I am always looking for interesting places to travel. When I can combine a lovely location with an opportunity to do good or give back I am even happier. So when Puerto Rico popped up on the 2019 New York Times 52 places to go list, I packed a bag, grabbed my husband and set off for a few days.
My first impression of Puerto Rico came directly from the 1961 movie, West Side Story. It was a Puerto Rican culture that included close-knit families, great music, dancing and struggle. I remember feeling a palpable struggle of the people.
Fast forward 58 years later and the culture I found on my visit to Puerto Rico still includes the same core family values, an inspiring food, music and dance scene and unfortunately the real and still visible remnants of the hardships of a people regaining its momentum after the devastation and trauma of Hurricane Maria and Irma.
All over San Juan, you can see the emergence of a new and stronger city. It felt good to come and support Puerto Rico and its people with a visit. I was delighted to witness the progress and the growth of the city of San Juan as it emerges from that devasting time. The resilience of the people of Puerto Rico was woven through every person’s story.
I got to listen to local women talk about their family experiences- months and months with no electricity or water and often tenuous cell service. Pregnant women being sent to the US, families housing friends and relatives who lost everything to the storms. I listened closely to the tales of togetherness and ingenuity of neighborhoods and communities as they rebuilt their lives. It was simultaneously heartwarming and unimaginable.
The two hotels we chose for our visit to Puerto Rico were particularly helpful during the days following the hurricanes. They shared their resources with the people of Puerto Rico, generously housing the first responders for months and supplied their employees with food and shelter. They set up wi-fi areas for the people in the community to gain access to their loved ones and offered support and assistance continually.
Puerto Rico is still a visible story of regaining power and growth and the new construction of hotels, restaurants and entertainment centers is in full swing near our first hotel, The Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino. The Zen Spa and Infinity pool were definitely some of the highlights of our stay at this urban location.
The rest of our visit in Puerto Rico landed us right on the beach at The San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. Morning yoga poolside, the luxury accommodations and live music and evening salsa dancing in the lobby made my few days at this hotel a home-run. The seaside location always makes me feel like I am on vacation.
My husband always enjoys an evening of black jack and poker so he was in heaven having a chance to do some gambling at both locations.
I fell in love with the strong Puerto Rican coffee and the morning Mallorca buns, (their version of a sweet roll). The local rice and red stewed bean dish, Arroz Mamposteao, reminded me just how unique, and delicious the food is in Puerto Rico. We ventured out for dinner one evening to an upscale meal at Azabache restaurant. This elegant hot spot rivals any New York City tasting menu we have had this year. Run by 3 Guzman brothers, with Chef Carlos Guzman leading the trio. Every cocktail mixed and dish served was superb.
The balmy weather and the gorgeous beaches coupled with the warmth of the people and the beauty of the culture made for an unforgettable trip.