Puerto Rico boasts some of the world’s most dramatic landscapes, and possibly even some of the rarest! Many travelers relish in the experience of visiting Hawaii to experience what it feels like to sink your toes into black, volcanic sand. But guess what? Puerto Rico was blessed with black sand beaches too!
Vieques lies about 8 miles east off of the Puerto Rican mainland. It measures approximately 21 miles long by 4 miles wide. Like most places on the Island, it is made up of a few different barrios (neighborhoods), with the most famous being Isabel Segunda (Isabel II)
Before Hurricane Maria, the population of Vieques was about 9,301. The storm struck the small island hard, causing near total shutdown of the island’s tourism-based economy. But the small, tight-knit community on the island has been working hard to restore its way of life, and many hotels, bed, and breakfasts, and Airbnb operators have resumed operations. So do not hesitate to plan some time on Vieques. It is open for business and filled with so much wonder!
The island’s name is a Spanish spelling and a native word of the Taíno, which means “small island.” It also has the nickname “Isla Nena,” which is translated in Spanish as “Little Girl Island,” which alludes to the perception that Vieques is Puerto Rico’s little sister.
Vieques is best known as the site used by the US Navy as a bombing range and testing ground. Which then led to major protests and the Navy’s departure in 2003. Today, this former Navy land is a national wildlife refuge. There are numerous beaches that still retain the names given by the Navy. So don’t be surprised when you hear the locals refer to beaches as Red Beach, Blue Beach and Green Beach. The beaches in Vieques are commonly listed among the top beaches in the Caribbean for their Azul colored waters and white sands.
This lack of development on the island is now being used to market Vieques under an ecotourism banner. The island stays true to its reputation of being a sleepy, unspoiled, and abundantly filled area of pristine deserted beaches.
The black sand happens in Vieques when rich and amazing volcanic material from Monta Pirata is washed down through a quebrada (stream) during the rains. Monta Pirata is the highest point on Vieques. It’s a strenuous vertical climb at about 1,000 feet. The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is in charge of Monta Pirata. There are no known hiking trails on the National Refuge in Vieques. It’s still in the early days of the cleanup process, and it will be a number of years before it’s completed, having once been used by the US Navy as a communications site.
Eventually, areas of Monte Pirata will open to the public. However, their core mission at the moment is the preservation of wildlife, and not establishing public access to create a National Park, which is geared toward attracting tourists. Efforts are also being made to redevelop the island’s agricultural economy. There are major clean up efforts being made in contaminated areas of the former bombing ranges. The goal is to keep developing Vieques as a tourist destination.
When the volcanic particles in the water mix in with the sand, they wash ashore, and the black sands are formed. There are few beaches in areas of Puerto Rico in which this happens. It occurs as far as Playa Cofi, located on the north coast, and also in Punta Arenas Beach which is in the far west end of the island. However, no beach is as noticeable is as abundant as much as you see in Vieques at Playa Negra.
Located at the southern shore of Vieques, just east of the Blue Horizon Boutique Resort is where you will discover Playa Negra if you can even discover it at all! Up until around 2004, Playa Negrita was a little-known secret.
When you arrive at Playa Negrita (Negra), you will see the think black traces of black sand, contrasting with shades of deep golden sand. Watching each wave break into glistening foam, as it blankets the sand is a remarkable occurrence. To accent, there is uniquely shaped driftwood, rock cliffs, and lush bushes adorned along the cliffs that run alongside the shore. Throw a bright turquoise ocean, and a little sunset lighting into the mix, for what we like to call a “Sand Lovers Dreamscape.” It’s truly magnificent and beyond worthy of an Instagram Boomerang Video!
But it doesn’s stop there! Take a right, and keeping walk down the beach for a more dramatic look at how overpowering the volcanic sand becomes! It’s worth the trail, so don’t miss it.
Just another enchanted splendor of nature, Playa Negra is a must visit when you are in Vieques. Playa Negra has been the location of film and photography shoots for big names such as Sports Illustrated and Victoria’s Secret!
Remember, if it hasn’t rained in a while or during your visit, you may not be able to see much black sand, if any at all. Like many of the beaches on Vieques, Playa Negra is secluded and remote. It is very much off the beaten path. Even if you do manage to find it, there will be no signs signifying you are on Playa Negra – only the traces of black sand. There are no parking or beach bars. Playa Negra is not the beach you want to spend your entire day at unless you love being directly in the sun or bring or bring an umbrella for shade. Playa Negra is more of an adventure, to experience the beautifully wild acts and balances of nature in Puerto Rico. It is more of a hike, but well worth the effort.
Below are a set of directions that should help you find Playa Negra.
Directions to Playa Negra or The Black Sand Beach in Vieques, Puerto Rico
You can access Playa Negra in two ways.
Option #1 – You can start your walk from Esperanza Beach or Playa Grande. It’s a long walk but scenic and well worth it. At high tide, the trek is more difficult, and you will have to walk in and around the rock formations. Remember to go at your own risk. There are no lifeguards, so please practice common sense.
Option #2 – If you’re driving from Esperanza’s head west on Rt. 996. At the end of this road, make a left towards La Hueca on Rt. 201. Follow the road. Watch for Kilometer sign 7.0. Right before the Gallery Galleon, you’ll see a little dirt road leading to Playa Negra. Parking may be tricky. The dirt road you see is what will lead you to Playa Negra is the quebrada (stream). During the rainy season or times of heavy rain, there will be more water so you may have to walk around the sides. Make sure you wear adequate footwear and use caution.
Finding Playa Negra is an adventure you will surely not forget and cherish always!
We can’t wait for you to come down and experience the beauty here and keep coming back year after year. We will see you soon.
Safe & fun travels!