Top 10 Things to Love about Puerto Rico

There are many reasons I would recommend vacationing in Puerto Rico. In fact, there are many reasons why I LOVE this island. Full disclosure, Puerto Rico is where my wife grew up, it's where I lived for a short time and it's where we were married, so I'm somewhat biased. That said, la Isla del Encanto continues to provide new surprises every time we visit, which is at least a few times annually. Here are a few of my favorite things about PR.

1. EL Yunque—(pronounce like El Joon-kay, sort of) You should visit this canopied rain forest, the only rainforest in the US National Forest Service, if you come to the Island. You can zip line, hike, or swim in one of the many swimming pools left by the cascadas that are formed on the mountainsides. It’s a nice escape from the more developed areas of the island.

2. Old San Juan-We visit Old San Juan nearly every time we come to the island. The emerald grounds around El Morro are a great place to put a blanket down, fly a kite, have a piragua (flavored shaved ice) or a beer, and just take in the beautiful views. Also, there are many shops, souvenir and upscale boutiques; there is truly something for everyone. You may run into some street musicians playing or discover an art gallery full of colorful paintings. The cobblestone streets and colonial buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries add to the ambiance.

3. El Hamburguer-Always, always, when we visit Old San Juan, we stop at El Hamburguer on the way in. It’s nothing fancy, but DAMN if you want a good hamburger, THIS IS THE PLACE. Trust me. It’s a local place, usually crowded, noisy and well worth it.

4. The Beaches. Condado/Ocean Park, Arecibo, Rincon, Boqueron, , Vieques, Culebra etc. There are a lot of great beaches in the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico has a bunch. You don’t have to look far. In fact, you’ll do just fine if you stay in the San Juan neighborhoods of Condado or Isla Verde. I lived in Ocean Park for a while, which is right between the two, great beach. However—the best beaches you may want to venture out and discover on your own. There are some great ones in the above-mentioned locations, and I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface.

5. The people-With rare exception, I do love the people of Puerto Rico. Of course, Puerto Ricans are US citizens, but they have retained their own heritage and culture, their language (Spanish is 1st, English 2nd), and in my opinion a more grounded view of life. They are independent from the US in many ways, despite the political relationship. Perhaps it’s the proximity to perfect sandy beaches, occasional hurricanes a so-so economy and the unchanging cycle of the tides, but there is a relaxed, take it as it comes perspective which my Puerto Rican friends have that I envy. I love just chilling with my friends there, just having a Medalla or Cuba Libre, maybe near the beach watching the sunset.

6. Deep Fried Goodness-In PR, in pretty much any cafeteria or restaurant, street side vendors, EVERYWHERE, you can get some deep fried goodness. We’re talking about Tostones. Bacalaitos. Alcapurrias, Empanadillas, Croquetas, Relleno de papa…I’m probably forgetting some. It may not be good for your cholesterol, but if you have some mayo/ketchup to dip, you’ll not regret indulging in these tasty morsels.

7. The Pride-Whether it’s J Lo, Marc Anthony performing live on tv, Monica Puig winning a tennis tournament, Felix Trinidad winning a fight, the PR national basketball team knocking off the US Dream team (Yes! it happened, look it up), ANYTHING a Puerto Rican does is wildly celebrated by its citizens. The great Roberto Clemente is still revered there. It must be noted, however, that the largest sum of pride is retained for the children and family that manages to achieve something significant in their lives or careers. Familia pride is king.

8. Coqui’s-There aren’t any animals native to Puerto Rico. A few have been brought there by man over the centuries, cattle, goats, cats, dogs. Rats came, stowed away in the hulls of ships hundreds of years ago. One native species, is much beloved by Puerto Ricans, though, an amphibian called the Coqui. This frog is known for its chirp which sounds just like its name. Co-QUI! Co-QUI! If I were to call my mother-in-law at her home in Guaynabo in the evening, her voice would be accompanied by this sound in the background. You hear it every night, even in residential neighborhoods.

9. Los Pleneros-At any gathering of significance, you have a good probability of experiencing one of these.This is when a group of individuals get together to sing, play drums and percussion instruments, tamborines and guiros, wood blocks, you name it—it’s all part of the celebration.No matter the occasion, los Pleneros always takes a party to the next level.

10. Family. Family is everything in Puerto Rico. When you marry into a Puerto Rican family, you must be prepared for this situation. It’s a package deal, but rest assured you will be better for your interactions with a good Puerto Rican family. I’m not saying the entire island is full of perfect people, but I will say the vast majority of people there are kind, considerate people. We can learn a lot from our fellow citizens in the Caribbean

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