Playa Grande, The Big Beach on Vieques

Playa Grande is easier than I expected to find. For some reason, I had it in my head that I’d get lost on my way to it. The directions are pretty straight forward, but still, you never know. And sometimes, it’s always the “easiest” routes which lead us astray.


Also known as the “big beach”, Playa Grande is 4 miles long. To find it, you should follow Rt. 996 west out of the town of Esperanza. Follow that road until you reach the closed radar field gate, then turn left. Proceed down that road and you’ll see signs welcoming you first to the National Wildlife Refuge, and then secondly, to Playa Grande.



You’ll see anti-military graffiti all around the island.




The road is maintained by the Fish and Wildlife Service, so it’s pretty drivable. You may have to pull off the road a little when an oncoming car approaches as the road is narrow and has brush on either side of it.


Playa Grande is known for its riptides and rough surf. As a result, it’s not considered an especially swimmable beach. I will say, however, that when I first approached the beach area, there appeared a more rounded, protected area of the beach where some young ladies were swimming. I’d certainly exercise caution, but that looked pretty inviting to me.




I should mention, although I didn’t see the area, a local man shared with me that there are more swimmable spots as you go down the beach, you just have to get past the boulders. Pull into the access areas which lead to the beach and check it out.



As I drove further, however, the surf definitely became rougher. I pulled off next to the beach so that I could take a closer look. Waves crashed into the shoreline. Although picturesque, you definitely could not swim here. If you plan on exploring, it’s important to have a decent pair or sneakers or water shoes. There are boulders you can walk on, and flip flops just aren’t going to cut it.


On this day, there was also the plague of the seaweed invading the beach. It continues to be a problem, and of all the beaches I’ve visited so far, this was the worst. The smell of the drying seaweed was strong and particularly offensive. It was PILED up high, really high, and continued to be swept in by the surf.




I stood for a few moments, enjoying the view of the crashing waves and the hypnotic sounds which they produce. If you look back to your left, you can enjoy the beautiful views of Esperanza.


This is also a spot that locals love to bring their dogs. Whereas it’s not known as a swimming beach, dogs can roam free, frolicking in the surf and running up and down the shore. There is a leash law on Vieques, but it’s more lax here.


I love to explore the different beaches on the island. There are probably too many for me to get to this time around on my stay on the island. I can say pretty confidently, though, that although pretty, this is one of the beaches that I doubt I’d revisit. With only one spot to really swim in, it would stink to get down there and realize that your infringing on someone else’s piece of paradise. It’s also too rough for me. It was great to experience once, but now I think I’m good. On to the next beach!

2 thoughts on “Playa Grande, The Big Beach on Vieques

  1. Greg

    I read in another blog that the seaweed rally comes and goes. One day there is a ton of it, a few days later it’s gone. But naturally since few (if any?) of the beaches are tended/cleaned. What was your experience?

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