Tips, Reality Checks & the Nickels & Dimes of our Vieques Vacation

Traveling is one of the few things I spend my money on. And when I say spend money, I mean on non-necessity items, the bare necessities, the icing to my life’s cake. I’m not a shopper, don’t have a shoe fettish, rarely get pedicures, never spa and am not a salon girl. I splurge on travel, good food and flights to new places.

Prefacing this blog entry with that bit, one could conclude I’m frugal. One would be perfectly correct in that assumption. I’ve found great resources to afford me the luxury of jet setting on a budget (not shopping would be a huge factor). Mike and I just got back from a 9 day vacation to Vieques (my daily activities are captured in previous posts) but I wanted to break down the tips we figured out once there, the reality check I got with a few things and how we did it (at least certain things) on the cheap.

Tips – no matter where you are going, check out this site. We found an amazingly simple apartment, with all the necessities, in a great location, for $75 a night. Yup, no W retreat for us ($300+ per night).

Rent a car – we initially thought bikes would suffice, it being a small island. Well, the first full day there, we saw most of what there was to see in Isabel iI. We found Coqui car rental (awesome!!!!) right near the ferry and couldn’t have been happier with our decision. There are beaches that would have taken hours to bike to. For $75 per day, it was worth every penny – We saw everything!

Bring your own snorkel gear – this is a personal thing, but if you like to snorkel, think you’ll do it more than once or twice in your life, it’s worth it! To rent can be $15-25 per day. We snorkeled the heck out of every beach and were glad to have our own gear.

Reality Check

It is hot!!! Sounds obvious, but I thought it might get chilly at night. It didn’t and I wish I had packed a few more sun dresses!

Learn a few phrases in Spanish – everyone spoke English, which is lovely, but a few of the local places have Spanish speaking employees and you can tell they appreciate you attempting. Plus, I got two breakfasts with meat, two days in a row, despite having asked for sans meat. If I had said it in Spanish….

5 days probably would have been enough. Don’t get me wrong, we had a wonderful time, but with staying in the same area for the entire time, well we saw it all (we are also go,go,go,go kind of people, so could just be us!)

Charter a sailboat. This was by far the coolest thing we did. Maybe it was the captain of the boat that took us out that solidified it, but the day we sailed on our private charter by far outweighed any other activity. For $300, which included a ton of drinks, 4 hours on the water, and a delicious lunch, amazing experience.

Buy breakfast things to make/eat on the go – we did not do this at all, despite having a kitchen. It’s fun to go out for breakfast, but I’m much more inclined to grab something and have a leisurely lunch. In hindsight, we should have done a few breakfasts in the apartment to save some $$$

Nickels and Dimes

Here’s a breakdown of what we spent

Denver flights: $743 for 2 adults
Cape Air flight: $448.20 for 2 adults
Car rental for 6 days: $481.50

Vieques charter: $300
Bioluminescent tour with black beards sports: $130 for 2 adults

At the corner panaderia (3 mornings): $15
At Buen Provencho (3 morning): $24-$36
At Roy’s: $21

Most between $42-$65 depending on cocktails

Coqui Fire cafe: $100 one night (several margaritas were had) $75 another
Bieke’s Bistro: $100
Duffy’s: $60 (just nachos & cocktails)
Noche: $200
Local restaurant (forget the name!): $45

All in all, we did good! Where we saved on lodging, we spent on food & cocktails, boats & bio tours. It was a beautiful trip, filled with sun, surf and sand. Any questions about what we did, drop me a line!!!

Happy traveling!

Sebastian, Shalamar & the Sea: Tuesday in Vieques

Today, we’d take to the open seas! We awoke with purpose, excited for the days sailing adventure that lay ahead of us! Not meeting captain Sebastian until 11, we skirted off to breakfast at Buen Provecho & chatted with our friends from Coqui Fire and the waitress & owner of Buen Provecho (you bump into the same locals at the good spots, so I can say with certainty they felt like friends!)

