The State of the Island
Hurricanes Irma and Maria took their toll on Vieques, causing extensive damage to buildings, knocking down trees, and destroying the island’s electrical grid. Today, the island’s power grid has been restored and power supplied by large generators powerful enough to power the whole island. While Vieques is on the path to recovery dozens of guesthouses, restaurants, adventure companies, stores and other businesses are open and operating. It’s business as usual and if you are a returning visitor or tourist you will see the island splendor of beaches, the bioluminescent bay and nature at its finest. And while, it is rare that there is a power outage lasting more than a few hours these days, there has been an exciting mental shift toward conservation, renewable energy and a green movement that will be the guiding force for Vieque’s future.
If you are a resident, however, there are undeniable hardships created (or revealed) by the Hurricane, and recovery will be a long, difficult road requiring a dedication to pursuing sustainability and resiliency for the island. ViequesLove is committed to thoughtful, careful planning for the use of funds, and the impact each initiative holds for the future.
[ViequesLove is guided by the Native American 7th generation principle which states that every action and decision made must consider how it will affect 7 generations into the future.]
Here are the facts you need to know if you’re thinking of planning your next visit.
Long Term: Residents of Vieques, together with the US Senate Energy Committee, municipality, FEMA, and utility contractors, have been working with PREPA to solve both the electrical generation and distribution problems that have plagued Isla Nena for decades. The US government has made the required funding available to make our island a demonstration project of contemporary solutions in the arena of sustainability, resiliency, and efficiency through the use of renewable resources and a microgrid implementation in compliance with the Rural Utility System (RUS) standards. With PREPA approval, construction will begin soon.
Short Term: Vieques is now powered by the original cable connection to the main island. The performance of the FEMA generators has been excellent since their installation months ago, but the cable is far more reliable and efficient. Occasional localized outages due to a transformer or other small issue occur without warning but are fixed quickly.
ATT, Sprint, T Mobile, and Verizon towers have been generally restored, and although you will find spots without cell coverage, for the most part, service is pretty good. The big problem is that the company that supplied land lines and cable internet, Claro, has not restored their phone lines so many businesses have had to switch to their personal cell numbers. A recent phone directory will be supplied here soon. Another problem created by the largest internet provider leaving the island is that many vacation rentals have had to find other sources for internet and WI-FI. If you are booking a vacation rental be sure to ask. Most homes have been reconnected.
The water on Vieques comes from the rainforest on Puerto Rico through an under sea pipe. It has been tested and the results are posted. It is normally fine to drink. There are occasionally periods of very low water pressure.
Health: The Vieques hospital/clinic has been closed from damages and relocated to a temporary location in Las Marias. Basic services are available, but serious problems are treated off island. There are three doctors offices on the island: Dr. Perez, Dr. Figueroa, and Dr. Rivera.
Most beaches are open and have returned to their pristine splendor. The FWS beaches of Playa Grande and Punta Arenas remain closed until further notice. On the south side of the island, Sun Bay, Media Luna, Navio, Playa Negra, and Coconut Beach are just as beautiful as ever, while on the north side, El Gallito, Bastiamento, and La Chata are great options. In the National Wildlife Refuge, visitors can spend the day relaxing on Playa Caracas, Playuela, La Chiva and Pata Prieta. Beaches in the Refuge continue to open as debris is cleared and they’re deemed safe.
Mark Martin Bras, cofounder of ViequesLove and pioneer of the BioBay has confirmed that the BioBay has made a rapid and full recovery.
Infrastructure: As you drive around Vieques you will still see damaged homes, damaged roads and things just a little, or a lot, out of place. But little by little the island is picking itself up, recovering and rebuilding.
Schools: The schools have suffered greatly and need our support. ViequesLove is committed to our schools and has designated a campaign Somos Uno to help. Please read more about this and support the Vieques schools.
There are still many damaged homes on Vieques that need major repairs. ViequesLove supports HopeBuilders a non profit on Vieques repairing and rebuilding homes. If you would like to volunteers building skills please contact us.
Guests can reach Vieques via plane and ferry. ATM ferries run several times a day between Ceiba and Vieques (cargo and passengers 1 hour), and a new supplemental contract passenger ferry now makes the trip in 28 minutes.
The ferry schedules are in a state of flux and often unreliable. For the latest information check: Facebook Group Vieques Culebra Ferry Watch at https://www.facebook.com/groups/256688161171128/
Three airlines currently fly between Vieques and the main island of Puerto Rico.
- Cape Air flies from San Juan International (SJU).
- Vieques Air Link/Seaborne flies from Isla Grande and Ceiba.
- Aerotaxi offers private charter flights on demand.