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El Blok Hotel – May 2017

The Spanish Virgin islands remain hidden gems of the Caribbean chain. The two main islands - Culebra and the slightly larger Vieques (pronounced Vee-Ek-EZ) – are nestled just east of Puerto Rico and consequently a United States territory. These little cousins to the U.S. of A offer all the benefits of pristine island life with modern amenities, and the best part is most people do not even know they exist.

On the south side of Vieques lies the funky-fun, beach community of Esperanza that boasts a long row of unique restaurants – some whimsical, some ramshackle, all enticing - that line the cobbled seaside path overlooking a landscape dappled with wild horses and white sandy beaches.

The El Blok hotel was built here. It is a distinct and impressive addition to an already diverse area. This aptly named monolithic structure offers 21 rooms, one restaurant and two bars, one of which is on the rooftop peering into the Caribbean sea below.

However, location is not what sets this hotel apart. It is the feel and design of the space. What I see is modern, progressive and clever architecture for a tropical climate. Clad and built almost completely in concrete this boutique hotel has captured an organic feel with sweeping and curved walls that gently steer you through the vast reception, dining and cocktail spaces. Even though most areas are open to the outside, the structure’s material actually cools and dries the air making it very comfortable in an otherwise tropical (read that warm and humid) climate. The guest bedrooms are charming and non-pretentious. Consider a room that combines the openness of a loft with a touch of bright and colorful hedonism.

The rooftop bar is the crowning jewel (pun intended). You’ll often find craft cocktails made with fresh-squeezed star or passion fruit that tingle with ginger as they go down. The lounge area offers hard and curvy surfaces softened with delightfully colored throw pillows, swinging bamboo chairs and clever lighting. The main feature up here is the mini-infinity pool home to 10, or so, tiny inflatable pink flamingos. This example of whimsy can be found throughout the hotel.

Chef Jose Enrique will delight guests who enjoy discovering native foods. His menu is a fusion of modern and island creole where you can discover Mofongo, a classic Puerto Rican dish of mashed garlic, plantains and crunchy chicharrón or try Pasta Salchicha featuring locally made sausage.

El Blok will capture the imagination and make you smile turn after turn. You may find that by the end of your stay you’ve befriended your hotel staff and locals and may never want to leave.

Danielle Breteau is a humor writer and likes food.

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