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This remote Puerto Rico island is an idyllic Caribbean getaway

Simon Calder’s Travel

Two hours after sundown we pushed our glass-bottomed kayaks out onto Mosquito Bay, a small inlet on the south coast of Puerto Rico’s remote island of Vieques, the surrounding mangrove trees silhouetted against the dark blue sky.

It was deathly silent as we paddled forward, following the voice of our guide and doing our best to keep our strokes in time as we headed for the centre of the bay. A sudden shriek pierced the silence from a neighbouring kayak. “It’s beneath you! Look down!”

The black water began to change, sparkling a glittering blue. A thick stream of diamonds whooshed under the boat as the current from the Caribbean Sea carried us forward.

We’d found the “magic” of Mosquito Bay’s bioluminescence. I dipped my hand in the warm water and the diamonds trickled down my arm like something from a trippy dreamscape. This type of plankton that glows as a defence mechanism when disturbed makes Vieques home to one of the brightest bioluminescent bays in the world – and I’m fortunate that I’m being shown it by the people who know it best: the island’s locals.

It’s one of several locally led experiences that show tourists a new way to explore the archipelago, away from Puerto Rico’s busy capital San Juan and the city’s popular historic old quarter, which while beautiful, contains only a taste of what this country has to offer.

Vieques is surrounded by beaches with white sands and turquoise waters
Vieques is surrounded by beaches with white sands and turquoise waters (Discover Puerto Rico)

Vieques lies about eight miles off the mainland and is reachable via ferry or charter plane, with the latter lasting only 10 minutes and giving you views of lush green trees tops and clear turquoise waters as you glide overhead.

It was baking hot by the time we touched down, and in dire need of coffee I was taken straight to Rising Roost, which as the name suggests, is the right place for a pick-me-up. Its owners Luz Yanira and Jose are from Puerto Rico’s central mountain region and took over the café in 2020. They serve up some of the best brew on the island and were poised at the espresso machine when we arrived. Hallelujah.

“Make sure you try some mavi,” said Luz Yanira. “It’s what all the locals drink here, we love it. It’s a slightly sweet, fermented juice made from bark.” I ordered a glass and sipped cautiously. It was sweet and refreshing, with that subtle fermented funk –…

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