence a bit…..

Vieques is a tropical island and lush paradise in Puerto Rico. It is well known for its beautiful beaches, wild horses, largest natural wildlife refuge in the Caribbean, and the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay.  There were many centuries of Spanish influence on the island, so it still retains a lot of that heritage, and, like Puerto Rico, it is often considered a part of the Spanish Virgin Islands.

It is easily visited on a day trip from San Juan to Vieques. We did it on our trip and I’ll explain how you can do it too!

PRO TIP: If you are from the USA, you don’t need a passport to visit this heavenly wonderland!

Internationally, Vieques has been known for many protests against the US when they were using it as a testing ground for bombs.  Can you imagine using such a beautiful place as a bomb site???? 

Due to all the protests, the US Navy left Vieques in 2003 and the land is now occupied by a national wildlife refuge.  Some of the refuge is still closed to the public due to contamination and the potential for unexploded devices.  Seems like there needs to be a lot more cleanup from the US military!

Thank you to @Discover Puerto Rico and Women in Travel for showcasing Vieques to us. I traveled there with my daughter and we had a wonderful mother-daughter Day Trip to Vieques with some other fellow travel bloggers.

Vieques, Isla de Vieques, is one of the offshore islands of Puerto Rico.  It is a small island located just 7 miles to the east of the main island in Puerto Rico in the northeast part of the Caribbean.  It is only about 60 square miles in area.

The other main island of Puerto Rico is Culebra.  We also took a day trip to Culebra.  If you have extra time in your itinerary, you can plan a trip to both islands, but if not, you will have to choose.

Pick Culebra for the small island atmosphere and quaint beaches.  Choose Vieques if you prefer a larger selection of beaches and ESPECIALLY if you are interested in the Biobay –(discussed in the Things to do on Vieques Section below!).

A weekend trip to Vieques is the best way to vacation on this beautiful island, but if you only have a limited time to spare in your Puerto Rico itinerary, see if you can squeeze in at least a day trip to Vieques.  If you plan out your Vieques itinerary right, you can still see some of the main sites and make it back to the mainland feeling fulfilled.

If you are wondering how you get to Vieques Puerto Rico, there are two answers. You can reach Vieques by small plane or ferry.

lady stand in front of a plane bound for Vieques Puerto Rico
Flying is the quickest option for getting to Vieques

Getting a flight is probably the best way to get to Vieques in order to manage your time efficiently.  The flight is quick and easy (versus the ferry –see below). If you are only spending a day in Vieques, you won’t have to waste a lot of time getting to the island, so flying there is your best option.

There are many flights to Vieques from San Juan or Ceiba. Ceiba is on the eastern side of Puerto Rico, closer to Vieques, and a good option for SOME travelers –but we will discuss that option second.

@moyermemoirs We flew from the main island Puerto Rico to the smaller island Vieques for a day with a group of 8 people and it was cheaper than getting a ferry!!!! It was only an 8 minute flight! DM me if you would like more information. ✈️ #witspuertorico #discoverpuertorico #liveboricua #travel #plane #traveltiktok #travelblogger #moyermemoirs #puertorico #privateplane #vieques ♬ Sunset Lover – Petit Biscuit
Flight from San Juan to Vieques
wheel of airplane of blue water

Flights from San Juan are the most convenient way to get to Vieques.  There is ample transportation to get you to the San Juan airport, where you can hop on a 30-minute flight to Vieques that is offered many times throughout the day.  The typical cost for this ticket tends to be around $100.

Check out these small airlines for domestic airline tickets to Vieques:  Air FlamencoCape AirVieques Airlink or Seaborne Airlines.

Flight from Ceiba to Vieques
Ceiba Sign with arrow to the airport in Puerto Rico

The Ceiba to Vieques flight is only 10-minutes and is the faster way to get to Vieques. However, these flights are a lot more difficult and expensive since you will also need transportation to get to Ceiba (and back). Ceiba is an hour away from San Juan which will be quite pricey for such a long ride in a taxi (like another $100 each way in addition to your air ticket!)!.  However, if you have a rental car in Puerto Rico, then this might be an option for you.

white boat at a dock for Ferry to Culebra Puerto Rico

Taking the ferry to from Ceiba to Vieques is definitely the cheapest way to get to Vieques. However, it is also the slowest! It can take 45 – 60 minutes for the ferry transfer, however, there are also other considerations to take into account that add into the travel time.

