LOOKING FOR A VACATION GETAWAY THAT OFFERS BEAUTIFUL BEACHES, A CULTURE RICH IN HISTORY AND IS A SHORT NONSTOP FLIGHT AWAY FROM THE WASHINGTON DC AREA? PUERTO RICO MAY BE THE PERFECT DESTINATION FOR YOU! PUERTO RICO IS A CARIBBEAN ISLAND AND A TERRITORY OF THE UNITED STATES SO NO PASSPORTS ARE REQUIRED, THE CURRENCY IS THE US DOLLAR AND ENGLISH IS THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE.
When you land in San Juan, the island’s capital, you are only minutes from gorgeous beaches, hotels and restaurants. The Isla Verde area, adjacent to the airport is lined with fine hotels including The Ritz Carlton and the trendy Water Beach Hotel. These hotels offer some of the best dining on the island including famed eateries Il Mulino New York and Zest. Steps outside of the hotel front doors are many lively bars and local restaurants and Isla Verde beaches are particularly good for families as the water is always calm.
Moving a little further away from the airport area is the glamorous Condado Beach neighborhood. With a South Beach feel, this area has become very popular with tourists. Condado Beach has oceanfront hotels and restaurants and is a hub of activity day and night. The modern La Concha Renaissance is an oasis of oceanside glamour with four swimming pools and quiet beachfront vistas. In the La Concha lobby bar, beautiful people gather to sip sangria and dance to the pulsating sounds of local DJs. Nearby, the quieter Marriott Stellaris Resort or the stately Condado Vanderbilt Hotel can be found.
Puerto Rico is fast becoming a foodie’s paradise and both fine dining and local dives can be found throughout the island. The Paseo Caribe neighborhood is home to upscale shops and restaurants as well as restaurant chains like Rosa Mexicano, Fago de Chao and Blue Martini Bar. If you are staying in Condado, visit La Placita which surrounds the Old San Juan’s farmers market. Closed to traffic, this area is bustling in the evening as locals mix with tourists to drink and dance the night away along the cobblestone streets.
To get a feel for the island’s rich history and culture, visitors can explore the colonial buildings, museums and historical attractions of Old San Juan. The 16th century citadel Castillo San Felipe del Morro offers gorgeous views and a lesson in the military history of the island. All around the old quarter, artists display their paintings, sculptures and other wares while musicians perform. Gabriel Hernandez, chef of the quaint and charming Verde Mesa restaurant, uses local ingredients to create delicious meals with Caribbean influence. Raices, a popular restaurant with visitors, is a centuries-old establishment where staff are dressed in traditional costumes as they serve hearty dishes of island fare.
Forty-five minutes east of San Juan lies the rainforest El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the United States. To explore the rainforest, you can hire a tour guide or rent a car from any of the rental agencies located in San Juan. Expect some precipitation (bring rain gear) but the showers are short and shelters are plentiful. Over 240 species of trees, plants and wildlife live within the rainforest. On your return to your hotel be sure to make a stop at nearby Luquillo Beach, a busy public beach lined with food trucks and shacks offering authentic, inexpensive local food.
If you’re looking for adventure, take a short flight to the nearby islands of Vieques and Culebra. You can also drive to Fajardo to catch a ferry to one of these islands. The ferry boats are clean, modern and inexpensive which makes visiting the islands for a day a comfortable excursion. Vieques is the bigger of the two outlying islands and has several hotels including the luxurious W Retreat and Spa. Much of the island is a National Wildlife Refuge so expect to see wild horses roaming free. Culebra is the quieter and less inhabited of the two islands and is home to Flamenco Beach which is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Because Puerto Rico is a US territory, physicians are held to the same legal and medical standards as in the rest of the USA. Medical tourism is a growing business in Puerto Rico as Americans seek quality medical and dental care on the island with price tags up to 60% less than on the US mainland. Star Concierge Hub (starhealthcarepuertorico.com) is a medical concierge that assists with booking travel and hotels, making doctor and hospital appointments and creating a comfortable environment for patients. Cosmetic procedures are particularly popular on Puerto Rico since they tend to have low complication rates and shorter recovery times.
If glamorous resorts, pristine beaches, amazing food and a warm vibrant culture are what you’re after (with maybe a tummy tuck or mommy makeover thrown in while you’re there) – all within a direct flight from the Washington DC area – Puerto Rico is the perfect travel destination for you!