December 13, 2017

Travel Sacrifices (Why We’re Not Going to Vieques)


We fly to Puerto Rico in a couple of days and I’m definitely feeling more stressed than excited right now. There are a bunch of loose ends to tie up both here and there before getting on that 6 a.m. flight on Saturday, including figuring out just what we’re going to do each day we’re there.

Many people see a beach vacation as just that, an opportunity to lounge on the beach for the duration of their stay, but that’s really not me. I picked Puerto Rico specifically because there’s so much more to do there than lay on the beach, like the El Yunque rain forest, the Castillo de San Cristobal (an old Spanish fort in San Juan), and Vieques, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

I’m at the point of vacation planning where I’m spending a lot of time online getting details on where and when to go to various points of interest. I’ve been on TripAdvisor a lot since Tuesday reading traveler reviews too, which is great for finding out about nearby restaurants and local tour guides.

So I really wanted to go to Vieques, but the title of the post kind of gives away that we’re not going after all, doesn’t it? I probably spent a good hour on Tuesday night researching Vieques, including how to get there, best beaches on the island and optimal days during the week to go (avoid weekends at all costs). I even tweeted with a couple of extremely kind people who live in San Juan who answered my questions.

Here’s what I learned about Vieques from my research:

The Ferry is Highly Unreliable: Most people take the ferry to Vieques, but I had no idea how unreliable it is said to be, particularly later in the day. If the ferry is supposed to be there to take me (and my probably tired, sandy and cranky kids) home at 4:30 p.m., I need it to be there. You can also take a plane from San Juan or Ceiba, but it’s much more expensive.

Residents Can Cut the Line: I guess what I mean by that is that Vieques residents take priority over non-residents, so I might wait in line for an hour to get a ticket, and then a whole bunch of Vieques residents could walk up close to departure time, and we’d be left sitting in the terminal.

You Can’t Make Reservations: It’s hard to believe, but you can neither make reservations nor can you buy ferry tickets online. So you need to arrive early (at least one hour in advance) and then there’s still no guarantee you’ll make it on the ferry.

You Need a Car on Vieques: You don’t need a car, but to get to any of the more beautiful beaches for snorkeling and sunning, like Blue Beach and Green Beach, you need a car. If you rent a car at the airport in San Juan, you can’t take that car with you (prohibited in the rental agreement). You can rent a car in Vieques, but what if you reserve a car and then can’t make the ferry over to Vieques?

If you know me you know that I’m not good with managing uncertainty, and there was way too much uncertainty involved in a day trip to Vieques. I like a plan that works, and I knew there was too much that could fall part so easily with a visit to Vieques. So, even though I’d been desperate to go to Vieques, it’s going to need to wait for a trip another day, maybe when it’s just me and my husband, rather than the nine of us that are going to Puerto Rico this time.

I’m only 38, which kind of sounds old as I write it down, but I hope to be back to Puerto Rico again one day, so I’m fine with this sacrifice today. I feel like when you’re traveling with family, and little ones in particular, it’s just what you need to do, but that’s okay. I’m sure people have made travel sacrifices for me before and will do so in the future. Besides, to my kids, a beach is just a beach, so we’ll make sand castles closer to the condo.

Have you made any travel sacrifices for your family? Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: DavidSC78


  1. Erin – you can get Vieques tickets a day in advance (we did), though you have to go in person. Vieques is much less popular than Culebra (ticket there sell out quickly), and I don’t think you’ll have any problem getting on the boat. There are vans at the dock that will take you to the beach you want, and you arrange a pick-up time. We did try to rent a car for the day, but there were no available rentals (we were there over Christmas week). Our boat did run late coming home, but we were prepared with snacks (and you can buy cold drinks at the dock). We had a great time there that day, but it was a long day and definitely was not as carefree as I would have liked (plus the beach we went to, Red Beach, had no restrooms or amenities). If we were to go back to Vieques, we’d stay overnight and have a more leisurely time there.

    FYI – my story on Puerto Rico with Kids was just published in the Miami Herald – you might find it helpful.

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