Vieques: More Than Just Beaches – North Side
While Vieques is known for it’s beautiful beaches, there are some other neat non-beachy things to do on the island. There are a lot of beautiful and interesting natural sites, and some man-made items, worth checking out — much of them steeped in local island history.
On their own, these things might not be “the most amazing” things to see. But on those days when you are too sunburned to go to the beach, or if you’re just tired of the beach and want to go exploring, some of the more unusual sites on this list could make for a fun couple of hours. Or make a day of it and go explore all of these sites.
All of these sites are on the north side of Vieques, and we’ve listed them starting on the north-east and heading to the north-west. All of these can be visited in a day.
Tombs of Teofilo Le Guillou & Family
This is a small family cemetery from mid-1800s. Teofilo Le Guillou was a French immigrant who was the governor and military commander of Vieques from 1832-1843. He established a number of sugar plantations on the island. He died in 1843 and is buried in the Le Guillou sector of Isabel Segunda, on the grounds of one of his sugar plantations.
There are about 6 tombs here. Teofilo and his wife are buried in the large rounded-top tomb with an inscription, surrounded by a wrought iron fence. There are 5 others outside the fence. One of them is pyramid-shaped and pretty cool-looking. Sadly, they are located on private property and are not always kept cleared. Sometimes local groups come and clean around them. This small cemetery is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The cemetery is located off Route 200 in the Le Guillou sector of Isabel Segunda.
Vieques Humane Society
The Vieques Humane Society can always use help from volunteers to walk the dogs, interact with the animals that are there, and help out with other chores. If you don’t have time to help out, you can make a donation or drop off some much-needed supplies. Give them a call (787-741-0209) ahead of time to find out what you might be able to do to help.
Punta Mulas Lighthouse
Known locally as El Faro de Vieques, the Punta Mulas Lighthouse (pictured at the top of this article) was built in 1896, and overlooks the port of Isabel Segunda. The lighthouse was restored in 1992, but (due to deterioration) it has been closed to visitors for the past couple years. Sometimes the gates of the yard are open (but not during our recent visits). If you can go on the grounds, do it — there are some great views of the port below.
Fortin Conde de Mirasol
This old fort (completed 1855) is open for visitors and well worth a stop. Completely restored by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, the fort houses an archaeology exhibit, a space for rotating art exhibits (usually by local artists), and classrooms. Outside, you’ll find cannons, and sweeping views of the town and bay below.
We first visited this fort back in 2009, and you can read the article that we wrote at that time to find out more about the fort.
Municipal Cemetery at Isabel Segunda
Located right on Calle Canon just past the barge, this old cemetery has so many crypts it is almost impossible to walk around without “stepping on someone”. It offers some pretty views of the water and the east coast of Puerto Rico.
It has some interesting looking tombs in it. The oldest we saw was from around 1896. Most of the tombstones are marked “DEP” for “Descanse en Paz” (that’s Spanish for “RIP” / “Rest in Peace”).
Sea Glass Beach
I know this article is supposed to be about non-beach things to do. But this is a beach for beach-combing, not for swimming nor working on your tan.
Playa Cofi is supposed to be the beach for collecting sea glass on Vieques. It’s a pretty beach, and we’ve had some good luck finding sea glass here. Thanks in part to the dump that used to be on the west side of Isabel Segunda. Read more about hunting sea glass on Vieques in the article we wrote back in 2013.
The Ceiba Tree
Heading west along Route 200, you will see the large Ceiba tree on the right. No one knows how old the tree is, but it is said to be over 300 years old. There is a little pavilion near the tree with information about the Ceiba tree and some other ecologically-minded topics.
Ceiba trees can grow to be huge, with “buttress” roots that support the massive trunk. The wood of a Ceiba tree is soft, which made it easy for the Tainos to hollow out the tree trunks to make huge canoes.
Traveling along Route 200, after the Ceiba tree you will come to Mosquito Pier, known locally as Rompeolas. This pier is actually a mile-long seawall that breaks the waves coming from the east to create a calm area to the west of the pier. There is a road that runs the length of the pier, and you can drive maybe ¾ of the length of the pier (at which point the road is closed with a gate).
You can snorkel/SCUBA off on the left side at the far end and snorkel in a calm waters at the shore. We have seen sea turtles swimming among the pilings that support the pier, but be careful of currents and waves while snorkeling (that might cause you to swim into one of the posts). We enjoy watching the sunset from this pier.
Playa Grande Sugar Mill Ruins
Continuing west on Route 200, the Playa Grande Sugar Mill ruins are accessible from the first “real” road on the left. This is a long road, and the ruins will be on the right at the point where the road turns sharply to the left. Look for the sign.
We visited these ruins back in 2013, and wrote an article about Playa Grande Sugarmill ruins that you should read for more info.
Continuing west on Route 200, you will come to a large field that always has lots of horses on it. This is also where you will find the Eumenical chapel. Originally constructed in 1999 by the Camp Garcia Navy Base, it was a symbol of peace during the push to get the Navy to stop bombing practice on Vieques. The current chapel is a reconstruction of the original. There is a memorial marker behind the chapel for a man accidentally killed during one of the Navy’s practice bombing runs. There are also some gazebos at the waterfront. Sadly, the chapel and surrounding area are not well-maintained.
Navy Storage Bunkers
Continuing west on Route 200, on the left just before the entrance to the US Fish & Wildlife area, you’ll find a couple roads that lead to the old Navy storage bunkers. These roads are not really maintained, so getting to the bunkers could be more of an adventure than you bargained for (it was for us!).
The first road is in the best (being a relative term) shape, and it takes you to the larger bunkers. Really, these just look like warehouses covered with dirt/grass. There are roads on both sides (take the road to the right – it has been widened). To get back to Route 200, you’ll have to backtrack.
The last road on the left before the F&W area leads to the smaller bunkers. This road is in really bad shape – it is very thin and overgrown. When we were there, this road was really only accessible by bicycle.
As you enter the US Fish & Wildlife area, the packed dirt road (that at times can be in really bad shape!) passes by Kiani Lagoon. They made a little wildlife refuge on the left, with informational signs and and a short boardwalk with 2 small viewing areas. Here you can see the lagoon and Mt. Pirata. Be sure to take insect repellent (there are lots of mosquitoes). The boardwalk was in disrepair when we were here in February 2014.
Our final thing on our non-beach list is … another beach! If you continue down the road in the F&W area, you’ll come to Punta Arenas. The beach here is so-so, but it does offer some nice views of Puerto Rico and some decent snorkeling.
Make sure to pack a lunch and plenty to drink. Once you get out of town, there will be nowhere to buy food or drinks.
Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.
- Cementerio Municipal de Vieques: (18.147443, -65.443539)
- Central Playa Grande Sugar Mill Ruins: (18.095442, -65.520185)
- Eumenical Chapel: (18.126903, -65.524615)
- Fort Conde de Mirasol: (18.147330, -65.439173)
- Kiani Lagoon: (18.117095, -65.561995)
- Mosquito Pier: (18.134376, -65.511985)
- Playa Cofi: (18.145433, -65.452902)
- Punta Mulas Lighthouse: (18.154483, -65.443448)
- Tomb of Teofilo Le Guillou: (18.152699, -65.432354)
- US Navy Storage Bunkers, Vieques: (18.115304, -65.548317)
- Vieques Ceiba Tree: (18.133255, -65.505436)
- Vieques Humane Society: (18.156330, -65.429333)
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!