Exciting new shopping opportunities on Vieques have mushroomed in recent years in the wake of the Navy exit and the ensuing tourist influx. In general, the consumer products stores, and the tourist and souvenir shops in both Isabel Segunda and Esperanza have gotten more sophisticated. For the first time in years, the clothing stores in Isabel Segunda and Esperanza are actually in fashion. Another place where the upgrade trend is also evident is in the quality of food and beverage offerings at grocery and convenience stores (which mirrors improvement in restaurant quality). Foodies might want to pick up some of the local hot sauce Coqui Fire Sauce (tel. 787/435-1099; www.coquifire.com), which is available throughout the island in mango garlic, papaya lime, and Komodo dragon varieties.
Nowhere is the burst of creativity greater than in the growth of island art galleries. A number of international artists have settled in Vieques, and together with the sizeable number of fine island artists, there is a particularly vibrant arts community. Because the island is such an obvious influence on the artists, their work tends to reflect the beauty of Vieques. The Vieques pioneer Siddhia Hutchinson is still going strong. The Siddhia Hutchinson Fine Art Studio & Gallery, Calle 3, A15, Isabel Segunda (tel. 787/741-8780), located between the lighthouse and the ferry dock, offers the owner's prints of local seascapes and landscapes, native flowers, fish, and birds for sale. Serbian artist Aleksandar Janjic opened Deda Galeria de Arte, Calle Muñoz Rivera and Calle Carlos Lebrun (tel. 787/741-1297; Mon-Fri 10am-3pm, Sat 6-9pm), to showcase his own and island artists' work. His graphics on canvas are warm and delicate prints of local flora inspired by classic Japanese art. Ileana Jové, Birdnestudios, outside Isabel Segunda, Rte. 997, Km 1.5 (tel. 787/616-4214), offers gorgeous jewelry and other mosaic works. Ileana Jové herself is now a talented metal sculptress. She rents two studios on her secluded property. It's a beautiful setting housing her studio and gallery. Caribbean Walk Gallery, Calle Antonio Mellado 357, Isabel Segunda (tel. 787/741-7770), sells beautiful local crafts, paintings, and sculptures made by more than 30 local artists. It also has some of the island works of talented landscape painter Ellie Harold, which are some of the most evocative of their kind of Vieques.