Stay Somewhere Less Ordinary: Hix Island House, Vieques
There are basic ingredients in a standard hotel room recipe, among these, I would rank "four walls" at or near the top of the list. But upon entering your room -- or, rather your "loft apartment" -- at Hix Island House in Vieques, Puerto Rico, you immediately notice that there's a wall that's simply not there.
This is the work of architect John Hix, who designed this very unique accommodation to blend in with the environment, taking its aesthetic cues from the many gray boulders scattered throughout the island -- and also to be easy on it. There's solar power, solar heat for the showers, and obviously no climate control, save for a fan. (The rooms are positioned to take advantage of the steady trade winds blowing over Vieques, so it's quite comfortable.)
The four buildings contain 13 lofts, and they look like they are made of gray cement -- actually, block and reinforced concrete, surfaced with plaster. The open wall is also a deck area, although in an emergency, like, say a hurricane, you could roll down a metal door to create four walls.
Leaving the design philosophies to the side, Hix Island House does adapt to luxury: the linens are Frette, the toiletries are Rusk. And while these are "lofts", which you should read as "no daily housekeeping", the room has a kitchen and each day the staff will replenish your stock of breakfast items, including very good housemade bread and very strong coffee.
"Here, our guests welcome a divergence from their mundane urban and suburban life...a milieu of contrast, for me, is the very essence of recreation," writes Hix. It is true that it was different from anywhere I'd ever stayed before, almost like camping, with the benefit of a comfortable bed and plumbing. The sounds of Vieques at night are hypnotic, punctuated with the chirping of frogs and the whinnies and snorts of the island's many wild horses. The bed has a mosquito net draped bridal style over it, which is not quite enough to ward off the scourge of camping, the damned bugs -- it's easy for an arm to poke out from beneath it, or to simply toss it aside as it only closes via a casual overlap. I woke up with no fewer than ten mosquito bites on my left hand alone.
The addition of a more robust mosquito net over the bed -- the kind that zips and hits the floor, say, would make me want to stay at Hix for a very long time indeed.