A quick trip from the U.S., Puerto Rico is brimming with upscale hotels, divine restaurants, and beautiful beaches.
Puerto Rico is often overlooked as a warm-weather getaway, which is unfortunate, because it’s an easy jaunt from most of the United States. Plus, you can leave your passport at home.
This unincorporated U.S. territory offers a multitude of diversity to visitors, from the salsa-infused energy of San Juan to the ultra-laid-back beach culture of Vieques. And at only 100 miles long and 35 miles wide, it’s small enough that you can cram three distinctly different vacations—city, beach, and resort—into a week (or less), as getting from one place to another won’t eat up a lot of your precious vacation time.
Start in San Juan, the capital. Old San Juan has a clearly European flavor, with wrought-iron balconies and Easter egg-colored houses, where residents call to one another above the cobblestoned streets. Browse the shops, soak in the history of a 500-year-old fort or 17th-century cathedral, or sit on a bench to take in the sights of the city and enjoy its people’s energy.
Next, grab a short 25-minute flight to Vieques, an island that is largely unspoiled and undiscovered…for now. Until 2003, the island served as a vital Navy outpost, which kept Vieques relatively undeveloped. With the arrival of the W Resort in 2010, more people flocked to the island, yet the downtown area and roads that crisscross the island remain largely unchanged. Activities cater to outdoors lovers—biking, horseback riding, kayaking—and it’s not unusual to spend hours pursuing these endeavors without encountering another person.
To wrap things up, opt for classic luxury at El Conquistador, a Waldorf-Astoria property. Located in the northeastern corner of the main island, the resort makes a great jumping-off point for all of the activities that are packed into this small corner of the island. Plus, guests at the resort are allowed the opportunity to spend the day at Palomino Island, a private 100-acre reserve with horseback riding, snorkeling, windsurfing, and sailing–or just relaxing on the beach.
Of course, while you can easily experience all three vacations over the course of a week, you can just pick one and still get the full flavor of Puerto Rico.
Where to Stay
The Hotel El Convento is a beautiful Spanish Colonial building. 100 Cristo Street, Old San Juan 00901; 787-723-9020.
The W Retreat and Spa Vieques will make you feel like you’re lazing on your own private island. State Road 200, Vieques; 787-741-4100.
El Conquistador Resort is perched high above the ocean on a cliff. 1000 El Conquistador Avenue, Fajardo 00738; 787-863-1000.
Where to Eat
Augosto’s Restaurant is one of San Juan’s best restaurants, offering contemporary French cuisine and impeccable service. Courtyard Marriott Miramar, Avenida Ponce de Leon 801, Miramar, San Juan; 787-725-7700.
Pikayo at The Conrad Condado Plaza offers dishes that fuse cuisines from Eastern Europe and Africa with traditional Puerto Rican flavors. 999 Ashford Avenue, San Juan 00907; 787-721-6194.
What To Do
The Museum of Art of Puerto Rico contains artifacts from the 16th century. Avenida De Diego 299, Santurce, San Juan, 00909; 787-977-6277.
El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System. Rio Grande, 787-888-1880.
Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a 16th-century fort near Old San Juan, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Norzagaray St., San Juan 00901; 787-729-6777.