Find somewhere off the map for your vacation this year.
Technically called the Passage Islands, this small cluster of tropical islands and cays lies just off the coast of Puerto Rico, within a very short cruise of the US and British Virgin Islands. Long cut off from the world and used as a US military testing ground, the Spanish Virgin Islands were closed to visitors until 2003. As such, development is extremely minimal, with lush nature reserves and pristine beaches and coral reefs. This relative lack of development has led many people to liken these beautiful, quiet islands to the BVI’s of the 1970’s. This is ‘yacht charter as time travel’ territory.
That’s not to say that there hasn’t been change. A couple of swanky resorts now grace the islands’ pretty coves, and while the locals still ride their horses bareback along village streets dusted with a fine layer of beach sand, there’s every chance they’ll be talking on their mobile phones while they do it. This is a place that wears its history well, with spectacular contrasts around every corner. On a deserted beach, a hulk of a military tank rusts slowly into the sand: an amazing contrast to the tropical surroundings of palm trees, blinding white sand and turquoise sea.
Spanish Virgin Island Highlights:
Playa Flamenco Beach, Culebra: With soft white sand that feels like the finest cornflour under your feet, this beach is so perfect it almost hurts. Take a moment to drink it all in before running through the soft sand to splash into the sapphire, sunlit sea. This beach was voted the second most beautiful in the entire world by Discovery Channel, and you can easily see why: it is breathtaking. A yacht charter could hang around here for a very long time and never get sick of the view. Afterward, why not head to a rustic café for lobster and fish empanadas washed down with an ice cold local beer.
Bioluminescence Bay, Vieques: There’ s a scene in the movie of Life of Pi where the boat floats through a sea full of lights, a bioluminescence so extraordinary that it’s put down to being fantastically unreal, a product of CGI. Surely nothing like it could be found on earth, yet you can find something much like it in Puerto Rico. Mosquito Bay in Vieques has the brightest bioluminescence in the world, where you can go for a night kayak and watch the oars and fish below stir up the most extraordinary glowing light show. You’ll return to your yacht completely awestruck by the experience.
Esperanza, Vieques: For those craving a bit of civilization and fun, head to Esperanza, which has a strip of funky boutiques, bars and restaurants.
Jacuzzi Pools and Turtles, Bahia Tortuga, Culebrita: Another island, another painfully beautiful beach. Your only company here on weekdays may well be the turtles that nest on the beaches and swim through the crystal clear waters. This little island off Calubra is home to a stretch of beautiful blue-green rockpools which bubble like Jacuzzis. A more special spot for a luxury beach barbeque would be hard to find than Bahia Tortuga.
From here, you can easily carry onto the more crowded anchorages of St Thomas, or the BVIs, (you can actually see St Thomas from Bahia Tortuga). But personally, I would quite happily just stay here, floating about in the Spanish islands of enchantment.
Contributed by: Jo Morgan