Tiny Vieques Island, located just seven miles off the eastern tip of Puerto Rico, has been showing up on a lot of BEST lists over the past few years. For an island whose real launch into tourism didn't happen until after the millennium, when the government of Puerto Rico kicked the U.S. Navy off of its base that had occupied two-thirds of the island for last 60 years, the multiple BEST rankings are pretty impressive.
When the Navy left, the former military base was reclaimed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, and those lands became part of theVieques Wildlife Refuge. What does that mean? It means that literally miles of pristine beach will forever be protected from the commercialization that has so changed the rest of the Caribbean.
In fact, the Vieques Wildlife Refuge was named "Best Tropical National Wildlife Refuge" in 2016. It made the USA Today Readers' Choice "Top Ten Best National Wildlife Refuges" list in 2015.
Vieques making the top of the BEST lists isn't all that new, in fact it's gotten to be a habit for the island of less than 10,000 residents. In 2012, Vieques Island was named "Best Island in the Caribbean" by Travel & Leisure magazine. It made the list again in 2016, although it wasn't number one.
The Thrillist put Vieques on its list of the "25 Best Beaches in the World," but not for anyplace you'd go sunbathing. They're excited about Mosquito Bay, home of the very famous Vieques bioluminescent bay, widely considered to be the brightest bio-bay in the world. Visitors to the island can take a nighttime tour of the sparkling waters on an electric pontoon boat, or in kayaks. It's something that belongs on every traveler's bucket list, and it definitely earned its spot on this list.
What's interesting is the way Vieques keeps popping up in the more unusual BEST categories, too. Its very special Black Sand Beach made Conde Nast Traveler's list of the "Top 10 Beaches for Perfect Sand" in 2015. The black beach is spectacular, but the white sand and blue water on Playa Caracas (also known as Red Beach) is straight off of a magazine cover.
Bloomberg put Vieques on its list of the "9 Best Places to Go" for summer travel. And The Huffington Post gave Vieques a spot on their enthusiastic list of "15 Islands You Need in Your Life."
FOX News Travel wins the award for putting Vieques Island on the silliest BEST list I've ever seen. Yes, ladies and gentleman, apparently this tiny jewel of the Spanish Virgin Islands is also one of the "Top Ten Places to Have a Pool Party in the World." Who even knew that was a thing? But I suppose for the highly discriminating pool aficionado, it's helpful to have a solid venue recommendation from a major new organization.
Vieques appears on lots of BEST lists that aren't referenced in this column, but this list has provided you with an interesting cross-section of the highlights the 20-by-7-mile island has to offer. The best way to figure out what you think is BEST about Vieques is to visit – it's only a 20-minute puddle jumper flight from San Juan International airport, or a 90-minute, $2 ferry ride from Fajardo, just a 45-minute taxi ride from San Juan. And because Puerto Rico is part of the United States, no passports are required for U.S. citizens.
Have you traveled to the island of Vieques? If so, share your experiences with us in the comments below!