Sunny San Juan: Paradise a quick plane ride away, no passport needed

Between its balmy Caribbean climate, bathwater beaches and buzzing nightlife, Puerto Rico’s capital city of San Juan is a vibrant vacation destination for couples and singles alike.

For tourists interested in a glimpse into Puerto Rico’s rich colonial history, the cobbled streets of Old San Juan, founded in the 16th century, have plenty to offer.

Nestled in the heart of the colonial settlement is Hotel El Convento, a former convent that housed nuns in the 17th century. Guests are whisked into the old world by the building’s Spanish-colonial décor; just steps away, pigeons flutter in one of the city’s many plazas, and bells chime through the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. Its romantic allure has made El Convento a top pick for destination weddings and honeymoons. Rooms overlook the hotel’s open-air courtyard, Patio del Nispero, which was built around a 300-year-old tree. Lush plants add a lavish atmosphere to the newly renovated space, which serves authentic tapas and signature cocktails.

Speaking of booze, just blocks away the Global Warming cocktail steals the show at Marmalade. Though memorable, the drink is not for the faint of heart; a habanero chili-infused spherical ice cube melts into the drink, making each sip of hibiscus tequila a little hotter. Nearby, Taberna de Lúpulo is a beer lover’s paradise, but for those who came for the notorious Puerto Rican rum, Barrachina boasts having invented the piña colada.

Exploring all the nooks and crannies of Old San Juan is a breeze with a walking tour by Legends of Puerto Rico. Guides spend hours (and sometimes days) with history buffs crafting a detailed tour of the city. Between the forts, churches, architecture, monuments, museums and plazas, there is much to see.

But for the Puerto Rico-bound traveler interested in unapologetic indulgence, Condado is the place. The beachfront neighborhood is packed with shops, sand, eateries and of course, bars. All are within reach at La Concha Resort, which offers a plethora of oceanfront rooms, a casino, a private beach, and a dazzling lobby bar — a perfect backdrop for an adult-friendly escape.

“The Puerto Rican culture is rich. I hope everybody who comes here takes back a memory; a piece of our culture,” says Luis Rivera, general manager of La Concha, which will begin property renovations in early 2014,  including a new $1 million spa in the Suite Tower.

If you find yourself there before then, however, do your body a favor and schedule a massage at Euforia. The spa, adjacent to the resort, truly lives up to its name with masseuses who make good on the promise to “take you on a trip, mami.” Spring for a beachside rub down — salty and sultry.

With winter around the corner, resorts are preparing for the busy season; Puerto Rico’s tourism industry tends to heat up around Christmas, and die down in April.

“We find that a lot of people come here to escape the cold,” says Militza Orama, director of sales and marketing at La Concha. “It’s close and convenient; if you’re American, you don’t even need a passport.”

Escape farther

Only a short flight away from mainland Puerto Rico lays the peaceful and untouched island of Vieques. The U.S. Navy used the island for military exercises through 2003. Today, the former Navy land is a national wildlife refuge.

Vieques offers the chance to completely unwind and explore nature on its azure-colored beaches, many of which still have their Navy-given names (such as Red Beach and Blue Beach), plus kayak tours through the world-famous Bioluminescent Bay.

Where to stay

The W Retreat & Spa – Vieques Island is an oceanfront oasis that captures the tranquil vibe of the island. Start your day with a beachside yoga class, sip cocktails by the pools and cabanas, and indulge in dishes influenced by Puerto Rican heritage at Sorcé. The restaurant uses locally grown seasonal ingredients from its own farm on Vieques.

What to do:

Kayaking isn’t only a daytime excursion. Get ready to take a ride through one of the world’s few bioluminescent bays. Bieque Eco Trips offers nighttime tours of the bay, also known as Mosquito Bay. This national natural landmark is the most famous bioluminescent bay in the world. A microorganism that lights up whenever the water is disturbed causes the luminescence. Rowing a paddle through the water leaves a trail of fluorescent blue. Enjoy the tour sans technology and leave your camera behind; this magical natural phenomenon cannot be captured in photos.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…

International

British Royal family devastated by freak NY death…

The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in…

Local

DA: Homeless man severely beat by men in…

Two former college football players pleaded not guilty to the alleged severe beating of a homeless man in Allston earlier this year.

National

Hamas, Abbas's PLO announce reconciliation agreement

The Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed on Wednesday to a unity pact.

The Word

Is Avril Lavigne's new music video racist?

Some fans say Avril Lavigne's new music video is offensive to Japanese people.

Television

Jodie Foster married girlfriend Alexandra Hedison this weekend

No need to rely on cryptic Golden Globe speeches for your movie star sexual orientation questions anymore: Jodie Foster is married to a lady. Foster…

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…

Going Out

Thursty: Revamped Audubon is back in action

Having been a long time fan of Trina's Starlite Lounge in Inman Square, one of my only complaints about the place is that there's only…

NFL

Patriot’s schedule comes up fair

Those looking for built-in excuses for the Patriots 2014-2015 season will have to look elsewhere, because their schedule came up fair. For the fourth straight…

MLB

Nava demoted, Victorino return imminent

  Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava, who was batting a team-low .149/.240/.269, was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday. "His struggles at the plate, I…

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox top Yankees, 5-1

John Lackey shines, Pineda ejected in Red Sox win

Tech

Spider-Man's web shooters get real

A German lab technician has created a working Spider-Man web shooter, which fires pellets and a harpoon-tipped, retractable fishing line instead of a liquid web.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.