With temperatures in the eighties year round and no passport needed from the U.S., Puerto Rico tops the list as one of the most enchanting romance destinations in the Caribbean. Boasting a bevy of fine beaches, late-night casinos, greener than green golf greens, shopping and eco-adventures, Puerto Rico is a sun-soaked trio of islands that cater to every taste and every budget. Spanish culture abounds in San Juan while Vieques – the largest wildlife refuge in the Caribbean – and Culebra offer laid-back tropical charm without the crowds and the cruise ships.
For eco-astute couples who like to explore on their own, Verdanza Hotel in Isla Verde opened a charge station for electronic vehicles. “The reduction of toxic emissions and the costs related to oil products make electric cars an increasingly attractive option,” said Rick Newman, president, “our decision to install a charge station was a natural next step in our commitment to contribute to a healthier environment.” www.verdanzahotel.com
At the foot of El Yunque rain forest, St. Regis Bahia Beach resort picked up top marks from Audubon International, the non-profit that champions environmental sustainability. The prestigious award honored the classic Caribbean décor and hydroponic garden that turns out the herbs and vegetables served in Fern, the Jean-Georges Vongerichten Asian fusion eatery. www.stregisbahiabeach.com
Five Hilton Worldwide properties now boast “Bride Whisperers” who plan weddings from soup to nuts and everything in between. “The wedding planning process can be daunting, which often puts unnecessary strain on couples at what should be one of the most exciting times in their lives,” said Jessica Sierra, director of sales. Properties participating include the Waldorf Astoria El Conquistador with the Coquí Water Park and seven tennis courts and Las Casitas Village with 24-hour butler service.
Sweet on the beach, 80-room San Juan Water and Beach Club, known simply as The Water Club, is designed in sapphire-blue that match the Atlantic Ocean. “Think intimate beachfront wedding with a rooftop reception that turns into the bash of the year, catered to perfection by Chef Raúl Correa while the hottest DJs spin the tunes,” smiles José Torres, general manager, “All the bride needs to do is look gorgeous!” Nightly rates range from $199.00 to $359.00, based on double occupancy. www.waterbeachclubhotel.com
Choice Hotels International is big on low prices with generous discounts at several of their Caribbean properties. A rate slice of up to twenty-five percent with a minimum stay of four nights invite at hotels in the Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. “This is the first time we’ve rolled out region-wide promotions like these,” said Bill Clegg, regional vice president, “ those who stay fewer than four nights earn twenty percent off all Caribbean properties once advanced booking requirements are met.” www.choicehotels.com
Meat & Greet
In Guavate, suckling pig is to Puerto Rico what barbecue is to Memphis. In the Sierra de Cayey Mountains, Ruta del Lechon or Route of Pork dishes up the tastiest pork this side of Tennessee. Spit-fired until the skin is a caramel crisp and served with arroz con gandulas or rice with pigeon peas is the real deal as salsa bands morph the spirited restaurant into one grand street fiesta.
Foodies load up on aromatic herbs, artisanal cheeses and local goodies like empanadas stuffed with hearts of palm at the Mercado in front of the El Museo de San Juan. A delicious invitation to visit one of the Caribbean’s top art museums, vendors hawk their delectable eats in the courtyard every Saturday.
Putting in Paradise
Puerto Rico boasts more than twenty courses – more than anywhere else in the Caribbean. Top greens include the 18-hole Berwind Country Club in Rio Grande, two championship courses at the Westin Rio Mar and the Palmas del Mar Country Club in Humacao designed by Gary Player and Rees Jones. For spectators, Ladies PGA Tour and the Senior PGA Tour finish their seasons in Puerto Rico.
Twenty-three airlines provide 15,000 flights from 62 destinations to the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan. Cities with daily non-stop service include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Airlines offering service include Continental, Delta, USAir, United, Jet Blue, Northwest, Spirit and American Airlines which has made San Juan its hub for flights to other Caribbean destinations.
A Click Away
Puerto Rico Tourism: www.seepuertorico.com.