For some, these two buildings may symbolize another example of tragic commercialization, an attempt to strip the island of its homegrown charm and luster. Until 2003, Vieques was a U.S. naval base; its remote location considered ideal for officers to conduct bombing drills. Since opening to tourists over 10 years ago, vacationers have gradually descended onto the island, not in throngs but in clusters. A light scattering of boutique hotels and restaurants followed, but the island’s primary inhabitants, the coqui frogs, seem unfazed.
The island’s dichotomy—half uncharted territory, half Tulum-on-the-brink—and the fact that it hasn’t been smoothed over yet, is perhaps the best thing about Vieques. For now, there are still only a few decent places to stay, but there are a handful of excellent places to eat, including some that rival the cuisine in most cosmopolitan cities. It’s a land of limited choices, but luckily, it’s hard to make a wrong one.
WHERE TO STAY
The W Retreat & Spa (from $295; State Rd., 200 KM 3.2; 787-741-4100) (pictured left) opened their doors on Vieques about five years ago, and for much of that time, it was the only option for modern, boutique-style lodging. The waterfront property is the perfect respite to come home to, with its own private beaches, an infinity pool, fire pit, and expansive indoor/outdoor lobby that marries the chain’s signature vibrant sleekness with the island’s earthy hues (and often, animal inhabitants). Now there’s also the buzzy El Blok (from $180; 158 Calle Flamboyan; 787-741-6020) (pictured right), which just opened last year and has more of a minimalist, cool-kid vibe. Closet space is lacking, but the owner spent considerable time ensuring the beds are extra comfortable, and the food might be the best on the island.
WHERE TO EAT
Chef José Enrique, who emerged as the culinary star of Puerto Rican cuisine with his eponymous restaurant in San Juan, helms the kitchen at El Blok, where he serves local dishes, grilled to perfection, in the island’s trendiest dining room. Stop by Coqui Fire (Calle Carlos Lebrum; 787-741-0401) for Mexican food that even Californians will rave about, making sure to pick up a few of their homemade hot sauces. Bananas (142 Calle Flamboyan; 787-741-8700), located on Esperanza’s rambling Malecón, is the perfect place for a barefoot breakfast or an afternoon rum punch, Vieques’ cocktail of choice. For more refined romance, or simply the island’s best ceviche, book a table on the patio at the electric Next Course (Route 201 btw. Isabel and Esperanza; 787-741-1028), or sit oceanfront at El Quenepo (Calle Flamboyan; 787-741-1215) and order the mofongo, a traditional fried plantain dish. There’s plenty to see on the island, so if you're after a quick bite, pick up lunch at one of the many food trucks: Sol Food’s spicy jerk chicken sandwich will keep you full until dinner.
WHERE TO DRINK
The Malecón in Esperanza is littered with unpretentious bars, the most popular of which is Lazy Jack’s (787-741-1447). Follow a winding, overgrown path to the charming Chez Shack (787-741-2175), which has a live reggae band on Monday nights, along with excellent BBQ and strong drinks. If you’re having dinner at El Blok, arrive early, order drinks at the bar and sneak up to the hotel roof for a quiet view of the sunset.
WHAT TO DO
Vieques is home to dozens of white sand beaches, including the popular Sun Bay and Pata Prieta, but one of the best ways to find your solitary paradise is to simply rent a Jeep and drive through the National Wildlife Refuge, stopping along the way at one of the many beaches. Park directly on the sand, leave your doors unlocked, and look for a glimpse of a small, uninhabited island. It’s a short swim, but once you’re there, even the lazy gait of Vieques feels distant. At night, reserve a kayak and guide for a tour around the Bioluminescent Bay, where the water and even your hands take on an intergalactic glow.
Auckland to Dunedin, New Zealand
On December 20, 2015, the Silver Discoverer will depart from Auckland New Zealand for a 14 day cruise to the outer islands off the east coast of New Zealand. I can think of no finer time to be in this part of the world. Take advantage of the time period over the holidays to plan a delightful escape.
Auckland is located on the northern island of New Zealand. Auckland's scenery is commanded by some of the city's 46 volcanic hills, their grass kept closely cropped by those four-legged lawn mowers known as sheep. But this city of about 1.1 million is also a cosmopolitan mix of Polynesians, Asians, and Europeans. (In fact, Auckland has the world's largest single population of Pacific Islanders.) Literally topping things off is the 1,082-foot Sky Tower, dwarfing everything around it and acting as a beacon for the casino, hotel, and restaurant complex that opened early in 1996.
"God never made an ugly landscape. All that the sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild." John Muir
Recently, I have been reading about Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. If you have not been there - put it on your short list of places to visit. There is a spectacular expedition cruise aboard the luxurious Silver Discoverer sailing from Seward to Vancouver on July 8, 2015. Among the places visited on this 12-day cruise are Elfin Cove, Sum Dum Bay and Glacier Bay National Park.
I have been to Glacier Bay by cruise ship. What happens is a park representative gets on the ship and takes over the ship's intercom to describes the area. Very cool and a worthy experience, but next time I would like to explore the area much more.
