When I got up to make coffee, I noticed a couple chickens running around the yard, so I fed them some torn-up bread. Patio chickens!! I wanted to keep them.
We got our stuff piled into the Jeep again, and headed to find another beach. Our destination this time was Navio, because it was one of the most secluded, and our hacienda’s owner said there were tidal caves at one end.
According to our tourist map, we had to take the road that went past Sun Bay, just outside Esperanza. We’d already driven by there a couple times, and I’d noticed that the gate on the road into the park (apparently it’s a campground) seemed to always be closed. The exit gate was open, and there were cars in the parking lot, so we figured that must be the thing to do. We drove in through the exit, and headed down the beach road.
Sun Bay had a gigantic beach and actual facilities, so I’m guessing it probably got fairly crowded on the weekends. When we drove past, though, there were only a few cars parked there. The road quickly turned from potholed asphalt to even-more-potholed dirt, and we followed the signs pointing toward the beaches and the bioluminesent bay.
We passed Media Luna beach, and then came to a fork in the road. The left fork led to the BioBay, and the right to Navio. The road was tiny, with no room for cars to pass. We didn’t exactly know what we’d do if we encountered a car coming towards us, because it was thick, jungly forest on both sides of the road. The potholes were terrible, too, and got progressively worse. I wasn’t even sure our Jeep was going to make it, between driving in and out of potholes and the couple of mud pits we had to pass. Had there been a spot to turn around, we would’ve done so, but there wasn’t.
We finally got to the end of the road, where there was sort of a cul-de-sac and some parking spots for Navio beach. We found a little clearing with a shady palm tree and set up our chairs, using the tree as an ottoman.
Navio was worth the journey. It was a perfect beach.
Pretty crowded, right?
I did a little beachcombing, and found some fan coral and a little sand dollar.
There were indeed caves at the end of the beach, but the tide was pretty high at that point. People were snorkelling by this reef.
We hung out under our palm tree for a couple hours, relaxing and watching the ocean. After that, we decided to go back to Sun Bay to swim, because the waves at Navio seemed pretty rough. Plus I really wanted to see the other beach, because I liked all the huge palm trees there.
The drive back wasn’t quite as nervewracking, since we knew what to expect. I decided to make a video so everyone could experience what it’s like driving on the road to Navio. Matt pretended he was on Top Gear.
We parked at Sun Bay, and picked a gigantic palm tree to sit under. How does Vieques have so many gorgeous beaches?? And how were they practically empty?
Bally had some adventures on the beach. First he sat in his own palm tree:
Then he found a cairn:
Then he wore a piece of coconut as a hat.
There was one other couple on this entire beach. Seriously.
We went and swam for a long time. There was a bit of sea grass right by the beach, but once you swam over it, the rest was sandy. We decided to get some exercise, and swam out to the rope and back.
Near the shore, I found a pufferfish swimming right at the surface. I chased him in Matt’s direction so he could see it, too. Sadly, he wasn’t freaked out enough to actually puff up.
Once we started getting cold, we got out of the water. I wandered around finding treasures on the beach for a while.
This weird fruit was growing on a tree nearby. A few had fallen off, and looked kind of frightening laying there rotting.
We were getting hungry for lunch, so we packed up the Jeep and headed out. I was glad we’d driven through there during the day, since we had to meet the BioBay tour group in the parking lot at Sun Bay later, and that closed gate would’ve been confusing.
There were a ton of horses hanging out in the campground area. They’re pretty skittish, and don’t like people coming too close.
We parked the Jeep on a side street in Esperanza. This guy was wandering around town:
It was a bit past lunchtime on Monday, and Esperanza was much quieter than the previous day.
We decided to try Lazy Jack’s for lunch, because we knew they had vegetarian options there. They also had delicious signature drinks.
The place had a hostel in back, and there were young people coming and going from it. There was a girl sitting at the bar waiting for the mail delivery, and our server appeared to be staying at the hostel as well. She took our order and then disappeared for a long time, and we later saw her wandering down the street with someone else staying there. The bartenders seemed to be the only actual employees there.
We noticed a series of vans driving up and down the street, and realized those were the Vieques bus system. They had signs in the windows listing their stops, which were mostly Isabel II and Esperanza, the W, and the beaches.