On our way to Esperanza, we chatted happily about the warm people we had met, the anticipation building for the afternoon of sailing. We parked the jeep and moseyed about, heading out to the dilapidated pier where we spotted trumpet fish swimming about. I felt moved to do a short yoga flow, the warm breeze washing over my body. It was the perfect state to be in for an afternoon at sea.

Walking over to the short dock to be scooped up by Sebastian’s dingy, I couldn’t be more excited! There’s something about the openness the ocean horizon conjures, the salt and sun on your face. We noticed a spotted ray as we boarded the dingy – the life under our feet!

The Shalamar
The Shalamar

The Shalamar glistened in the sun – a 1941 vessel, Captain Sebastian explained he had kept her in original condition and you could tell the integrity was still in tact. “I love her like one would love a mistress, for the money she gets from me, I must!”

Captain Sebastian
Captain Sebastian

The day was perfect, with snorkeling, a short sailing lesson, beautiful conversation, a delectable lunch, lots of wine and rum punch….

I could go on and on, trying to find the right words, romantic language that would be fitting of the absolutely glorious day we had, but I will not. My words would not do it justice….so, I’ll leave you with a few photos and your imagination.

Happy sailing!!!

My day at sea
My day at sea
The Wide Open Ocean
The Wide Open Ocean

Another Day in Paradise

Today, I awoke with small pangs of homesickness. Funny how that which can seem monotonous and mundane on a daily basis, can be missed when absent. Or maybe it’s validation of what an enjoyable everyday life we lead? Whatever the cause, I’ll try to muster the strength to continue.

Smoothies at Roy's
Smoothies at Roy’s

Today, we try Roys coffee lounge for breakfast, a cute hostel, hippie looking shop with a fabulous outside seating area. Great smoothie and veggie omelet, coffee not so much. But, we got to watch the cats play and a service dog lounge in the sun, so a very decent morning indeed.

Wanting a taste of adventure before beaching it, we headed towards the sugar mill ruins on the western part of the island. A maze of roads that were littered with wild horses and old navy bunkers used to house arsenal back when the navy had run of the island, wove us deeper into the jungle. Finally, we saw a hand painted sign that called out the ruins. Hopping out of the jeep, we followed a small path into the thick of it and found the remnants of what used to be a thriving sugar mill. I’m not sure how the industry got run out of the Caribbean, but will have to research.

Sugar Mill Ruins
Sugar Mill Ruins

The ruins satisfied our history fix, so we headed on the the nature tour – basically a rickety dock that wrapped a quarter of a mile into the mangroves. Mike wasn’t impressed, but I thought it was pretty interesting, to be almost floating on top of the roots & amazingly alive swamp. So much so, I did a side plank!

Another day in Paradise
Another day in Paradise

The beach we chose for the day was picturesque: completely secluded, palm trees, white sand beaches. The quintessential beach day stretched before us and we read, collected shells and lazily dipped in the water when the heat got too much. Truly a wonderful day that continued as we made our way into Esperanza for a bite to eat.

We found ourselves wanting to try somewhere new, so wandered into Bananas, a bar restaurant right along the main strip. A few happy hour drinks later (not very good ones, FYI, but cheap) we found ourselves talking to a Denver couple! They lived in Morrison, he worked in the roofing business and they were around our age. Small world! We got his info, so would hopefully catch up while back in reality.

After a bite, we decided we were close enough to sunset to enjoy another beverage at our favorite jaunt, Duffy’s. And boy, are we glad we did! The sunset was spectacular and the company, even better! An English gentleman by the name of Sebastian, struck up a conversation that led to one of the most engaging we’ve had thus far. Turns out he had a magnificent vessel, a sailboat, he could take us out on the next day, for he didn’t have any other charter guests. We signed up then and there and bide adieu until tomorrow, going to bed with the open ocean in our dreams.

A hermit crab in his shotgun she'll home.
A hermit crab in his shotgun she’ll home.