I recommend the Silver Discoverer for my experience-driven clientele. Guests aboard the luxury expedition ship will have a completely different adventure during their visit to Glacier Bay as compared to most others. For my Silversea clients, there will be ample opportunity to cruise around Glacier Bay National Park in a Zodiac and photograph stunning pictures of the glaciers and a variety of wildlife. I would love to get a photo of a bear grabbing a salmon out of one of the streams carrying the run-off from one of the 15 tidewater glaciers in the park. The area is excellent for sighting Humpback Whales, Orcas and Steller Sea Lions.
Believe it or not, the earliest signs of human occupation at Glacier Bay go back about 10,000 years. How they survived here is still a question. There is an archaeological site just outside the park that the rangers and guides will tell you about. That site was discovered about 200 years ago. The Haida, Eyak and Tlingit tribes could have occupied the coast that long ago, Today, the Tlingit tribe is the most prominent native culture.
John Muir and Sum Dum Bay
I want to leave you with this passage written by John Muir during one of his many visits to this area. His description of the area 200 years ago captures the beauty of this fantastic destination that still exists today:
"This morning we found out how beautiful a nook we had got into. Besides the charming picturesqueness of its lines, the colors about it, brightened by the rain, made a fine study. Viewed from the shore, there was first a margin of dark-brown algae, then a bar of yellowish-brown, next a dark bar on the rugged rocks marking the highest tides, then a bar of granite boulders with grasses in the seams, and above this a thick, bossy, overleaping fringe of bushes colored red and yellow and green. A wall of spruces and hemlocks draped and tufted with gray and yellow lichens and mosses embowered the campground and overarched the little river, while the camp-fire smoke, like a stranded cloud, lay motionless in their branches. Down on the beach ducks and sandpipers in flocks of hundreds were getting their breakfasts, bald eagles were seen perched on dead spars along the edge of the woods, heavy-looking and overfed, gazing stupidly like gorged vultures, and porpoises were blowing and plunging outside." John Muir
The South of France is as chic as it gets. French food, French wine and French culture all in a laid back atmosphere. It is the ultimate place for the stressed-out executives to take their family for a summer vacation. While the kids explore their new summer digs, Mom and Dad can relax in accommodations of the same caliber as their own homes. We have a wonderful selection of vacation villas to choose from. Here is a sample of the villas that we offer:
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection reveals the highly anticipated design of their newest Super Ship, S.S. Maria Theresa, launching March 26, 2015 . Representing Uniworld’s most ambitious ship to date, this floating palace on water exemplifies true artistry.
“Our aim is to transport each guest into experiencing the fantasy of living in an 18th-century Baroque castle. We designed the S.S. Maria Theresa to take our guests on a journey back in time with an onboard atmosphere and style seamlessly integrated with the history and architecture of the very places they will visit onshore, as well as provide them with the latest in luxurious comfort and technology, of course,” states Toni Tollman of Uniworld.
In the Habsburg Salon, where guests can relax with a book or enjoy afternoon tea, are five murals depicting the 18th-century Austrian countryside hand-painted by specialist painter Croxford and Saunders. A selection of hand-picked antiques and inspirational paintings from different artists of the period are certain to evoke conversation or deep contemplation. Other public areas include the authentic Viennese Café, where guests can linger for hours enjoying local specialties, such as classic Austrian sachertorte, Würstl, (Viennese sausage), and famous Viennese coffee. Uniworld’s stylish signature Leopard Bar designed with elegantly muted colors and intricate mosaic tile murals created by the famous South African mosaic tile artist, Jane du Rand, is an enchanting and playful venue to have a drink or dance the night away. The stunning 10-seat Lipizzan Cinema configured with deep blue velvet loveseats offers the perfect place for movie viewing. And a well-equipped fitness center, swimming pool, and Serenity River Spa™ , provide a place to exercise and unwind.
Gleneagles has extended a complimentary room upgrade (at time of reservation) for all clients of The Travel Gallery. Offer valid all year. Select one category below your desired level, and we will upgrade it for you.
Step aboard the elegant 5-star 210-guestM.S. Saint Laurent to explore the maritime history and natural beauty of America’s five Great Lakes. With enriching shore excursions, an open bar throughout your cruise, and elegant dining with free-flowing wines and beer all included, our luxury voyage promises remarkable value.
I love to visit Alaska and the best way to see it is with TAUCK Tours. As an adventure travel enthusiast, I find Alaska to be a place that always amazes me each time I visit. This trip is one that I endorse for those wishing to see the real Alaska. This ten-day tour takes you away from the well-traveled routes of the Inside Passage to less-visited places of spectacular beauty and one-of-a-kind experiences.
Flight-seeing is one of the best ways to see the vast glacier-clad landscapes and peaks of Denali (America’s highest mountain). From a plane, one can see how the glaciers flow and make a river of ice that slowly, yet constantly changes the landscape. This trip is a photographers dream; cruising the Kenai Fjord, known for its resident sea lions, dolphins, whales, bald eagles and dramatic vistas; bear-watching on Crescent Lake; making canine friendships at a kennel that raises champion sled dogs; wilderness hikes with an expert naturalist guide who offers invaluable knowledge and insights; and the best in accommodations and dining.
For about $6,500 for 10-days, it is well-priced for an awesome trip to see Alaska.
Curator of Adventures in the Art of Travel
Exquisite journeys for those with a yearning to experience what a destination has to offer in a soft adventure experience.