RETURNING FROM PUERTO RICO
Two weeks ago, I returned from a full week spent in the Boricua Island, at a professional convention. I came back convinced that you may be overlooking an excellent vacation spot.
The great advantage of Puerto Rico is the fact that it is still the United States, that implies you don’t need a passport to travel there and you don’t need to roam to stay connected. The trip itself is easy; every day, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and New York airports offer several flights to San Juan Luis Munos Marin International Airport. Air fare is cheap when compared with what you pay for other Caribbean destinations.
Lodging also is on the cheap side. Our event took place at Waldorf Astoria El Conquistador, in Fajardo, touted as the best resort in America. Besides a spa lounge, a water park, multiple pools, tennis courts, golf courses, several restaurants and shops, it also owns a famous island, Palomino Island linked by a seven-minute ferry trip to the Fajardo. Palomino offers a unique and fancy beach experience. With this and all that, you can still rent a ocean view room, at El Conquistador, for less than $300 a day, if you are lucky.
Puerto Rico is shock-full with entertainment… Calling Puerto Rico “an island” is a consequential misnomer. In fact, it is an archipelago made of 143 islands. This is significant because water sport and just beach combing is a major activity there.
The many hotels in the city center and in Old San Juan offer nightly shows, casinos and dance parties.
Destinations to daytime excursions are relatively limited. Old San Juan, Yunque Forest, Luquillo kioskos, Icacos catamaran trips, horseback riding in Humacao are the most popular. If possible you should also visit the breathtaking Camuy Caves and Arecibo Observatory featuring the largest telescope in the world. You have seen the radio telescope in 007 Golden Eye and Contact.
The economic situation of the island has turned sour. The commonwealth is now 92 billion dollars in debt. It is estimated that 25% of the workforce has moved to the American mainland. But Governor Padilla has made tourism a center piece of his attempt to avoid bankruptcy. Therefore, you may benefit from a bargain and half.
On the other hand, some of the resorts to survive have transformed themselves into tourist traps. For example, at El Conquistador, you will pay for everything, including for room maid and bell service, whether you tip or not. A room service lunch sandwich costs $60. Have a quotation for all services ordered, and make sure you scrutinize your bills at check out.
In general, the people are gentle, pleasant and helpful. The local food is delicious. The music is entertaining. The beaches are gorgeous. Crime rate is low. But there is not enough to do for a full dawn to dusk week, unless you are there to play the lizard by the pool.
I had a great week with my colleagues, from Sunday to Sunday… I met old friends, made new ones, networked, spent afternoons at the pool or on Palomino Island, and partied every night. And the kids, who joined, enjoyed it.
When you think of a Caribbean vacation, consider Puerto Rico… It allied the sophistication of the mainland to the sun and palm trees of the islands. And it is not that expensive.
Until the next adventure, it was The Traveller.
(The Traveller, Saturday, August 8, 2015)
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