Private lounge at Vieques Airport and free airport transfers
Rental jeeps and excursion bookings available on-site
Hefty price tags and a daily resort fee
Open bathrooms floorplans won't suit everyone
Breakfast not included with room rates
The 156-room W Retreat & Spa has a privileged home on Vieques Island's northern coast, well away from any other developments. This secluded luxury property has all of the W brand's trendy, funky twists, and the huge rooms blend boho inspiration with sexy accents like in-room tubs and private balconies. There's a multi-level infinity pool with underwater music, swish cabanas, as well as an indoor/outdoor restaurant and two private beaches. The price tag here matches the exclusive atmosphere, and a daily resort fee covers things like the private airport lounge and free Wi-Fi, but not breakfast. Travelers looking for a less glitzy option can check out Blue Horizon Boutique Resort.
Exclusive and trendy beachfront resort with laid-back vibe
The W brand inspires plenty of feelings in plenty of people, but their various "Retreats" around the world can never be accused of lacking personality. The W Retreat & Spa - Vieque Island delivers on all fronts for travelers in the market for exclusive beachside vacations. The vibe here blends the upscale with the hip, and design throughout manages to look simultaneously in-the-now and timeless.
The journey to the resort begins in the exclusive W Lounge at the Vieques Airport, where coffee, cocktails, and snacks are all on offer in a swank, comfy, living-room-like space. Private jeeps then arrive to whisk guests away to the resort, and after pulling through gates and up a long, winding driveway, guests arrive at a massive lobby and lounge, which the W affectionately dubs their Living Room. With soaring ceilings, views out across the bright green lawns and tropical foliage, and iconic furniture designed by Spanish architect and designer Patricia Urquiola, the Living Room and adjacent bar make a stylish place to take a break from the tropical sun. The grounds are sprawling, and golf carts can be arranged to take guests around the resort with their luggage. The manicured property is peppered with clusters of low-rise buildings, and families are generally kept closer to the east side of the property to ensure those on romantic escapes have time to indulge with some quiet and privacy.
At night, there is occasional live music or the DJ in the bar or by the pool. As guests bed down for the night, though, the island's ubiquitous Coqui frogs and the sounds of the crashing of surf are the only sounds to be heard -- it's really a memorable way to rest one's head at night. Guests here come from across spectrum -- romantic couples and boisterous groups of friends can be seen splashing in the pool along with families and retirees.
On Vieques' north shore, a 10-minute drive from the nearest town
Vieques is a small, 20-mile-long island that sits about eight miles from the Puerto Rican mainland, with beautiful white-sand beaches and a bioluminescent bay. It was once best known for the protests that took place on the island, leading to the removal of the U.S. Navy bombing range and testing grounds in 2003, but now tourists are drawn to it's relatively untouched beaches and clutch of luxury and boutique hotels. The W was one of the first major resorts to call the island home, and though there is fear that it's only a matter of time before the island's shores become overrun like those on the main island, that hasn't happened yet.
Renting a car is the best way to get around the island, as the resort is a bit far from any development. Isabel II, the largest settlement on the island and home to some great dining and drinking spots, is a 10-minute drive from the hotel. The slightly more beachy Malecon in Esperanza is a 15-minute drive to the south side of the island -- there are plenty of open-air bars and restaurants there to take in the stunning sunsets.
Vieques is ringed with beaches and bays, many of which sit at the end of rough dirt roads. Green Beach is a 20-minute drive from the hotel, as is the idyllic cove that's home to Blue Beach. The island is also home to the best bioluminescent bay in the world, Mosquito Bay, which is a 15-minute drive from the hotel -- there are plenty of outfitters who can arrange trips to the bay on Vieques. The island is also has a historic fort and lighthouse, wild horses, and delicious fruits like papaya, bananas, and avocado. The resort is only a three-minute drive from the Vieques Airport, which offers direct links to San Juan.
Boho-inspired contemporary design plus and modern amenities and balconies or terraces
There's a lot to like about the massive rooms at the W Vieques -- they manage to be playful and sexy at the same time, with decor that utilizes light and dark elements, offering a striking counterpoint to the green and blue landscape just outside their doors. While the resort has a definite luxury vibe, the look in rooms -- white down duvets, light wood veneer accents, colorful daybeds, polished stone tile floors -- has a bohemian edge. Expect to see plenty of vibrant art throughout, like the massive abstract print that leans up against the wall in the Fabulous Ocean Front Escape that we visited. Patterns are used to create even more visual interest, with printed throw pillows and cabinets with eye-catching multicolored earth-tone facades. Netted curtains inspired by fishing nets help partition off the large spaces into more intimate ones.
High-end touches include flat-screen TVs, minibars stocked with all manner of snacks and top-shelf liquor, and iPod docks. All rooms also include air-conditioning, ceiling fans, phones, desks, and balconies or terraces. The best rooms overlook the ocean, but these views aren't available from most Garden Retreat Rooms.
Bathrooms are arranged in an open floor plan, though showers and toilets close off with doors. A metal, country-style soaking tub that's partitioned off from the main room by wooden panels and curtains is a particularly nice touch. There's also a massive walk-in rainfall shower, large vanity area with a square vessel sink, and high-end Bliss bath products.
The hotel has several categories of rooms to choose from, though even the most basic is a splash. The Oasis Rooms serve as the hotel's entry-level units, while multi-room suites like the WOW Ocean Front Retreat are ideal for honeymooners, with dining areas and hanging chairs on their wide terraces overlooking the sea.
Multi-level pool and two beaches plus a serene spa and modern gym
Like any good luxury resort, the W offers plenty of features to keep its guests busy. A multi-level pool serves as the hotel's centerpiece. Music is pumped underwater and palm trees tower overhead, while the staff constantly circulates providing service from the bar to the many lounge chairs and cabanas that ring the water. For something a bit less man-made, the hotel's two beaches are stunners. One beach -- the one closest to the pool -- is open to all guests and has snorkels and other water-ready gear available for free to guests. The second beach, farther west along the coast, is for adults only. The soft sand is flanked by rocks on both sides and feels extremely private. Towels and lounge chairs are available at both beaches.
The wellness options are exceptional as well. The hotel's spa is set in a separate building that looks out onto tropical gardens and is a serene experience from the moment one passes through its doors. Private treatment cabins are arranged along a long walkway, and there's a spa shop as well. The fitness center is bright and loaded with modern equipment, and there's even outdoor yoga in the morning for free. Tennis courts are available as well.
The hotel has car rentals on-site for guests wanting to explore the island. Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel and airport transfers are included in the resort fee.
Exceptional breakfast buffet plus upscale Caribbean dining for lunch and dinner
Dining is a high point here as well, with a massive buffet starting off the day. From the tables overflowing with pastries, fruits, cereals, and breads to the egg station and the array of coffee and juices that are available, there's plenty on hand to choose from. A la carte dishes are available as well. Keep in mind that breakfast is not included in room rates. Sorce restaurant offers lunch and dinner indoors or on an outdoor terrace. The menu goes heavy on Caribbean flavors, with international twists, and there are options for all manner of dietary restrictions.