South Side: Esperanza Riding Company
North Side: SeaGate Hotel
Within a few minutes of arriving in Vieques, visitors soon discover that this is an island of horses. Cars share the road with herds migrating between grass fields, and Viequense kids ride bareback – and often barefoot – with ear-to-ear smiles. If you’re visiting, you needn’t BYO steed to traverse the island like the locals do; companies offer guided tours where tourists can mount up and explore Vieques on horseback.
On the Caribbean or south side, rides start in Esperanza, giving visitors a snapshot of what the island surroundings provide. Guides point out dozens of varieties of fruit and nut trees along with a brief overview of the island’s history. After riding along the waves on two of the south side’s most popular beaches: Coconut Beach and Black Sand Beach, the tour continues up hillsides on trails created specifically for the sweeping views of the island. Before the ride is over you might even get a chance to lead your horse in a pasofino trot, the signature rhythm of Vieques’ equine inhabitants.
Atlantic or north side rides follow a route that moves from paved main roads to improvised trails through grass and brush. The trail meanders through several barrios, from some of the island’s humblest communities to the coastal Bravos de Boston, with its sprawling villas and unbeatable vistas. High apex points provide some of the most dazzling views you’ll see anywhere on the island, and on a clear day guides will point out nearby islands like Puerto Rico, Culebra and St. Thomas. You’ll have a chance to run your horse through the surf on La Lanchita Beach before cutting through Isabel II, Vieques’ main town.
No matter which side you choose for your ride, capacity is limited, so it is best to reserve a tour as far in advance as possible. If you’re an inexperienced rider don’t worry. Instructors will show you the basics and match you with a horse that is a fit for your skill level. Riders are asked to wear long pants and close-toe shoes, two items you probably won’t need for the rest of your trip. But packing a few extra items in your suitcase is worth the opportunity to see Vieques from a new vantage point; atop a horse.