After lunch, we decided to go back to Duffy’s for a beer. We’d really liked the place, and wanted to stop in again on our last day there. Here it is with the patio, facing the malecon:
Here’s the malecon facing west. That’s ‘mainland’ Puerto Rico in the distance:
We got a seat at the bar at Duffy’s, where I had to contemplate this creepy painting:
Hostel guests were wandering in and out of there, too. (Esperanza is a lot like Negril, in very tiny form.) Matt decided he was only drinking beers named after sea creatures, so he had a Leviathan and a Lost Coast Great White. We hung out there for a couple of drinks, then asked the bartender if we could get a bottle of Schneider/Brooklyn Weiss to take back to the house. He accidentally opened it, so he gave us that one for free and grabbed another one to go.
We headed back to the hacienda to hang out on the patio for a while, and work on our bottle of Barrilito and shower. We emptied our suitcases and repacked them with clean clothes and souvenirs. Later on, we made dinner and ate outside, then played dominoes until it was time to get ready for the BioBay tour.
We left the house around 9:40, and I wasn’t thrilled about driving around in the dark again. A car tailgated me the whole way to Sun Bay with its brights on, and when it passed Matt noticed that it was a cop. We turned into the exit again, and headed toward the parking lot where we saw a bunch of identical Jeeps. There were a bunch of people there waiting already. Then a few giant white vans pulled up, and a bunch more people piled out. (Apparently Abe’s will come pick you up if you don’t have a car.)
The BioBay was the main reason I’d originally wanted to come to Vieques, because there aren’t very many of them in the world. There’s apparently one tour company that has transparent kayaks, but we went with Abe’s because the people at the airport said they were great.
There were way more people than I’d expected, especially for a Monday night. They counted 36 total, which meant 18 two-person kayaks. We all signed in and paid, and then they gave us some instructions for the tour. They gave each group a number so that we could count off while we were out in the bay, since it would be hard to see. Then we all piled in the vans, and they set off down the same road we’d taken to Navio earlier that day.
I ended up talking to the lady next to me, and discovered that she was Minnesotan, too. They’d come over on the ferry from Fajardo, and were spending a couple weeks in Vieques. We of course got to discussing the blizzard, and her daughter told us how they’d blown a local’s mind on the ferry by telling him about ice fishing. Hilarious.
Since the tour guides were obviously quite familiar with the potholed back roads, they drove much, much faster than we did in the Jeep. I’m shocked that none of us hit our heads on the ceiling. Matt and I were cracking up because we knew what to expect, and those who were having the experience for the first time looked a little panicked about it. We arrived at the launch spot at the bay, and the guides started unloading kayaks and life jackets from a truck there. It was really dark (we’d been super-lucky and ended up there on a moonless night, which is the ideal time to go), and the only light was from the guides’ headlamps.
Matt and I were team #2, so we got in our kayak right away. They told us to paddle out and grab a spot by a pontoon that was floating in the bay, to wait for everyone to get into the water. We gathered there and the guides explained that the bay provides perfect conditions for dinoflagellates that glow when they’re disturbed. We all sat there splashing our hands in the water, watching them light up. It kind of looked like blue sparks that left a trail after every movement.
We paddled in a group over to see the narrow opening from the bay to the sea, and paddling made them glow even brighter. It was too dark to really see much, or to have a sense of distance. (We kayak quite a bit, but doing so at night is really disconcerting!) The guides wore flashing lights, so we were able to follow them around that way. They brought us over to see the mangroves, and then gave us time to just paddle around by ourselves for 20 minutes or so. Matt and I spent most of that time smacking the water with our paddles to make it glow, or with me staring up at the stars, which were incredible too.
The only downside to the BioBay tour is that you can’t take photos… there’s really no way to capture that without a really powerful camera. I guess that means you’ll have to go see it for yourself, which you absolutely should. It was amazing. Also, it’s pretty amusing to go on a tour that requires meeting in a dark parking lot in a deserted spot.
We were on the water for about an hour total. They were really efficient about loading the boats back up, and we were back to the parking lot around 11:45 or so. We said bye to our fellow Minnesotans, thanked the tour guides for a great trip, and headed back to our hacienda for the night.