Remember that you will need to get to Ceiba first for this option –which is a good hour away from San Juan. In addition to the travel time to Ceiba, you will need to arrive at the dock at least an hour before departure time.   So you see if you add up the 1 transfer time to Ceiba, the 1 pre-boarding time, and the 45 minutes of ferry travel time, you get close to 3 hours of just traveling to Veiques which eats into the free time you will have for your Veiques itinerary.

If you have a rental car in Puerto Rico, driving to Ceiba is an option.  Arriving the night before your day trip to Vieques and getting an overnight room in Ceiba will definitely maximize the time you will have to explore the island.

 PRO TIP:  You can’t take your rental car with you to Vieques.  The cargo ferries are reserved for residents of Vieques only.  You will need to pay for parking at the ferry dock, which is around $15.

Tickets are around $3 each way for adults.

Tickets often sell out, so the best way to plan a ferry trip to Vieques is to book online ahead of time. 

Only 20% of ferry tickets are sold online. The remaining 80% is sold at the ferry terminal.  Schedules and ticket sales usually open the previous month, though there is not an exact date to release the schedule for the next month. Check the ferry website frequently to see when tickets are released for purchase so that you secure one of the 20% sold online.   Don’t panic if ticket sales aren’t opened until the last day or two of the month — they will open!

If online tickets are sold out for your desired departure time but there is a later ferry ticket available for online purchase, purchase the later ticket. Monitor the ferry website for the number of tickets available for sale at the box office for your desired time, and you can decide if it is worth traveling to the ferry dock to exchange your ticket for an earlier ferry. ⁠

If you can’t get tickets online in advance, you can take a chance and try to get them at the ferry office on your travel date.  There are often last-minute tickets available and sold at the ferry office in Ceiba.

Arrange a Day Trip from San Juan to Vieques

Here are some great tour options for you to take a day trip to Vieques Puerto Rico:

There are a lot of choices for a Vieques day trip tour. Choose the Vieques day tour that fits best into your itinerary!

Wild Horses in Vieques

Vieques is known for all the horses that are running wild throughout the island.  Are they wild horses?  That depends on your definition.  They do have owners, but they are not kept on a specific spot of land.  The horses are allowed to roam free and ‘wild.’

The wild horses add to the blissful atmosphere of the island.  You will spot them everywhere as they seem to be minding their own business while they graze in the grass or wander along the white sandy shore.  These magnificent creatures enhance the tranquility of the peaceful nature scene throughout Vieques.

Horseback Riding

With the abundance of horses on Vieques, are you surprised that horseback riding is a popular activity on Vieques?  Several tour operators offer horseback riding tours like riding on the beach into the sunset,  walking a scenic hilltop loop, or traveling through the quaint, little village of Esperanza

PRO TIP:  Most horseback riding tours in Vieques have weight limits so make sure to check out ALL the restrictions that are put in place for your safety and the safety of the horses.

Oldest Ceiba Tree in Vieques

very large green Ceiba tree in a grassy area in Vieques

Ceiba trees are the national tree of Puerto Rico.  There are a few around the island of Vieques.  The oldest Ceiba tree in Vieques is a tourist attraction for good reason.  It is estimated to be over 400 years old and is HUGE. It is worth a stop to get an idea of the grand size of this old tree.

lady in a hat laying under a palm tree at a beach in Vieques Puerto Rico
Sun Bay Beach in Vieques Puerto Rico

There are tons of beautiful beaches in Vieques Puerto Rico.  After all, it is a paradise to add to your Caribbean island Bucket List!

Enjoying the beaches in Vieques is a captivating experience, with pristine shores offering breathtaking views and tranquil waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Whether lounging under the sun or exploring hidden coves, the beauty of Vieques’ coastline never fails to enchant visitors.

Put some of the beaches in Vieques on the top of your list on your Vieques Vacation!

sandy beach in Vieques in Puerto Rico with turquoise water and a palm tree in the foreground
Playa Caracas, one of the best beaches in Vieques PR

On our Vieques day trip, we stopped at Playa Caracas first.  It was not very crowded early in the morning.  We were able to enjoy the soft white sand and clear turquoise water in peace and quiet.  This Vieques beach is in a protected cove, so it makes the water calm and gentle.

When I had enough of the Caribbean sun, there were gazebos to take refuge in or palm trees to relax under

Playa Caracas is located on the southern coast of Vieques in the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge (see entry below).  The beach is easy to find since you can just follow abundant signs to the Refuge. 

palm trees in the sand in the foreground and blue water in the background with a boat in Vieques Puerto Rico

Sun Bay Beach is another popular beach on Vieques Island.  It has smooth waves with lifeguards on duty during the daytime.  It has showers, bathrooms, and even a Caribbean food kiosk –everything you need for a relaxing day at the beach in Puerto Rico!

