Like most of us, by the time April and May roll around each year I find myself in desperate need of a vacation. If you’re stuck running from family to family during the holidays, any trips in December really don’t count, yet that big summer exotic experience may still seem so far away in mid-to-late spring. And while a weekend jot down to Palm Springs, P-Town or any other adjacent gayborhood to your home is great, sometimes what we all really need is to travel! I’m constantly yearning to get out of the city, and for that matter, out of the state, and indulge myself with new experiences (ideally revolving around various forms of relaxation). So when the opportunity came up to spend a week on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, with my boyfriend for work, I took it!
Luckily, being that Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, my expired passport (I told you I needed to travel more) wasn’t an issue on this last minute getaway. It was just like catching a flight to another state, except that state was a tropical island with its own rich culture and decadent food out in the middle of the ocean. All the perks of a Caribbean vacation while enjoying the conveniences of the good ol’ USA. I couldn’t have planned it better.
The fun started before we even got there. After landing safely at the shockingly busy San Juan airport on the main island of Puerto Rico, we then boarded a small eight-passenger island hopper to take us the rest of the way to Vieques. This was the first “Beyonce moment” of the trip—with many more to come. Walking on the tarmac we saw it instantly, the small plane with the “W Retreat & Spa” logo branding the side.
The W Reatret & Spa was indeed our destination and, in fact, the only resort on the small island (there are a few small, inn-style locations). It felt like a private limo service picking us up and taking us where we needed to go, except on a much more exclusive scale! The ride on the plane was breathtaking and relatively short (about 20 minutes), all the while feeling like a celebrity on a private jet taking off for a vacay! My boyfriend, Jeff, even got to sit co-pilot, a position I gladly relinquished.
From this point on the hospitality never stopped and never ceased to impress us. After arriving on Vieques, we were ushered into the W’s lounge at the airport where we enjoyed a poshly decorated air-conditioned room, cocktails and accommodating staff while our luggage was loaded into the van that transported us to the resort.
Our ride from the airport showcased the small island paradise. Vieques is roughly 21 miles long and 4 miles wide, with about 80 percent of it being protected land as the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. This has left the tiny island a true rustic Caribbean treasure with all of its beauty intact and well preserved! Indeed, this is an ideal location if you’re looking to escape from the “spring break” crowd of drunk teenagers and actually relax and enjoy the serenity and luxury this island paradise offers.
The laid-back pace of Vieques is inescapable. The island boasts a quaint downtown area with a picturesque Spanish colonial square surrounded by similar architecture. Only a handful of small shops and cafes line the main street, giving it more of a “market” feel than “downtown.” With not a single traffic light on the entire island (and only two stop signs), Vieques is an amazing escape from the bustle of everyday life. A tranquil reality that operates on island time with wild horses roaming the forest areas and beaches, Vieques provides a calm that only a Caribbean island can generate.
Somehow, the grounds of the W Retreat & Spa were even more beautiful then our ride through the island. Meticulously maintained, the W seemed to highlight and enhance the natural beauty of the island and catered its resort around the existing landscape. With rolling green lawns, breathtaking bluffs overlooking the ocean and gorgeous beaches only steps away from our room, suffice it to say we were in heaven.
The lobby, which they call the “Living Room,” turned out to be an amazing social area where guests and locals hang out, relax, read, drink and mingle day and night. With soft music and light breezes blowing through from the indoor/outdoor patio just off the main room it was easy to see why the area was so popular. We would end up spending a lot of time there, lounging on the oversized furniture, socializing with new friends and even starting a dance party one night (after a few too many martinis) that lasted well into the morning with the help of Los Angeles-based DJ Victor Rodriguez, who the W brought in for entertainment. There’s nothing quite like dancing the night away with a group of new friends, clad in white linen, barefoot and laughing for hours in the grand “living room” of a gorgeous resort!
In fact, the W was so accommodating and all-encompassing to the lavish and relaxing experience that we were looking for, we only ventured out to the rest of the island a handful of times (to experience some local restaurants and beaches we were told not to miss), partly because it’s not really made for traditional tourists so there isn’t a whole lot to do, but mainly because everything we wanted and needed was provided by the W.
Our days were spent lounging by the infinity pool overlooking the beach, laying in cabanas, drinking cocktails and eating hors d’oeuvres prepared from the resorts amazing kitchen (which we ate breakfast and dinner from most days). We would swing in the hammocks between palm trees and play on inner tubes in the ocean; it was nothing less then magical.
We even indulged ourselves in the incredible spa on the premises, where I might have actually slipped into a nirvana at one point. In a private cabana-like hut with a natural breeze blowing through and the sound of the ocean waves crashing only feet away (not from a soundscape CD, mind you, but the actual ocean) your personal and well-trained masseuse concentrates on your overworked, knotted, full-of-tension muscles (just me?!) and lets you melt into utter relaxation.
This unbelievable massage is then followed by your alone time, where you get to enjoy your private outdoor shower with the big blue sky above while you wash all your cares away. When you rejoin reality the world and everything in it is a bit better. And if, some how, you’re not up for a good rub down, the acclaimed Away Spa also offers a host of other luxurious services, including facials, mani/pedis and more.
But the absolute best part about the W resort was how safe and welcome we felt there as a gay couple. In fact, there were even other gay couples there, including one celebrating their honeymoon. From the hotel staff to the other patrons, there was no judgment, no side glances, no whispers; we were treated like any other couple, and as has become expected with the W, the treatment was amazing! It was one of the most incredibly accepting experiences I’ve ever enjoyed on a trip.
For one week we had no problems, no worries, everything we needed was provided for us. The W’s "Whatever Whenever" policy was put to the test and they passed with flying colors (even providing us with safety pins after a wardrobe malfunction). Simply said, it was the trip of a lifetime, an amazing experience that we will always carry with us and definitely be revisiting as soon as possible.
For more on the W Retreat & Spa—Vieques Island and to start planning your spring getaway, visit their website here!