Vieques, while not having a lot of retail variety, has all the stores you need to provision for a holiday or for day to day shopping needs.
Here you will find a complete guide.Vieques has two towns, one on each side of the island. The main town is Isabelle Segunda (Isabelle II) and the other Esperanza. Isabelle II is the administrative center and capital of Vieques. Here you will find postal and banking services, doctors and dentists, as well as restaurants and a small collection of boutiques.
Esperanza is the small tourist town on the other side of the island. Here you will find a small strip of restaurants and bars as well as a few small souvenir boutiques and a colamado.
Shopping for food and produce on Vieques can be a challenge and it is not due to the lack of available stores. Shopping here is often referred to as “hunting” by locals. Vieques has a number of supermarkets, many colmados (small convenience stores) as well as options for procuring great fresh produce and even some gourmet fare. You just have know where and more importantly, when to look. People often say, on Vieques you never do food shopping with a list, rather you decide what to eat by what you find! Here are some tips for finding the right stuff.
Food & Drink
There is the main Morales supermarket situated on road 200 on the way out of town. It is known by locals as “Big Morales”. Big Morales (usually) has all the things you would find in a normal supermarket and where the bulk of your shopping will be done. Depending on the day, the ferry services running and the direction of the wind, the selection at Big Morales can vary from plentiful to a little lean.
In Isabelle II there is another Morales supermarket, referred to as “Little Morales”. This is just a smaller version of its big sister, but you will find things here that you can’t at Big Morales. The fresh produce at Little Morales always seems to be a little better.
On the main street of Isabelle II you will find a store called Buen Provecho. Here you will find an assortment of gourmet items such as cheeses, meats, antipasto items, some fruit and veg, artisan breads etc. They also serve breakfast, light lunches and coffee. It is a little expensive, as you might imagine!
In a non descript blue building on the corner opposite the Bar Plaza on the town plaza is the Morales Warehouse. This is great for slightly discounted beer, wine, spirits and all kinds of bulk buy food and cleaning items. They are very helpful, always help you load your car and can point you in the direction of items you may not have known they had.
In the side street, around the corner from the post office is a great health food store. They stock a great variety of foods that you will not find in any of the Morales supermarkets.
Fresh fruit and veg can be a little disheartening in the supermarkets so head to road 201 on a Tuesday and Friday for the Vieques version of a farmers market. The days do vary depending on the ferry but normally you will find a big white truck, that has come from the big island, set up on the side of the road. The fruit and veg is usually good and worth waiting for.
On the corner of roads 997 and 200 you will see a tyre shop, look closely and you will see this is also a food outlet. They have a fairly small assortment of dry goods but also a big cold store of fruit and veg. So if you can’t find what you are looking for at all the other stores (which does happen) drop in here because they just might have it.
To purchase fresh seafood head down past the ferry terminal to the fisherman’s wharf, most mornings after 10.00am. The seafood is straight off the boat, lobster, conch and fish at a very reasonable price. They will happily scale and fillet the fish for you. They also keep frozen stocks should you miss out on the daily catch. The daily catch comes in at different times during the day from various boats, so you may have to come back if you miss out on the first offerings of the day.
Most of the Barrios (neighbourhoods) will have a colmado, if not two. These are great for last minute items or when you have exhausted your search everywhere else for a certain item. Often they will have that elusive can of coconut milk or fresh garlic you can’t find anywhere. Some also have a small bar facility if you want to stop for a beer and a chat, there is always someone to chat to.
The colmado in Esperanza La Tienda Verde known as ‘The Green Store’ (yep, its green!) often has a fairly good selection of interesting cheeses you might only otherwise find at Buen Provecho, something we found out late in the piece.
The trick to food shopping on Vieques is to be an opportunist. If you see something you usually like or think you might need, grab it because it won’t be there when you go back and may not be there again for a while!
If you do decide to rent a car you will find the 2 gas stations opposite each other on road 200 just past the big Morales. Fuel only gets delivered on certain days and again, depending on the ferry or any strikes that may be happening on the main island, it is possible for the gas stations to run out and simply close down. It’s not common, but does happen. You will often see long lines of cars running right down the road waiting to get gas, so it is advised to make sure you have plenty of fuel at all times and never get too low.
Other Shopping & Services
Vieques has very little in the shopping department in so far as clothing and specialty stores. You will find small boutiques dotted around the island and some will sell everything from gifts, clothing, flowers to basic home essentials. Don’t expect to go on any big shopping sprees on the island.
There are a number of hardware stores on the island, four in fact, or at least they were the ones we could find. The biggest is on road 201 just up from where the farmers market is.
There is a small Pharmacia on the back street just down from the plaza where you can have prescriptions filled. It is on the right hand side of the road leading down to the ferry terminal.
There is very limited options for beauty or spa treatments on Vieques. The main option is the spa at the W resort, but expect to pay. There are a few independent masseuses on the island that will do house / hotel calls and you will find one or two basic hairdressing operations. However, if you need your nails done there are two nail salons and two barbers for men in Isabelle II.