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12 Tickets to Paradise: Vieques, Puerto Rico
What makes the perfect island? Having it all to yourself. These 12 adventure oases are guaranteed to transport you well beyond the masses.
Text by Meg Lukens Noonan   Map by Pietari Posti 



Vieques, Puerto Rico
Scout an Off-Limits Isle

BASE CAMP: Hix Island House

ACTIVITY: 
Kayak-fish and mountain bike

When the U.S. military handed control of its long-disputed live-fire Camp García naval base on Vieques Island over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2003, it was like lifting a dome off an extended science experiment. Under the lid? Empty beaches, mangrove-lined lagoons, gorgonian coral forests, and a host of endangered species like leatherback turtles, brown pelicans, and red-footed boobies cruising the waters unaware of their plight. And there were fish—lots of fish: giant tarpon, permits, bonefish, snook. Anglers compared the bounty to Key West 50 years ago.

Since then tourism has come slowly but steadily to Vieques, just seven miles east of the Puerto Rican mainland. For now, Hix Island House is as trendy as it gets: The 13 sleek loft apartments are set among banana trees near Esperanza, one of two small towns on the island. (The hype factor will go up considerably this year when a W Hotel opens in December.)

Map: Vieques, Puerto Rico

GAME PLAN: To get out on the water, stop in at the Vieques Adventure Company, where Garry Lowe runs guided kayak-fishing expeditions. "It's extreme fishing," says Lowe. "When you have a 40- or 50-pound (18- or 23-kilogram) tarpon on the line, and you're in a kayak, you're going to go for a ride." Lowe also rents mountain bikes, perfect for exploring the miles of rutted, often muddy roads that were previously off-limits. "The beaches beyond the García gate will blow you away," he says. "And the farther you go down the road, the greater the reward." Cap off the day with a plate of habichuelas (Puerto Rican rice and beans) and a cerveza Medalla at El Resuelve, one of the island's best local spots.
 
THE VITALS: Hix Island House ($235; www.hixislandhouse.com). Vieques Adventure Company offers half-day kayak-fishing trips ($150; www.viequesadventures.com).


Wild Islands: 12 Tickets to Paradise





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