Visit Playa Caracas on Vieques, With a Car or Not
Vieques is a small island, located about 8 miles east of the big island of Puerto Rico, that is known for its beautiful and remote beaches. One of the problems with remote beaches is that they are hard to get to, so you have to figure out some type of transportation. On Vieques, rental Jeeps are the vehicle of choice. But since it’s a small island, car rentals are limited, and they can go for a premium price.
Thanks to some relatively recent road improvements on Vieques, you don’t need have a car to enjoy a great beach there. Playa Caracas (aka Red Beach) is one of the beautiful beaches in the US Fish & Wildlife reserve, and now that the road to it is paved, it is accessible by the local public transportation.
Day-Trip or More?
The island of Vieques is usually recommended as a destination for beach-lovers. If you do go to Vieques, it is best that you plan on staying for a few nights, in order to get a feel for the island and to give yourself enough time to sample some of the amazing beaches. Having said that, Vieques is still an enjoyable day-trip if that is all the time that your vacation schedule allows.
Given those options, what’s the best way to get to Vieques? Well, that’s really an individual decision, but sometimes the ferry system is a nightmare. It’s commonly said that “If you have more time than money, take the ferry. If you have more money than time, take a plane”. So it’s really up to you how to spend you vacation time and money.
Regardless of how you get to Vieques, there will be a taxi (carro público) available at the ferry terminal or airport ready to take you where you want to go. These are shared vans that may stop a few times along the route, depending on the passengers’ needs.
Beaches, Beaches, Beaches
It used to be that Sun Bay Beach (Playa Sombe) in Esperanza was the only beach that the public transport vans (públicos) would go to. It is a great beach, but having options is nice!
A few years ago, the US Fish & Wildlife Service paved the road to Playa Caracas, which opened up a whole new day trip experience! Since now has easy access, Playa Caracas will not be secluded. If you go early in the day, you will have just a few other beach-goers. But as the day progresses, it can get more crowded (especially mid-day, weekends, and summer). But there is lots of room for everyone, and it is a beautiful beach and worth a visit, no matter what!
Playa Caracas is one of my favorite beaches on Vieques. It has beautiful white sand, clear Caribbean-blue water, some picnic shelters, a large open parking area, and even a composting toilet. There is even some decent snorkeling on the left side of the cove. To the right side of the cove, there is a nice rock wall with some cool “caves” — makes nice photos.
There is not a lot of shade on the beach, just a few small palms in the grassy areas. Having a beach umbrella would be helpful, though we found a cool, shaded area all the way in the back right corner that we claimed as our own a few times.
The wave conditions vary depending on the season, wind, weather, etc. It can be almost flat with no waves one day, and then have some great body-boarding waves the next.
The area to the left side of the cove seemed much calmer most days we have been there, with more wave action as you go to the right side of the cove.
There is some seaweed up a the high-tide mark in the sand, but not enough to be a bother.
We snorkeled here on the left side of the cove, along the rocks and around into deeper water. There was not a ton of coral, but there were a decent number of fish of all types, and an area with an amazing sea fan “garden” — loads of purple and yellow fans swaying in the current … just beautiful.
Topside, there is a “trail” that goes to the left along the rocks where you can get some nice photos of the beach, and some rock “cliffs”. But wear sturdy-soled shoes as they rocks are sharp!
You will need to bring everything you need to this beach as there are no food/drink stands there. No lifeguards either. We encountered some burrs in the grass, so wear sandals when not in sand.
The F&W National Wildlife Refuge is open 7 days/week, from 7am until dark (7:30pm).
There is no charge to use the beaches in the US Fish & Wildlife reserve. If you need to take a público, the fares are regulated … It’s $5/person one-way from the ferry or airport to Playa Caracas or Playa Sun Bay. The driver may charge you a little more if you have a lot of bags with you.
If you’re taking a público, tell the driver what time you want to be picked up. Or just catch a different público when you are ready to leave. When we visited, a new público seemed to so show up every 15 minutes or so. Most cell phones get reception at the beach, so you might want to keep the driver’s name/number handy in case you want to leave at a particular time.
If you do have a rental car, just enter the US Fish & Wildlife beach road and watch for signs to turn to the right. There is plenty of (free) parking.
Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.
- Red Beach / Playa Caracas: (18.109317, -65.413233)
PuertoRicoDayTrips.com assumes no responsibility regarding your safety when participating in the activities described in this article. Please use common sense! If your mother or that little voice in your head tells you that you are about to do something stupid … then don't do it!