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Before my plane touched down on Puerto Rican soil, my mind was racing one hundred miles per minute. The constant relentless pace of New York City had left me stressed, exhausted, and overloaded with information. Time for a getaway.

As I stared out the window of my plane, we finally broke through the clouds and the glistening sparkles of the sea and the rich texture of the land illuminated my eye sight. I immediately breathed a sigh of relief. Having visited PR once before, I knew this gem of an island, situated in the deep and blue waters of the Caribbean, would be the perfect escape for my mind and body.

This land, formed by volcanic rock centuries ago and first named Borinquen, “Land Of The Brave Lord” by the native Taino settlers, is rich in both landscape and cultural comforts. Food, drink, party and relaxation are the tenants of life here. My tour guide, Jorge Lopez would later use this mantra to describe the Boriqua way of doing things: “We celebrate everything.”

Accenting this culture of celebration, is an authenticity that is often missing in other travel experiences.

Jeannette Aviles, the Director of Sales & Marketing for the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, explained to me about her native land, “We’ve grown as an island in many ways, but our culture is still intact. We are still who we are, regardless of the great United States influence.”
If you are someone craving a real immersion into Latino culture and authenticity, without stamping your passport, here’s what you need to do when you visit PR this winter.
WHERE TO STAY:  I had the honor of visiting two hotels during my PR visit. Let’s start with the Sheraton.
This property provides stunning views of the ocean from the comfort of its “urban resort” atmosphere. I started my day at the Zen Spa retreat, where I was greeted with soothing music, a warm robe, slippers, and unmatched hospitality. I opted for a pedicure and facial, provided by their amazing cosmetologist, Melissa. I also checked out my first citrus scented body scrub with Perla, who helped my skin return to it’s brown glowing glory. After my relaxing afternoon, I hung out poolside at the resort’s gorgeous infinity pool, with views of Old San Juan in the distance.
The second half of my trip was spent at the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino in the Condado neighborhood of San Juan. This area is known for its luxurious beaches and oceanside hotel rooms.
I had the opportunity to get a much needed deep tissue massage (because as a writer, my shoulders are constantly in knots), and immediately felt some relief after masseuse, Giovanni, used his skills to de-stress my limbs.
WHAT TO DO: You have got to do the Bacardi Rum tour at Casa Bacardi. It is the biggest modern rum distillery in the world. Not only did I receive an amazing historical breakdown of rum making in the Caribbean from brand specialist Christian Frontanes, but I also got to take a mixology course that included making (and consuming!) three drinks.
Also, make sure you add an Old San Juan tour to your to-do list. The multi-colored buildings make for gorgeous photoshoots, and it’s also a prime local shopping and eating hub. I had the opportunity to tour Fort San Cristobal, which is still standing in its original glory since the 1500s. The history of this area is rich, and the views from the top are picturesque, to say the least.
WHAT TO EAT: The Churrasco Mofongo at Cafe Puerto Rico had my tastebuds screaming with joy. And don’t forget to try the white cheese with guava sauce. These are local staples. And make sure you drink down a passion fruit mojito, because what good food is complete without a little buzz?
You can see more of my photos here:
San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
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