Vaccinated travelers from the continental United States are allowed to enter Puerto Rico without any testing requirements. Unvaccinated travelers must be tested negative within 72 hours of arriving on the island. Hotels and restaurants have the same requirements, meaning unvaccinated travelers staying on the island for more than a few days will need to continue to undergo testing within 72 hours of checking in or visiting each property’s restaurant. . All travelers must complete a pre-travel declaration form and will receive a required QR code to exit the airport. Up-to-date guidelines and a link to the form are available at Puerto Rico’s Travel Safe website.
San Juan is one of the oldest permanently inhabited cities in the Americas, and this year marks the 500th anniversary of its official establishment in 1521. The sturdy century-old castles and fortifications that remain in and around Old San Juan are proof of this. that this place has long been coveted, disputed and claimed.
With the advent of accessible leisure air travel, the capital of Puerto Rico has become one of the first idyllic getaways in the Americas, boasting a booming hotel scene, with recreational opportunities centered on America, including beaches, casinos and nightclubs. In recent years, San Juan has seen a revival more faithful to the island and its people. The authentic Puerto Rican dishes and flavors are showcased rather than ignored. Local chefs, entrepreneurs and artists are celebrated both at home and abroad. Historical tours can tackle the good and the bad of European and American influence.
As this great lady of the Americas enters her sixth century of existence, in some ways she finally has the opportunity to thrive.
When the Caribe hilton debuted in 1949, it was the first Hilton property located outside of the continental United States, and it quickly became a destination for Hollywood stars and celebrities. His real star turn came a few years later, in 1954, when Ramón “Monchito” Marrero was credited with creating the piña colada at Caribe’s Beachcomber Bar. After a 15-month closure and a US $ 150 million renovation project following Hurricane Maria, the Caribe Hilton reopened in the spring of 2019. It is located in Puerta de Tierra, which is sandwiched between the Old San Juan and Condado, and while all beaches in Puerto Rico are open to the public, the Caribe’s unique positioning leaves it locked and isolated in a small bay. The property is directly adjacent to the ruins of the Fortín de San Gerónimo del Boquerón, a fort built in 1609.
The Condado Vanderbilt was the first of its kind when it opened in 1919 and is located on a pristine stretch of sand on the beach of the same name. The resort enjoyed a glorious heyday, but was closed in the 1990s. Today, it is making a comeback in all its five-star glory, with its famous old-style approach to dedicated service integrated with modern amenities. Two 11-story towers offer 120 suites and 200 combined rooms, while on the outside, a large main terrace with swimming pool presents a lively and friendly scene, contrasting with a sleek, smaller, adults-only pool lounge that overlooks the sea. beach below. The Spa at Condado Vanderbilt has become a popular destination for hotel guests and other visitors to the city.
The Fairmont El San Juan, dating from 1958 and located in Isla Verde, the resort is ideally located to whisk you from the airport to the sand in five minutes or less. In addition to its standard rooms and suites, the Fairmont also offers pool and oceanfront villas. A multi-story fitness center is adjacent to the property’s family pool, while its lively main pool offers guests the option to book full-service cabanas. The hotel is home to half a dozen bars and restaurants, and its beach offers plenty of beachfront relaxation areas and access to water sports.
The name José Enrique has become synonymous with Puerto Rican cuisine, and the chef and his eponymous restaurant continue to offer creative versions of the island’s classics. In La Placita, Santaella Chef Jose Santaella focuses on what he calls New Puerto Rican cuisine, with notable dishes to share such as goat cheese quesadillas, as well as daily croquetas and empanadillas, and dishes from the land and the sea.
Cross the street to find one of San Juan’s most notable cocktail bars, Jungle bird, known for its tiki and tropical drinks. The bar is a project of the co-owners of The Factoria, Roberto Berdecia and Leslie Cofresi. La Factoría, meanwhile, is rightly touted as one of the best bars in the world, a multi-concept space in Old San Juan that excels not only with inventive drinks, but also with total revelry and hospitality.
Ocean Lab Brewery is Puerto Rico’s main craft brewery, although a visit to its place of origin offers much more than beer. It is part of a beautiful beach club and an immersive event venue that often hosts musical performances. TO Restaurant 1919, Executive Chef Juan José Cueva offers an elegant four-course tasting menu with multiple levels of wine pairing, showcasing local suppliers and ingredients.
TO CañaChef Juliana Gonzalez also strives to showcase Puerto Rican culinary traditions with inspired, modern riffs of island classics. Visit Piñones to partake in chinchorreo, sampling local specialties from an array of food stalls specializing in hearty, often fried, and hand-made dishes. For a more modern take on the concept, check out Lot 23, a collection of food stalls in Santurce.
Spend an afternoon exploring Old San Juan. The charming neighborhood is home to cobbled streets, colorful buildings, and an assortment of architectural styles and historic sites. Stop at La Fortaleza, Plaza de Armas and Plaza Colon, and the Castillo de San Felipe del Morro and Castillo de San Cristóbal, to start, or just meander through the neighborhood and get lost.
Take a trip to El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the United States, for hiking, waterfall hikes and total immersion in an incredibly rich and biodiverse ecosystem. Consider a trip to the Laguna Grande Nature Reserve in Fajardo, where you can dive into the water for a nighttime bioluminescent kayaking experience. Accessible from San Juan, this is one of the many areas in Puerto Rico where bioluminescence can be observed, with unicellular dinoflagellates, a type of plankton, responding to movement by emitting a bluish light.
The writer has been hosted by the Caribe Hilton and Condado Vanderbilt hotels.