We love it here on Vieques, but be aware this is a small Caribbean Island. 99% of the time everything works fine here, but when things go wrong, they tend to take a lot longer to fix than they would in suburban USA or Europe. Spare parts may need to be shipped or flown in. Water and electricity come by pipes and wires from the main island of Puerto Rico, seven miles away across the sea. Things can and do go wrong. And tomorrow is always a good time to get it fixed!
So, think carefully before coming if you expect and demand 1st world standards of entertainment, product availability, health care, public hygiene, building codes, vehicle safety, noise control, and functioning public utilities.
The main entertainment is beaches, bars, books, good conversation (hopefully), and scrabble. No cinemas (except occasional mini film festivals), very occasionally you get bands playing in bars and restaurants. No TV at our house.
There is good food, but the range of products is likely much smaller than your local supermarket. Food is shipped in by ferry, and supermarkets can have much more food available on some days of the week than others.
There is health care – pharmacies and a hospital – but they are the equivalent of small town rural standards in mainland USA. A major medical emergency will likely require an airlift to San Juan.
There are public hygiene standards, but no one is working hard at enforcing codes. Occasionally you eat off paper plates because the dish washer is not working or the water has gone off for a few days.
There are building codes, but enforcement is lax. Doors warp with the humidity and sun, and even though we fix them, they may not fit the frame exactly a couple of months later when you come to visit us.
Your hire car will have had an annual inspection under Puerto Rican law. None the less, it may well have rust and holes in the floor. Many roads are dirt roads, and even the paved roads have holes in them. You may find horses, cattle and oncoming cars in the middle of the road round any corner. If you pass a gas station and your tank is half empty, stop and fill up because next time you drive by the gas station may be out of gas!
You may want ear plugs! Vieques is a subtropical Caribbean Island. That means it is noisy at night. Tree frogs, insects, wind rustling the banana plant leaves, distant surf, rain showers, barking dogs and most of all, Roosters. There is no glass in the windows, and you will hear it all. Most folks get used to it very quickly, but if you are sensitive to noise, bring ear plugs. (You can also get them in the local pharmacy, and often there are some at the house already). Please note in particular: we have no control over the Roosters, most locals will laugh at you if you complain about them … they simply are!
And finally please be aware that public utilities are unreliable. Electricity seems to be the most reliable – brownouts and flickers happen quite often, but outages are rare. Telephones work most of the time. Water has historically been the worst problem, though it has improved dramatically in the last five years. Nonetheless, like most houses here, we have a 600 gallon tank at the house in case of emergencies
Please don’t misunderstand us: 99% of the time everything works great. We and our guests love it here. But be warned and prepared that occasionally things go wrong.