Five Things for Travel Advisors to Love About Puerto Rico

 

With its distinctive cuisine, vibrant Afro-Caribbean art and music scene, and unusual land- and sea-scapes, Puerto Rico combines the exhilaration of traveling abroad with the ease and comforts of home. It feels so exotic that it can come as a surprise to learn that as a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico is a domestic destination, so there’s no passport needed for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, American travelers do not need to opt for international plans to make calls since their phones will work perfectly on the Island, the U.S. dollar is the currency, and both English and Spanish are the official languages. And with over 120 daily nonstop flights from major cities throughout the United States, it’s easy to get here.

Just 100 miles long and 35 miles across, Puerto Rico also amazes first-time visitors with the diversity of experiences it offers, thanks in part, to its unique geography. Here, visitors can kayak through three of the world’s five bioluminescent bays, snorkel amid coral reefs, experience the longest zip line in the Americas, go spelunking through a river-carved cave system, and swim in natural waterfall-fed pools in tropical rainforests. With its toes in both the Atlantic and the Caribbean, the island has more than 300 dreamy beaches.

Plus, there are naturally-heated thermal waters to soak in, historic Colonial cities to discover, and a central mountain range with peaks up to 4,000 feet to explore. And where else can you go glamping in an air-conditioned, clear bubble tent and then luxuriate at a five-star resort with a renowned chef and its own nature reserve? And that’s just for starters. Read on for five compelling reasons for travel advisors to love Puerto Rico.

1: Puerto Rico’s unique history and high-spirited, hospitable culture.

Puerto Ricans often refer to themselves as Boricua, a word derived from the indigenous Taino name for the island. Boricua is a proud term that also describes their food, music and art. Boricua also has its roots in the Spanish conquistadors who made the island a key port, and the enslaved Africans they brought to work their sugarcane fields. The result is today’s inclusive and welcoming culture, where same-sex marriage is legal and people often greet each other—and strangers— by wishing them a buen dia (good day), and at street parties, festivals and clubs, everyone is invited to join in and move to the beat.

Dig into the past. The Taino legacy lives on in the DNA of the people, in words like hamaca (hammock) and huracán (hurricane) and in island place names. Their rock carvings and ceremonial sites are being unearthed around the island. One of the most extensive, the Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Site in the mountain town of Utuado, has 10 plazas, stone monoliths, petroglyphs and a small museum.

Discover Old San Juan. The Spanish influence is palpable in the 500-year-old walled city of Old San Juan. Here, brightly painted buildings with hidden courtyards line narrow cobblestoned streets that open onto inviting shady squares. It’s fun to stroll the streets, dipping in and out of art galleries, boutiques, cafes and restaurants, and touring historic homes and museums that tell the story of Ponce de León and other powerful figures. Not to be missed is Castillo San Felipe del Morro to hear tales of famous battles and climb the walls for sweeping views.

Savor the Art of Santurce. The once-abandoned buildings of this thriving San Juan arts district are now adorned with some of the best street murals in the world. You’ll also find Puerto Rican and contemporary art museums and the top venue for concerts and cultural events including the classical music Pablo Casals Festival. Santurce is also a nightlife center— especially around La Placita, a marketplace by day that turns into a nonstop party scene at night.

Feel the African roots of Loíza. Settled in the 16th century by Yoruba people brought from Africa as slaves, Loíza still has the island’s largest Black population. For a sense of African contributions to art, food, music, and dance, visit the studio of acclaimed artist Samuel Lind, to see his Afro-Puerto Rican-inspired art, and the Batey De Los Hermanos Ayala, a folkloric center where visitors can see vegigante (folkloric masks) and learn the sounds and movements of Puerto Rico’s homegrown bomba and plena music.

2: Puerto Rico’s distinctive cuisine and beverages

In Puerto Rico, it’s said that "el amor entra por la cocina" (love comes through the kitchen). Puerto Rico even has a word—chinchorreo—for hopping from one kiosk or eatery to the next to enjoy each cook’s version of traditional criollo dishes such as mofongo (mashed plantains). arroz mamposteao (rice with stewed beans) and lechón (whole roasted pig). Not far from San Juan, Piñones, in Loíza, and the Luquillo kiosks, are two favorite spots to sample a variety of fritters and other iconic foods. Organized culinary tours often combine stops at several restaurants with a cooking class.

Relish nature’s bounty. Fresh local ingredients define Puerto Rico’s cuisine, whether it is lovingly prepared “abuelita” (grandma) recipes or sophisticated farm-to-table presentations. The island has its share of James Beard Foundation-nominated chefs and recognized restaurants including Chef Natalia Vallejo, who made history as the first Puerto Rican woman nominee and the first Puerto Rican chef to claim the esteemed title of Best Chef South in 2023.

