Vieques

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With a name stamped in infamy, Vieques was where Puerto Rico's most prickly political saga was played out in the public eye. For over five decades the US navy used more than two-thirds of this lusciously endowed Spanish Virgin Island for military target practice.

These days Vieques teeters precariously between undiscovered tropical nirvana and the Caribbean's next 'big thing' although, to date, a tight community of US expats have managed to jealously guard their largely untainted Viequense paradise against the braying bulldozers. Protected via a newly established wildlife refuge and receiving only 3% of Puerto

Rico's five million annual visitors, the tranquility remains - at least for the time-being

Information

Unless otherwise noted, all of these addresses are in Isabella Segunda.

It's a good idea to carry cash on the island (but watch out for petty thieves) as the ATMs have been known to run dry. Banco Popular (% 741-2071; Muñoz Rivera; S 8am-3pm Mon-Fri) Has one of two ATMs in Isabella Segunda. Post office (% 741-3891; Muñoz Rivera 97; S 8:30am-4:30pm Mon-Fri, 8am-noon Sat) Across from the Banco Popular, this is the island's only post office. It will take general-delivery letters. Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC; % 741-0800; www.gotopuertorico.com; Carlos LeBrun 449; S 8am-5pm)

Sights

ORCHID, RED, GARCIA, SECRET & BLUE BEACHES

All these south-shore beaches, which used to be on navy land, can be reached by entering I the Garcia Gate on Hwy 997. ■9 Red Beach usually has a few cabanas up 3 to shade bathers from the sun. Garcia Beach and Secret Beach are the next coves along the ^Kd road. Blue Beach, at the east end of the Camp

I Garcia road, is long, open and occasionally has rough surf. Orchid Beach, at the eastern tip of the US Fish & Wildlife Reserve, is often deserted, with wide, deep blue waters (not good for children).

BAHÍA MOSQUITO

This bioluminescent bay - a designated wildlife preserve about 2 miles east of Esperanza -has one of the highest concentrations of phosphorescent dinoflagellates in the world. Indeed, it's also known as Phosphorescent Bay -and it's magnificent.

An evening trip through the lagoon is nothing short of psychedelic, with hundreds of fish whipping up bright-green contrails below the surface as your kayak or electric boat passes by (don't ever accept a ride in a motorized boat - the engine pollution kills the organisms that create phosphorescence). But the best part is when you stop to swim: it's like bathing in the stars.

The best way to see the bay is with an organized trip. Island Adventures (% 741-0720; www.biobay .com; Km 4.5, Rte 996) offers ecofriendly 90-minute tours (US$30) in an electric boat just about every night, except when there's a full moon.

Activities

Blue Caribe Kayaks (% 741-2522; http://enchanted -isle.com/bluecaribe; Flamboyán, Esperanza; trips US$23-30) rents out kayaks to individuals (US$10/25 for one/four hours) and offers trips through the bioluminescent bay (US$30) with a swim stop included.

Blackbeard Sports (% 741-1892; 101 Muñoz Rivera, Isabella Segunda) is the island's main dive operator and offers two-tank dives from US$100. It also rents out North American standard bicycles from its store in Isabel Segunda for US$25 per day including helmet. Ask about the fantastic bike tours.

Fishing is sublime in Vieques where you can access isolated stretches of coastline in the former naval zone. For a good local operator try Caribbean Fly-fishing Company (% 741-1337; www.caribbeanflyfishingco.com).

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How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.

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