{This is a post from one of my trips to the Caribbean back in early summer that somehow never got posted… I discovered it the other day and wanted to post it, as the island of Vieques has been on my heart since the devastation of Hurricane Maria a couple of weeks ago. There’s not a lot of news coming out of Vieques as the island remains predominantly without communication, but my thoughts are with them and all of Puerto Rico as they work to rebuild their lives and beautiful islands.}

Have you ever dreamed of an island where towering palms sway gently in the breeze over crescent-shaped beaches, crystal-clear turquoise with barely a ripple stretches over white sand, lagoons glow in the dark with bio-luminescence, and wild horses roam free?

Well, I found that island.

Vieques postcard

Vieques is a tranquil Caribbean island off the coast of Puerto Rico

Vieques, a small island off the east coast of Puerto Rico, 28 miles and a 1.5 hour ferry ride from Fajardo.

Getting there can be a bit of an adventure, but once you arrive it’s impossible to carry a single stress onto land with you.

I hadn’t planned to visit Vieques on this specific trip to Puerto Rico, but after hearing someone in a hostel wax eloquent about it – the endless stretches of white sand, the wild horses, the best-in-the-world BioBay – I decided to check it out.

A brief internet search as well as conversations with a few other hostellers told me that the process of getting a ferry ticket from Fajardo to Vieques can be anything from challenging to impossible (…or infuriating, depending who you talk to 😉 ) Ferries run only a few times a day, there are a limited number of seats, and residents get priority, so even if you’ve been waiting in line for hours, a local resident who shows up last minute will be given preference over you. Knowing this, I showed up three hours before the ferry’s scheduled departure time and two hours before the ticket counter opened.

Parking across the street from the dock is just $5/day, but can also fill up fast.

There were only about eight people in front of me in the “nonresident” line when I arrived, which seemed like good odds, and I settled in for a long, hot wait in the sun.

An hour passed, and then two, but the curtain on the ticket window never moved.

Tourists around me began to get restless and tried asking security guards milling around what was going on, but they simply shrugged and continued their pacing and fanning. It gets hot midday in the Caribbean sun.

It was finally ascertained that the ferry boat – our boat – had been detained and seized by the US Coast Guard on its return trip to Fajardo because of failing some sort of inspection. They were in the process of trying to get the Coast Guard to release it or to find an alternative boat, but had no idea when – or if – that would happen. In the meantime, our only option if we wanted to get to Vieques was to continue standing in line.

Another hour passed before they finally began selling tickets, although the tickets were for the last boat of the day, four hours after the scheduled departure of the one I’d been planning to take. I didn’t care, though – I had a ticket in my hands and it felt as valuable as gold.

Vieques sunset

Sunset from Esperanza, a village on the south side of Vieques

It was dark by the time I reached Vieques. It was a 15-minute taxi ride from the ferry dock on the north side of the island to Lazy Hostel in Esperanza, a village on the south side of the island.

Originally I’d planned to stay just one night, but after waking up and setting eyes for the first time on the daylight magic of Vieques, the plan changed.

Vieques boat

A tired old boat’s final resting spot of the coast of Vieques, Puerto Rico

I spent three days running the twisty island roads, exploring wide, crescent-shaped beaches where wild horses roamed free, floating in turquoise ocean that was as calm as a pool, and completely checking out from the outside world. Vieques feels a world away from the rest of Puerto Rico and even farther removed from the rest of the world – a little safe haven of quiet, beauty, and wildness.

Esperanza, Vieques

Crystal clear waters as far as the eye can see surround the island of Vieques

While part of the magic and beauty of Vieques is its isolation, the island and her 10,000 residents are in dire need after the destruction of Hurricane Maria because of that isolation. If you are interested in learning more or helping out the people of Vieques, you can do so at ViequesLove, a nonprofit started after the hurricane to bring aid to residents of Vieques.