Sample at the source. The island’s creativity extends to its beverages. The piña colada was invented here and the cocktail scene continues to delight. Thanks to its high quality, Puerto Rican rum accounts for 70% of the rum consumed in the U.S. Several distilleries offer tours, tastings, mixology classes and food pairings in lovely settings and there’s a Puerto Rican Rum Journey App that can be used to book tours and review and rate the rums you try. Tours and tastings are also available at several coffee and chocolate haciendas.

Follow the taste trail. Gastronomic routes highlight several local specialties. The most famous is the “Pork Highway” in Guavate, a mountainous area about 40 minutes from San Juan. Here, every weekend feels like a party at the dozens of lechoneras, open-air restaurants that specialize in slow-roasting whole pigs. Many are open during the week as well.

“La Ruta de la Longaniza” features a flavorful sausage made from pork and/or chicken served by a string of restaurants in the mountains around Orocovis, and makes a great combination with a visit to the Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park.

Seafood lovers will love the Ruta del Mojo Isleño in Salinas, about an hour from San Juan, where the draw is seafood served in a sauce of slow-cooked tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, garlic, and olives.

3: The Awesome Nature of Puerto Rico

Thanks to its central mountain range and both Atlantic and Caribbean coasts, Puerto Rico is blessed with a diversity of eco-systems. A great way to experience the island’s natural bounty is at its 35 nature reserves.

Discover endemic birds and natural water slides. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. Puerto Rican Parrots and Spindalis are just two of the many unusual bird species that inhabit this 28,000-acre reserve. With a guide or on their own, visitors can hike to glorious waterfalls, splash down natural rock slides and swim and sun around inviting pools. The reserve is home to 50 different species of native orchids, 150 types of ferns and indigenous fauna such as the tiny coqui tree frog. A free app provides maps, photo field guides of plants and animals, updates on closures and interactive junior ranger and master explorer games.

Spot rare birds. The 9,000-acre Guánica Dry Forest, a United Nations International Biosphere Reserve, is home to more than 130 birds species. Birdwatchers also praise the limestone cliffs and salt flats around the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge and small mangrove islets that shelter flocks of shore bird.

Dip into bioluminescent waters. Puerto Rico has three (out of five in the world!) bioluminescent bays where single-celled organisms create glowing streams of light when the water around them is disturbed. The closest to San Juan Is in Fajardo. Across the island, La Parguera Bay is the only spot where visitors can swim, snorkel or ride in a motorized boat in these unique waters. The most remote, and reputedly the brightest of these settings in the world, Mosquito Bay is on the offshore island of Vieques.

Thrill to the longest zip line in the Americas. At 1.5 miles long, “The Monster” at Toro Verde Adventure Park is the second longest zip line in the world and the longest in this hemisphere. Thrill-seekers strap into a full-body harness to race downhill face-first at speeds of up to 95 miles per hour. Other adventures include a set of eight ziplines that get progressively longer, and Toro Bikes, the world’s longest cable bike circuit.

Go caving in Río Camuy Cave Park. Explorers don hard hats with mounted lights for a guided walk through the vast underground cave system carved by Río Camuy, the third largest underground river in the world. About 80 minutes from San Juan, the site delights visitors with impressive stalactites and stalagmites.

And more. Eco-tourism companies also offer more rigorous adventures around the island including cave tubing, rappelling, hiking, and rock-climbing as well as scuba diving, snorkeling and fishing expeditions. Punta Borinquen in Aguadilla and Rincón are a surfing center. And for an indulgent detox, Coamo Hot Springs has two mineral-rich thermal pools, both naturally heated by the remnants of a dormant volcano.

4: So Many Ways to Stay

Sumptuous resorts, vacation rentals, artsy boutique hotels, intimate inns, and glamping eco-hideaways… with so many quality options, it’s no wonder that Puerto Rico is a top choice for trips of all sorts, from destination weddings, family and romantic getaways to meetings, conventions and incentive trips.

Escape to a private villa: Imagine staying in an elegant villa with a private infinity pool perched on a hilltop overlooking the Caribbean, or a bachelorette party in an eight-bedroom house with a pool just steps from the beach. Or choose a mountain cottage or in-town condo. No wonder the vacation rental segment is taking off across Puerto Rico.

Sleep with history. The past is very much alive at a bevy of renovated historic hotels. The most famous, Hotel El Convento, is a former Carmelite convent in the heart of Old San Juan, commissioned in 1651 and occupied by nuns until 1903. Also in Old San Juan is The Galley Inn, once home to a Spanish captain and restored by a local artist. Historic accommodations are also sprinkled around the island. A great example is the Spanish hacienda-style Parador Guánica 1929, built for visiting sugar company executives and investors and now a family-friendly inn a short drive from Guánica Dry Forest and La Parguera bioluminescent bay.