There are also plenty of palm trees to go around!

Sun Bay Beach is on the southern coast of Vieques and really close to Esperanza.  We stopped there after our lunch (see my lunch recommendations below).

Some other beaches in Vieques are Media Luna, Playa La Chiva, Playa Negra, Coconut Beach, El Gallito, Playa Esperanza, and Secret Beach.

Use the Vieques Beach map to find the perfect beach to put on your Vieques Itinerary!

Sign for the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge in Puerto Rico

The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, created by Congress with lands formerly managed by the Navy in 2001 and 2003, spans over 18,000 acres of diverse ecosystems. Its habitats include beaches, wetlands, and dry forests, providing sanctuary for various wildlife species of the Caribbean islands like the Antillean manatee, the brown pelican, and four species of sea turtles. The refuge is renowned for its efforts in protecting endangered sea turtles, such as the hawksbill and leatherback turtles, during nesting season.

Visitors to the refuge can enjoy activities like birdwatching, hiking, and wildlife photography amidst the tranquil natural surroundings.

PRO TIP:  The Refuge is the largest in the Caribbean and is open year-round with no entrance fee.

Vieques offers exceptional snorkeling opportunities with its vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life, while its scuba diving sites boast stunning underwater landscapes and the chance to encounter rare species such as sea turtles and eagle rays. Adventurers can explore Vieques’ pristine waters and discover an underwater world teeming with beauty and wonder.

boat in dark water in front of the setting sun

The Mosquito Bay on Vieques holds the Guinness Book of World Records title as the brightest biobay in the world. The large 160-acre area off the coast of Vieques in the Caribbean Sea is known worldwide for its magical sparkles in the water from the dinoflagellate that inhabit it and glow bright as the sun sets.

The best time to experience the bio bay is during a dark sky, so try to book your tour during a new moon.  The darker the night, the better your view of the sparkles.

The best way to experience the mesmerizing glow of the biobay is to book a kayak tour of the shallow waters of Mosquito Bay.

PRO TIP:  Book a tour with a company that has a clear bottom kayak for the ultimate best view of the spectacular display of light. That way you will be able to see the sparkling glow all around you and underneath your kayak as you paddle through the biobay

There are 700,000 dinoflagellates per gallon of water in Mosquito Bay.  They are a single-cell microorganism that converts internal chemical energy into light whenever they are disturbed –like by a kayak paddle!  This is their defense mechanism that wards off their predators. 

Scientists say the bioluminescent reaction does not harm the dinoflagellates at all.

lady hanging off the back of a blue golf cart while Riding around a golf cart on Culebra for a day in puerto Rico

Although Vieques is a small island, it’s not THAT small and you will still need transportation to get around. 

I recommend renting a golf cart or jeep.  The main roads are paved, but there are still a lot of bumpy dirt roads (some with potholes!) that will be tricky to safely navigate in a rental car (and keep the rental car in decent shape!).

PRO TIP:  Secure your rental ahead of time.  Many rental companies sell out.

restaurant front with patio and sign that says Duffy's in Vieques

Duffy’s was our lunch spot in Esperanza. The fish bites and waffle fries were delicious and really hit the spot after a long morning at the beach soaking up the sun. We sat on the patio and were able to enjoy the view of the calm blue water while we sipped our tropical drinks and nibbled on our lunch.

Duffy’s is located in Esperanza.

group of ladies standing under a palm tree on a beach i n Vieques

Vieques is not a typical mega-touristy Caribbean island with cruise ports teeming with tourists or all-inclusive high-rise condos lining the beaches. It doesn’t have golf courses or casinos.

It is laid-back and relaxing, filled with beautiful sandy beaches so that you can drift away under a palm tree listening to the sound of the surf. You can spend a day in Vieques or a week in Vieques, depending on how much you want to put on your Vieques Itinerary. One thing is for sure though, make sure you at least plan to take a day trip from San Juan to Vieques Puerto Rico to see all that this beautiful island has to offer!

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I didn’t know about the bioluminescent bay in Vieques–thanks for writing such an informative post!

Just enjoying a day at the beach and maybe a little snorkeling sounds pretty ideal on a snowy day like today.

What a great itinerary! I’d love to visit, especially the wildlife refuge.

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