Highlights Of The Spanish Virgin Islands
When you think of sailing and Puerto Rico in the same sentence, you probably imagine your route through from the US to the popular charter spots of British Virgin Islands or US Virgin Islands. In fact, many seasoned sailors have only seen the inside of Puerto Rico airport, without realizing there’s a sailing paradise awaiting them only miles away…
Tourism companies do a very good job of promoting the virtues of taking a sailing vacation in the other Virgin Islands, which is why the Spanish Virgin Islands can often be overlooked.
If you’re in search of a taste of paradise found – stretches of deserted beaches, unspoilt exotic wildlife, stunning rustic landscapes, warm breezes and clear waters – it’s time to discover the Spanish Virgin Islands
This mysterious paradise awaits discovery 6 miles to the east of the Puerto Rico mainland. There are many direct flights from the US, with travel time as short as three hours. Even better – US citizens can benefit from the convenience of zero passport requirements and no customs checks. English is widely spoken, there are no roaming charges with most cell providers, and the US Dollar is the local currency. Sounds too good to be true, right?
With the British Virgin Islands and US Virgin Islands being the well-known hive of sailing activity that they are, you might be surprised to hear that there are only 22 boats available to charter in the Spanish Virgin Islands (compared with over 600 hundred in BVI). This should give you an idea of the peaceful, less-crowded vibe that awaits you in the SVI. Although these islands are far less busy in terms of tourists, there are still many great bars, restaurants and provisioning opportunities. The people are friendly, the water is warm, the Caribbean winds are fantastic and the mooring balls are plentiful. What more could you ask for?
Sailing in SVI
In terms of sailing, the SVI may be better explored once you’ve had a couple of BVI or USVI trips under your belt. There are quite a few reefs to navigate, which will be a breeze for more confident sailors, but perhaps not ideal for beginners.
As well as incredible sailing around the Puerto Rico mainland, the island-hopping experience of the larger islands and smaller cays and islets is second to none.
Puerto Rico Mainland
Before you embark on your charter, it’s well worth exploring Puerto Rico (or at the end of your trip, if you have some extra time before your return flight).
Old San Juan has vibrant, well-maintained, old buildings and streets to wander across. It also boasts excellent amenities, with plenty of shops, bars, restaurants and hotels to keep you entertained on land.
The six-story El Morro fortress looms over San Juan harbor. The tunnels and barracks will take you back in time to the 16th century, when this fortress was built to protect the island from attacks.
Also towering and impressive – El Yunque National Rainforest offers excellent hiking, with clearly marked routes for different abilities.
Puerto del Rey Marina is one of the largest in the Caribbean, with space for over 2000 boats. It’s a very well-equipped complex, with excellent connections.
20 miles long, and 4.5 miles wide, Vieques is the largest of the Spanish Virgin Islands. This is a hive of culture and culinary delights, with incredible restaurants and bars offering fresh, local delicacies.
Esperanza is a popular stop, for good reason. As well as the aforementioned cuisine, there are some hip cocktail bars and good shopping to enjoy.
From Esperanza, head over to Mosquito Bay and book yourself onto a nighttime BioLuminescence kayak tour through the bay. As your paddles or hands moved through the water, the microorganisms react, creating incredible neon light. This natural phenomenon is not to be missed!
The island also has some more unusual residents, the Paso Fino ponies. These wild horses have free reign of the island and can be found grazing at the roadsides and roaming around the beaches.
Culebra is known for its rugged coastline and white beaches. The island is approximately 22 miles from Puerto Rico mainland, and the best spot to moor is Ensenada Honda. Culebra is only 7 miles by 3 miles, with less than 2,000 locals, so it’s hardly a hub of partying and nightlife.
The main town is Dewey, a quirky assembly of small wooden houses and a few excellent bars and restaurants. The real highlights of this island are the beaches.
Playa Flamenco regularly features on ‘top ten’ beaches lists, even at international level. What really strikes you about this area is the unspoilt, natural beauty. Miles of sand and minimal developments. That’s not to say there aren’t amenities, but there’s a real sense of island life – returning to nature and taking it easy.
In terms of sailing, the coastline has plenty of rocky bays and coves to explore, either from your tender or kayak. The snorkelling around Playa Tamarindo is particularly spectacular, with turtles and rays enjoying the warm shallow waters.
Culebrita lies just east of Culebra, and is a small, uninhabited corner of paradise. The entire island is a wildlife refuge, and as such turtle sightings are common. There are four species known to nest on the beautiful beaches surrounding the island. The snorkelling here is also excellent, with spots either side of the harbor to become acquainted with the many species of fish and marine life.
From Playa Tortuga, take the trail to Culebrita Lighthouse. This crumbling 19th century monument is worth exploring, and adds to the rustic feel of the island. Beware of the goats who’ve set up home here!
These are just a few of the highlights of the stunning Spanish Virgin Islands. If you’re curious to know more about chartering in this paradise, see our Virgin Island Catamaran Charters or contact your yacht.vacations consultant today.