Enjoy the Royal Treatment. Luxury reaches new heights at Puerto Rico’s elegant five-star resorts, which compete with each other to offer the most indulgent spas, gourmet dining and services. Among the San Juan standouts are the historic Condado Vanderbilt, with the beach for its backyard—complete with beach butler service—and the city at its front door; and the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel on Isla Verde beach, sprawling along two miles of Caribbean coast with 16 restaurants, a nightclub and a casino. Outside San Juan, nature takes center stage at resorts like Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. This AAA Five-Diamond hotel developed by Laurance Rockefeller is set on a 1,400- acre nature reserve and includes three Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed golf courses. Similarly, the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, built on a 483-acre former coconut plantation, offers naturalist-guided tours of its two private bird sanctuaries.

Go local. A stay at one of the island’s small family-owned small inns or paradores is a great way to be immersed in Boricua culture. Among the most acclaimed is Combate Beach Resort in Cabo Rojo, near Guánica’s Dry Forest and the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge.

Try glamping. Camping out doesn’t mean giving up creature comforts like a private bathroom at spots like the Ptahaya Glamping Retreat, near the Cabo Rojo nature reserve, or the Yuquiyú Treehouses, at the foot of El Yunque National Forest. The most unusual glamping may be at Vieques El Nido, where PVC, air-cooled, bubble tents provide a comfy vantage point for stargazing.

5: A Commitment to Travel Advisors

“We love travel advisors, and we are willing to show it!” said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico. Among its most valuable offerings is the Puerto Rico Travel Expert (PRTE) training, which provides ongoing and comprehensive travel advisor training and support along with a loyalty and rewards program, and in-depth planning support.

Get certified, earn rewards. “The course is designed to provide the kind of information travel advisors need to sell Puerto Rico with confidence,” Dean noted. Graduates of the core “General Course” receive certification as a Puerto Rico Travel Expert (PRTE). The course covers the island’s key selling points and provides the product information needed to match clients with their ideal accommodations and activities. Graduates also gain access to a points-based loyalty program, with rewards from gift cards to FAM trips.

Go for a niche masters. A “Master Course” offers separate certification with training in specific niche interests, including golf, scuba diving, outdoor adventure, weddings and authentic, immersive experiences such as visits to charming paradors and small inns steeped in local charm. Members of the Travel Institute Travel also earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) upon completion of both the General and Master’s Course.

Get on-going support. Discover Puerto Rico also provides access to in-depth fact sheets, plus selling points and illustrative itineraries, all logically organized so travel advisors can quickly find the specific information they are looking for. Thirteen sample 4- to 7-day itineraries include day-by-day suggestions for first time visitors, culinary adventures, luxury, coffee immersion, history and culture, luxury, underwater and slow travel and separate itineraries for families with young kids, tweens or teens, and the whole family.

Plan a group trip. Discover Puerto Rico’s knowledgeable, supportive group department is eager to provide personalized assistance to travel advisors planning all types of group travel, including wellness retreats, luxury- and adventure-focused incentive trips, student groups and family and friend reunions.

Tap into incentives. In addition, for a limited time, the following hotels are offering travel consultants 12-15% commission for booking a minimum four-night stay within defined booking and travel dates. For full details and to confirm the commission offer is available for your clients’ dates, please contact the properties directly via the emails here:

Combate Beach Resort - Contact: [email protected]

Fairmont El San Juan - Contact: [email protected]

Four Points by Sheraton Caguas Real Hotel & Casino – Contact: [email protected]

O:live Boutique Hotel - Contact: [email protected]

O:LV Fifty Five - Contact: [email protected]

Parguera Plaza Hotel - Contact: [email protected]

Royal Sonesta San Juan - Contact: [email protected]

TRYP By Wyndham Isla Verde - Contact: [email protected]

Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Rainforest, Beach & Golf Resort – Contact: [email protected]

Wyndham Palmas Beach & Golf Resort Contact: [email protected]

Learn and sell. Start with dreamy beaches, unique natural attractions, and distinctive gastronomy, music and art. Add in the fact that no passport or currency exchange is required for U.S. citizens. Combine it with Puerto Rico’s excellent infrastructure and welcoming culture and you have the recipe for satisfied clients!

For in-depth information about all that Puerto Rico has to offer and to become a certified Puerto Rico Travel Expert, visit DiscoverPuertoRico.com and https://www.discoverpuertorico.com/travel-professionals

 

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