My Vieques Trip: Getting There

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This past week I went on a last minute trip to Vieques Island, Puerto Rico with friends and stayed at the W Resort and Spa for free on my Starwood Free Resort Nights.

For those of you not familiar, Vieques is a small island 8 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico. The US government purchased part of Vieques during World War II and planned to use it to house the British Navy if Britain fell to Germany. Obviously, they never ended up using it for that reason so until 2003 it was utilized as a bombing/shelling test site, which didn’t go over too well with many of the island’s locals.

Since the US government left, it has started to become an eco-tourism hotspot since it is largely undeveloped. Last year the W Vieques Retreat and Spa opened up, so I was excited to test it out one day. This year, Starwood ran a free resort night promo and I had two free nights left that were scheduled to expire on December 21, so I figured I’d use them now to finally visit Vieques.

There are two main ways to get to Vieques: flying or ferrying. Cape Air from San Juan airport and the times lined up pretty well with my American Airlines flights. Cape Air is a partner of Continental, so you can earn miles on those flight, but not redeem for them (to my knowledge).  Vieques Air Link also offers service from San Juan Isla Grande airport to Vieques, which may be more convenient if you are already in Puerto Rico (next time I want to try out the St. Regis Bahia Beach, which is supposed to be really nice).

I bought my Cape Air ticket the day before departure and it came to $235 total roundtrip. Kinda pricy for two 15 minute flights, but what can you do? I looked at advance purchase tickets and they price out in the low $200s, so I don’t think it’s possible to get these tickets really cheaply, unfortunately.

The ferry leaves from Fajardo, which is an hour and 15 minutes from the San Juan airport and the ferry ride itself is an hour and 15 minutes – though it only costs $4 roundtrip! Taxi fare would be $80 and that includes fare for up to 5 people.  You can also fly from Ceiba for $30 each way. Going this route will save you money, but take a lot longer.

Flying in on a domestic carrier and connecting to Cape Air was a piece of cake. There wasn’t much signage, but I ended up walking and finally seeing a sign near TSA explaining that the Cape Air gates are at 31A. There is no need to reclear security and its only a 10 minute walk through the different terminals. There is an American Airlines Admirals Club, but not a SkyClub or any other lounge (to my knowledge).

I purchased my Cape Air ticket separately from my American ticket, so I went to the gate and the agent printed my pass once he asked how much I weighed and then weighed my carry-ons. That was a first! I actually asked him if some people get embarrassed, but he said he asks everyone the same and almost everyone answers out loud. Just be warned – and I wouldn’t recommend lying about your weight when it’s your life at stake!

The gate area was empty, except for some noisy carry-ons that someone was taking- luckily not on my flight…

Boarding was quick and easy since there were only 8 passengers on the plane. I was loaded last and got the emergency exit row, which was pretty cramped, but fine for a 15 minute flight.

Walking onto the tarmac on a beautiful, warm afternoon. Sure beats the crowded boarding process of most other flights!
Getting cozy in the Cessna

Takeoff was smooth, though on our climb out we hit a couple small pockets of air that made the little plane shift from left to right and hop a little bit. Nothing bad enough to wipe the grin off my face as we climbed out over Puerto Rico and headed for paradise.

The flight was enjoyable with nice views, except extremely HOT. I would highly recommend dressing down as much as possible, because I was in the back row in jeans and a button down shirt and by the end of the flight I was overheated (apologies to the poor woman next to me!). Check out our smooth landing at VQS airport:

Once landed, I headed straight for the W Arrivals lounge and the agent crossed my name off a list and told me to wait for the rest of the passengers. She didn’t check me in or really sound excited to see me and I even had to ask if the side room with refreshments/drinks was open – I was not invited to relax or anything. This was a little bit of a shock because I had heard of people being greeted and fawned over in the lounge as helpful reps started their check-in process and even checked on upgrades. Not for me and that would be the start of a not-so-great check-in experience that I’ll detail in my next post on the resort. Stay tuned!

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