Cayo Afuera, Vieques: An Islet Easily Seen, Yet Hard to Find
Cayo Afuera is easy to see when visiting the village of Esperanza on the southern coast of Vieques. The tiny islet sits just a few hundred feet offshore. It’s plainly visible from any part of the town that fronts the sea.
At the same time, though, you won’t find this islet on any maps.
That is to say, the islet itself appears on maps of Vieques, but it doesn’t carry the Cayo Afuera name. Instead, the minute landmass is labeled Cayo Real.
Yes, Cayo Afuera’s real name is Cayo Real.
So, what’s the deal?
As in many parts of the Caribbean, certain points of interest carry multiple names. Often, these unofficial names are derived from local legends, quirks, and traditions. Other times, though, it’s all about common sense.
Whatever the case, the unofficial names are more ingrained in the local culture than the official ones. As such, the nicknames are more commonly used by local residents.
Cayo Afuera is one such example.
So, how did Cayo Afuera get its name?
The answer, in part, lies just next door in the form of Cayo de Tierra.
The sister islets share many similarities. They’re both equally small, low-lying, and uninhabited. The one big difference between them, though, forms the basis of Cayo Real’s nickname.
That big difference: Cayo de Tierra is connected to mainland Vieques by a sandy land bridge. This, in effect, makes Cayo de Tierra more tombolo than separate islet. It’s a distinction not lost of local fishermen.
I got the scoop from the cool folks at Abe’s Snorkeling and Biobay Tours. According to Abe, Viequense fishermen came up with Cayo Afuera. The nickname makes sense as “afuera” means out/away in English. So, as Cayo Real is situated fully away from Vieques and Cayo de Tierra is not, the fishermen started using Cayo Afuera.
You’ll probably want to use it too if you want to better fit in while you’re visiting Esperanza. Or better yet, book yourself on one of Abe’s snorkeling or biobay tours. Who knows what other nuggets of local Vieques folklore you might learn along the way…