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Also known as Isla del Encanto (the Enchanted Isle), Vieques is located just eight miles from the coast of Puerto Rico and is situated in the center of the Antilles chain of islands. Vieques is about 21 miles long by 5 miles at its widest point and its 52 square miles are home to fewer than 10,000 residents.

The name Vieques comes from the native Taino Indian word Bieque (small island). Following Columbus' arrival on Vieques in 1493, the Spanish, French, Danish and British have all attempted claims on Vieques. Finally, in 1845 the Spaniards began construction of El Fortin Conde de Mirasol (Fort Count Marasol)—now a museum that you can visit. During the latter half of the 19th century, the island economy thrived on sugar production. The major mills—Playa Grande, Santa Maria, Puerto Real and Esperanza—live on in the names of the barrios of today's island.

Although it is still considered one of the Spanish Virgin Islands, the US appropriated 26,000 of Vieques' 33,000 acres of land in1941. From that time until February 2003, the East and west portions of the island were used for military training purposes. Today both sections of the island formerly used by the Navy are National Wildlife Refuges. There are ambitious plans to return the entire area to nature, but some sections are off-limits to tourists until clean-up is complete.

One of the few positive results of the US military appropriations is that a great deal of Vieques went unspoiled when much of the rest of the Caribbean experienced tourist booms and over-development. While there is excitement about new building opportunities, two-thirds of today's island is protected from development, leaving many unexplored beaches waiting for you to discover!

In Vieques there are no traffic lights, crowded clubs and no casinos—but there are friendly people, good restaurants and gorgeous scenery. Island horses meander along the roads, the coqui chirp quietly at night, and Vieques is home to one of the best bioluminescent bays in the world - swimming at night in the glowing water is unforgettable.

US citizens do not need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico. Vieques is easily accessed with a 20 minute plane ride from San Juan, Puerto Rico or by 1 1/4 hour ferry ride from the east coast town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

For more information about Puerto Rican history and culture, visit Welcome to Puerto Rico! Or the Enchanted-Isle or Vieques-Island tourism web sites.

You can also watch our video here! Vieques: an Island to be Discovered

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