Travelers to the tiny island of Vieques, just seven miles off the eastern tip of Puerto Rico, tend to struggle over their accommodations selections. The 20 mile by 5 mile "Jewel of the Spanish Virgin Islands" isn't highly commercialized like the main island of Puerto Rico, or most of the U.S. Virgin Islands, so less adventurous tourists who generally look for brand-name hotels find themselves at a disadvantage on an island where the very best places to stay aren't part of a big chain.
In fact, Vieques has some absolutely incredible boutique hotels that shouldn't be overlooked when planning your trip. It's fair to say that you can't experience a true Vieques Island experience at the one large chain hotel on the island, surrounded by walls and featuring beaches that weren't there before the hotel.
The first two on my list of "Best Boutique Hotels on Vieques" have been famous for quite some time, but all five of the hotels on my list are places that discriminating travelers should seriously consider when booking a trip to this tiny paradise.
1. Hacienda Tamarindo – This beautiful bed and breakfast was named in the book "1,000 Places to Visit before You Die," and I agree completely. Before it was a hotel, the original building was a dance hall that Vermonters Burr and Linda Vail gutted, renovated, and expanded into an absolutely charming boutique hotel. The breakfasts, included with your stay, are legendary, and have been ranked byPuerto Rico Tourism multiple times. Located on a top of a hill about 150 yards from the beach, the view from the Caribbean-view rooms is unparalleled. And many believe their swimming pool has the best pool-view on the island. Over the years, they've expanded the property, and now it has a total of 17 rooms and suites, decorated in a combination of Caribbean/West Indies flavor and New England kitsch, configured to suit the taste and style of most anyone. (Full Disclosure: I got married at this hotel in 2004)
2. Hix Island House – Written about countless times in "Architectural Digest" and many eco-travel publications, famous architect John Hix designed this minimalist boutique hotel to suit the taste of travelers who would stay outside if it were practical. There's no air-conditioning, or screens in the windows, but most of the time, the hotel's perch on a hillside means there's plenty of breeze blowing through the 19 loft apartments to keep guests comfortable. Despite the very modern, raw concrete appearance of the buildings, Hix offers a hefty dose of luxury to its guests with its amazing outdoor showers, Frette linens, and kitchens equipped daily with everything you need to make your own breakfast, including homemade bread.
3. El Blok – The newest kid on the block (pun intended), completed in the end of 2014, El Blok brings taste of modern, fun and funky to the tourist strip on Vieques, in the tiny hamlet of Esperanza. This boutique hotel has 22 rooms and suites, with modern furnishings and fancy mattresses. But its crowning glory is the rooftop bar, with a breathtaking view of the Caribbean (there's also a plunge pool up there). There's no better spot to catch sunset on Vieques Island. Unlike many boutique hotels, it has a fine dining restaurant on site. Although there's absolutely nothing Caribbean about the hotel's exterior appearance, they describe their interior décor as "part sculpture and part contemporary oasis." The low-environmental impact design has been lauded by numerous travel and building publications.
4. Bravo Beach Hotel – This lovely waterfront property has enjoyed a renaissance over the past six years, since it was purchased and completely reinvented by Janna and Carl Halberg. With 18 rooms total, split between regular rooms, suites, and apartment-style units with kitchens, this boutique hotel offers the chic, directly on-the-water feel of much bigger, more expensive hotels, without losing the personal touch and ambiance that is so needed for a property on a tiny island. With two swimming pools and perfectly manicured tropical gardens, the BBH (as it's known by the locals) is its own oasis. While not expansive, it's designed in a manner that allows guests to feel posh without breaking the bank. The daily continental breakfast is a treat, too.
5. Blue Horizon Boutique Resort – This hotel is not new, but it's recently undergone a personality change. The Inn on the Blue Horizon was well-known for years before the new management recently decided it needed some re-invention. Waterfront, with direct access to a golden Caribbean beach, the 11-room hotel has a full restaurant that offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a fun circular bar that is popular with locals and tourists alike. The Caribbean-view pool is fantastic, but it's even better at night, with an underwater lighting scheme unlike anything else on the island. Most of the rooms are little cottages spread across the big coastal property, giving the illusion of complete privacy. One wedding guest described it to me as the ultimate place for adults to experience a luxury summer camp, year round. And yes, it also has tennis courts.
Have you stayed at any of these boutique hotels on Vieques? If so, share with us in the comments below.