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Vieques, Puerto Rico
web: starwood.com

By Roberta C. Stone, Correspondent

About Vieques Island, Puerto Rico // Located seven miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico, Vieques, or “Little Nena,”(Little Sister) was named by the Taino Indian tribe and sited by Columbus in 1493. The Spanish occupied the 22-mile long island for two centuries and built Fort Conde de Mirasol, the last military fort built by the Spaniards in the Western Hemisphere. They planted sugar cane for rum making and searched fruitlessly for gold. The English took over occupation of the island in the 17th century and were defeated by the Americans in the Spanish American War in 1898. It has since been an American protectorate. In 1941, the Navy took control of the island as a World War II outpost and training ground for Pacific bound troops. They finally vacated Vieques in 2003, leaving in their wake many restricted areas that are as yet undeveloped. There are still dirt roads leading to pristine beaches that the navy left behind, a Caribbean unspoiled by high rises and over development.

About Wyndham Martineau Bay Resort and Spa // A tranquil and lush paradise, the Wyndham Martineau Bay Resort, kissed by the Atlantic Ocean on its northern beachfront is, according to www.forbes.com, "among the Caribbean's best kept vacation secrets." It sits on 42 acres fronting the sea and most rooms have an unobstructed view of the ocean. The Martineau has 156 ample sized guest rooms, including 20 suites. Rooms are decorated in a simple Spanish-French motif. Furniture is hand made and rooms and public areas have local artwork. Tiled baths have double sinks, large showers and sunken Jacuzzi tubs where you can bathe and look at the sea. Guests sleep in comfortable beds with fluffy comforters with a deck emptying out to the sea – a great place for evening cocktails.

In the common areas, a casual, elegance pervades the wide verandas and plantation style architecture of the two story buildings, invoking images of the old south. Paths meander this way and that, all within the sound and sight of the ocean. The resort has two restaurants and a bar and lounge and all can be enjoyed with peaceful ocean views.

The large pool is lovingly set amid lush, tropical gardens with comfortable lounges on which to relax, or try lunch while sitting in the pool on a stool.

After a tiring day on one of the three the hotel beaches, kick back at the Golden Door Spa on the premises – a 5000 square foot facility available to cater to your every need.

The Meeting House, located conveniently next to Reception can accommodate conventions or large group gatherings up to 176 people.

If you choose to explore outside the resort, rent a car and drive on the winding roads that go through uninhabited stretches of land where you will run into the occasional cattle or wild horse that roams freely on the island. There are empty, beautiful beaches on the southern side of the island to explore that can only be reached by four-wheel drive vehicles over dirt roads. The entire island appears to be an anachronism of the 1950’s. Time is slow here.

Entertainment // Enjoy Happy Hour at the Lobby Bar or the Pool Grill. Better yet, walk across the street to the M Bar for tropical concoctions and a fun crowd. There are two main towns you can drive to with low-key venues; Isabela Segundo and Esperanza. There you will find little bars and eateries to enjoy the views. If it is glitzy nightlife you are after, take a ferry to Puerto Rico.

Cuisine // The Martineau Resort, being small and intimate, has only two eating choices. Paso Fino is the more formal of the two serving continental dinners and breakfasts indoors or on the hotel’s veranda overlooking the ocean. For a more casual meal, try the Isla Nena Pool Grill. It is open for lunch daily and offers a weekly dinner theme-night buffet. Venturing out of the complex, again, the M Bar across the street has excellent seafood as well as Caribbean cuisine. Drive to Isabel Segundo (II) for a meal at Al’s Mar Azul for good food, “great people and sunsets.” A really fun place is Chez Shack, a hopping little house in the middle of nowhere with great ambience and a native flair. I really liked driving to the South end of the island – a distance of about five miles from the resort- to eat in Esperanza, where casual eclectic dining can be had, and all with views of the Caribbean. I especially liked Bananas, which served burgers, chicken and fish dishes in a funky open air atmosphere. I loved the Trade Winds Restaurant with a more formal dinner menu served al fresco in a charming, noisy setting, where, by the end of the night, everyone knew each other. When dining on this island, take the advice of frequent visitors. They seem to know the hideaways that elude the common tourist.

