When you think about visiting Vieques to experience its pristine beaches and laid-back atmosphere, it’s hard not to want to get there — fast.
During a recent trip to the Puerto Rican offshore municipality that has repeatedly earned “best island in the Caribbean” honors, this reporter traveled by air rather than by sea, flying with Seaborne Airlines.
The regional carrier based in St. Croix has been connecting the big island of Puerto Rico to the “Isla Nena” of Vieques since March 2010, making daily round-trip flights between San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International hub and the smaller island’s Antonio Rivera-Rodríguez Airport.
This trip was my first on this carrier — and one that I almost missed because of the rush of my typically hectic days. But once at the airport, the process of checking in at the last minute was smooth, with the staff behind the counter doing everything possible on their end to make sure that I made it to the gate and on to the plane.
For the trip to Vieques, Seaborne uses a 19-seat Twin Otter aircraft manned by two pilots. Perhaps the most striking feature of this nearly 52-foot long vessel is the extra-large panoramic windows that offer in-flight passengers a breathtaking view of what’s below.Naguabo’s 13-turbine Punta Lima Aeolic park. (Credit: Víctor Román)
During the 20-minute ride to Vieques, the pilots cut across Puerto Rico diagonally through the emerald green mountains of El Yunque and out by Naguabo’s 13-turbine Punta Lima Aeolic park to the south. From there to our final destination, it was nothing but turquoise waters speckled by coral reefs of every size.
Seaborne is one of several airlines — along with Vieques Air Link, Cape Air and Air Flamenco, to name a few — serving the island that on a yearly basis draws thousands of tourist who flock there looking to experience some of the region’s most spectacular beaches and accommodations, including the luxurious W Retreat & Spa.
Seaborne has been continuously growing its services in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico since its arrival in 1993. Most recently, it struck a deal with American Airlines, which allows the latter to place its code on Seaborne’s flights between San Juan and Dominica, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Tortola, Vieques, and Virgin Gorda.