Puerto Rico remains one of the closest and easiest escapes from the United States for a tropical release. Beyond San Juan with its big casino hotels and Old San Juan's cobblestone streets, outer Puerto Rico offers surfing, jungle exploration, natural mysteries such as Vieques' phosphorescent bay and charming smaller inns.
Go to Puerto Rico (tel. 800/866-7827; www.gotopuertorico.com) is the island's official government tourism website. Filled with detailed facts helpful for any visitor, the site has sections on making reservations; how to get there; geography; how to get around by ferries, rental cars, taxis (which, surprisingly, can be relatively inexpensive) and publico -- a van service unique to the island that takes you into rural areas on a daily basis -- and more. The nice thing about publicos, is that you'll be traveling with native Puerto Ricans going to visit family members or salsa bands heading to a distant hotel. In addition, the site lists walking tours, information for visiting the Bacardi Rum Distillery, and a historic account of the island's founders who date back to 4500 B.C.
The down-home nature of Puerto Rico can be found in its system of comfortable and affordable hotels or pensions known as paradores. Like the publicos, these paradores are easy travel solutions that offer affordable and diverse accommodations all over the island. Head to www.gotoparadores.com or call 800/981-7575) for complete listings, prices and directions to each of the 23 locations. Through October 2005, some of the Paradores are offering discounts on mid-week and weekend stays.
"We encourage travelers to choose our Paradores for their next vacation, and truly experience our culture and history in a very personal way," said Terestella Gonzalez Denton, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. "Each Parador has something different to offer in its style and history, yet they all share the same mission of family ownership and pride in personalized service to guests."
Ranging in price from $69 per night to $299 per two nights with extra amenities that vary per property thrown in such as nighttime boat cruises, extravagant dinners, and tennis lessons, the Paradores are an easy way to experience Puerto Rico without the hassle of big time resort travel. For example, rates at the Joyuda Beach Hotel (www.gotoparadores.com/paradores/en/PAR13_h.asp), an inn with a pool directly on the beach, start at $75 mid-week for a deluxe room and jump to $115 for a super deluxe on a weekend night. See the site for details on the other Paradores listings.
Getting to Puerto Rico is as easy as you can say Jet Blue (tel. 800/538-2583; www.jetblue.com). Well, a little harder than that, but it'll only cost you a visit to the website and $198 round-trip out of New York. With its "Super Fly Fares," booking online means there are no advanced purchase requirements with travel good from April 26 to June 22, 2005 if booked by April 28, 2005 with black-out dates between May 26 and May 31, 2005.
Talk with fellow Frommer's travelers on our Puerto Rico Message Boards today.