Shopping // Aside from the very nice gift shop located on the premises, there really wasn’t much retail therapy on Vieques. There were a few nice art and ceramic galleries in the two main towns as well as souvenir shops, but truthfully, people don’t come here to shop, they come to relax and rejuvenate. Again, catch the ferry in Isabel Segundo for the hour and a half ride to the mainland where you can shop till you drop.

Activities // The resort has two tennis courts and complimentary access to the fitness center, where guests can work with free weights and cardiovascular equipment.

The Golden Door Spa has steam rooms, whirlpools and saunas as well as massage packages and other spa treatments.

There is snorkeling gear, sunfishes or kayaks to use at the resort beach, just steps away from your room, or enjoy a day by the pool. Scuba diving lessons are also offered at the pool or a nearby bay, and if you pass, you can earn your PADI certification at the resort. The concierge can arrange salt water fly fishing, deep sea fishing, sailing, kayaking, hiking, biking, water sports or horseback riding for you.

Rental cars are a must if you want to explore the island and can be had for $40.00-$60.00 a day. The beaches on the southern Caribbean side are remote, empty and beautiful, just like in the movies. White powder beaches caressed by turquoise blue velvet water can be found if you have a four wheel drive vehicle that can get you there. Three "must see" ones are Red Beach, Blue Beach and Green Beach, so named by the creative Navy folk. Because the island has a lot of open space left by the US Navy, nature trails abound. A variety of guided tours to explore these trails are available day OR night. Other choices for recreation on Vieques include eco tours, trekking, backpacking, bicycling (the island isn’t exceptionally hilly).

Places to See // Vieques is known to have the world’s most spectacular bioluminescent bays at Puerto Mosquito. I recommend the night kayak tour where you paddle out into the bay in the dark with other lunatics like yourself to see the plankton light up neon green with any movement from the boat, the paddle or your body. Our tour guide made us jump in the water( about 80 degrees) to see and feel the sensation. Night scuba dives are also awesome!

You can make arrangements with the concierge for this once in a lifetime experience. Horseback rides on secluded beaches in the moonlight or to view a sunset are popular.

Vieques is a fly fishing bonanza. You can opt for a half or whole day excursion to catch the local bonefish, bonito, sailfish or wahoo or charter a flight to nearby Culebra to fish for tarpon or catch bonefish at Anageda Reef. Most trips include a lunch buffet.

How to Get There // Wyndham Martineau Bay and Resort is just a short flight( 10-15 minutes) from San Juan International Airport and Isla Grande Airport, and just seven minutes from Fajardo Airport. Cape Air seems to be the most popular, and also provides direct service from St. Croix and St. Thomas. A ferry leaves three times daily from Fajardo and takes approximately one hour and fifteen minutes. Guests receive complimentary transfers to and from the airport or ferry terminal in Vieques.

Tips // Do not leave this tropical paradise without taking the bioluminescent tour in Mosquito Bay. The bay is aptly named, so make sure you bring non-toxic bug spray. The inhabitants are ecologically minded. Rent a car – its cheap and the island is small enough so you can see it all in a few days, or rent a mountain bike – the hills are easy and the back roads empty, except for the horses and cattle. This way you can hear the tropical birds and coqui frogs. Try the island food specialties, especially the fresh fish caught in the sea that surrounds you – you can have a hamburger and fries when you get home. Kayak the hidden coves and bays – they are beautiful and pristine. Try the Cuban coffee – it’s said to be the “coffee of popes and kings” – and it is utterly delicious and worth the extra expense.

By Roberta C. Stone, Correspondent

In the Martineau Bay Resort, I felt like I had my own private villa by the ocean. Each morning I could put on the plush terry robe provided by the management, and have my morning coffee(Cuban of course) on the terrace overlooking the Atlantic. The hotel’s architecture respects the privacy of each visitor, so even though you are surrounded, you are alone.

It is easy to relax and kick back here, as the resort exudes a sense of peace, especially with the sound of the ocean at your doorstep. Each night my husband and I walked to the end of the path, sat in two random lawn chairs and watched the sunset in our “own private ocean.” At bedtime, we found delicious chocolates on our pillows, and flower petals surrounding our sunken tub.

The only sounds were the ocean waves and the coqui frogs that seemed to be singing, “Come back, come back.” I will. It was paradise.


ROOMS: 156 (INcl 20 Suites)
CLOSEST AIRPORT: Antonio Rivera Rodríguez Airport