Vieques, P.R.: Forts, diving, art and a bioluminescent bay

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VIEQUES, Puerto Rico -- It's 2003, and the Caribbean has a new tourist destination to tout -- one that offers plenty to see and do. Here's a sampling:

• Fort Conde de Mirasol dates from 1843 and was the last Spanish fort built in the Caribbean. The fort has been restored as a museum with exhibits, old maps and an art gallery. Hours are Wednesdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; admission is $2; call (787) 741-1717.

• El Faro de Punta Mulas Lighthouse, built in 1896, has a beam that can be seen 16 miles away. It was restored in 1992 and now houses a museum. Hours are Tuesdays through Sundays; admission is free. For information, call (787) 741-0060.

• The bioluminescent bay is best seen on moonless nights when millions of one-celled creatures called dinoflagellates glow in neonlike blue colors. Island Adventures offers two-hour evening trips by pontoon boat at $20 per person; (787) 741-0720. Blue Lagoon Kayaks features kayak trips for $10 person, (787) 741-0025.

• More than 50 beaches ring Vieques, and most are open to the public. Locals recommend Green Beach, Sun Bay, Red Beach and Blue Beach. Secret Beach has great snorkeling.

• Cafe Media Luna, on the second floor of a yellow colonial house in Isabel Segunda, one of the two towns on the island, serves tapas-style dinners featuring Latin/Asian cuisine. Call (787) 741-2594.

• Also recommended: The restaurant at the Inn on the Blue Horizon, (787) 741-3318.

• Blue Caribe Dive Center in Esperanza, the other town on Vieques, charges $90 for a two-tank dive and equipment rental. Lots of reefs and sea life. Call (787) 741-2522.

For Vieques information, visit www.gotopuertorico.com; www.enchantedisle.com; and www.islavieques.com. Puerto Rico Tourism Co. has offices in Isabel Segunda.

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