Cayo Chiva

Isla Chiva and the Still Forbidden Parts of Vieques

Widely heralded among the top attractions in Vieques, Playa La Chiva embodies most everyone’s idea of a perfect beach. The sand here is soft and white. Surrounding seas are calm and gin-clear. For families with novice swimmers, the welcoming waters of Playa La Chiva are a great place to get comfy in the water. At the opposite end of the spectrum, though, stands Isla Chiva.

The tiny islet (also known as Cayo Chiva) sits just offshore Playa La Chiva in la Bahía de la Chiva. Uninhabited, hardscrabble, yet close enough (seemingly) to touch, Isla Chiva reminded me of other islets that I swam/trekked out to during previous Caribbean adventures.

Think Pelican Cay (Turks and Caicos) or Caye Chateau (French St Martin). 

Isla Chiva, though, is different. It, like far too many areas in and around Vieques, remains off limits to visitors. This, of course, is not altogether that unusual in the Caribbean.

Coming ashore at a number of islets that we’ve encountered is prohibited. Environmental concerns or conservation efforts are common reasons why.

Neither is the case, though, when it comes Isla Chiva.

Instead, the more explosive (literally) reason why no one can visit Isla Chiva is the preponderance of unexploded military ordinance still present here.

Indeed, the United States Navy used much of Vieques as a practice ground for war games for 60 years (1941–2001). While the Navy finally (mercifully) left in 2003, they didn’t do a good job of cleaning up after themselves. It is a job that is continuing, though, albeit at a snail’s pace.

Will we ever get to set ashore at Isla Chiva? Check back with me closer to 2032…

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