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To the west is the Antiguo Palacio de la Real Intendencia, which now holds Puerto Rico’s Department of State office, styled after an Italian high palace. And on the south side of the plaza, you will be transported to a different era, with a clear American influence. González Padín, for instance, features big “Chicago windows” that emulate the department store culture in the great cities of the United States at the beginning of the 20th century.
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If you are thinking of traveling abroad, roommate, you may want to rethink. As the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to grow, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released an updated list of 80 countries where travel was considered unsafe. The CDC has four levels that escalate from low to medium, high, and very high. Some of the top travel destinations are on this list and can interfere with your trip if you are planning a trip.
Unfortunately, if countries such as Jamaica, Aruba, Bahamas and Costa Rica are on the bucket list, we recommend that you postpone them.according to Washington post“Travel increases the likelihood of obtaining and disseminating COVID-19,” said Katelyn Shocky, a spokeswoman for the CDC, in a statement. She continued. “You may feel good and have no symptoms, but you can still spread COVID-19 to others. Staying at home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. That’s the way. “
It’s not just overseas travel destinations that are on the list.There are also some popular tourist destinations in the United States, including Georgia, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.. Currently, all states are listed as Level 4. According to, Puerto Rico upgraded from level 3 to 4 in just a few weeks. Hill.. Last month, the island’s governor, Pedro Pieru Luigi, restricted alcohol sales, concerts, weddings, and other activities that people needed to get together for the COVID-19 case.
Other countries, especially Americans, are taking other necessary steps to prevent travelers from entering their country. The CDC website states that some countries, such as China, Iran, and the United Kingdom, do not even allow travelers from the United States to enter the country.
Roommates, Does the updated list of CDCs change your mind about travel?
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CDC Upgrades Jamaica and Puerto Rico to “Travel Ban” List
Source link CDC Upgrades Jamaica and Puerto Rico to “Travel Ban” List
The CDC’s evolving list of travel notices ranges from Level 1 (“low”) to Level 4 (“very high”).
Destinations that fall into the “Covid-19 Very High” Level 4 category have had more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days, according to CDC criteria. The Level 3 category applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.
Bermuda, Canada, Germany and Moldova moved up from Level 2. Bahrain, Indonesia, Namibia, Oman, Rwanda and Zimbabwe moved down from Level 4.
CDC guidance for Level 3 destinations urges unvaccinated travelers to avoid nonessential travel to those locations.
“Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread Covid-19. However, international travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some Covid-19 variants,” the agency said.
Top photo: People sit outside by the lake Leman in Lausanne, Switzerland, on May 3.
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If you like road trips but hate driving, let us tell you about Puerto Rico: an island where you can stroll down a tropical beach, drive up into the mountains, ride back through the jungle, and end up in a desert—all in less than an hour.
Many travel-hungry Americans who flock to this US territory are content to just hit Old San Juan and that cocktail bar they saw in a Luis Fonsi video. Very few delve into the phenomenal natural beauty and rich culture the rest of the 100-mile-wide island offers.
Puerto Rico is an ideal road trip destination, where no drive is longer than two or three hours. You can embrace the island ethos of taking your sweet time at every beach bar and roadside fogón you like. That said, keep your wits about you: Signage can be poor, and road conditions are hit or miss. There’ll be some backtracking, and plenty of backroads driving, but this trip isn’t about getting from one point to another—it’s about discovering a place more deeply than most without having to spend hours behind the wheel.
Dip in a turquoise swimming hole and sunset drinks over the water
About an hour west of the San Juan Airport on Route 2, you’ll reach Arecibo, home to one of the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico and an ideal place to relax after a long flight. Float in turquoise water under towering limestone rocks at La Poza del Obispo Beach, stroll the golden shore, and check out some of the murals lining the beach. You’ll also find the Faro de Arecibo, a historic lighthouse from 1898 with daily tours and fantastic views.
Ready for a cold one? Amble along coastal Route 681 towards the town of Islote. Countless bars are set right out over the sea, ideal spots to watch the sunset with a beer. For dinner, get the mofongo at Carbon y Lena. The traditional mashed plantain dish and a cocktail won’t set you back much more than $20.
There isn’t a glut of great hotels in Arecibo, but if you’re OK with backtracking 30 minutes, the Hyatt Place Manati is right on Route 2 and makes a convenient stopping place.
Beach hop along Puerto Rico’s west coast
Grab some pastelitos or empanadas at My Sweet Bakery in Arecibo, then jump back on Route 2 and wind around the island’s northwest corner. Optional: After about 1.5 hours, you can pull off at the boho beach town of Rincón if you’d like to join every American surfer with an unemployment check to burn. Do some scuba diving and food truck hopping, maybe even spot humpback whales between January and March. But if you want to stick to the sleeper hits, continue on south.
Down Puerto Rico’s west coast, the first sizable city you’ll encounter is Mayagüez, a popular beach getaway for locals. Make a lunch stop on the beach at family-run Che Che Colé for modern spins on traditional Puerto Rican fare and a spectacular wine selection.
After lunch, it’s time to hit some of the stellar beaches in the southwestern region of Cabo Rojo. Word to the wise: on the weekend, Puerto Rican families flock to these spots, so if you can, plan to go during the week.
Your first stop is Playa Buye, a narrow strip of sand abutting a colorful trailer park and beach bar. Grab a drink, then take a short walk past the trailer park to the Punta Guaniquilla Nature Reserve. A ten-minute stroll through the protected wilderness brings you to the ruins of a 19th-century sugar farm, and the trailhead to the mysterious limestone formations at Laguna Guaniquilla. Walking down to the still water and bizarre rocks is maybe a 75-minute diversion, and one of the best photo spots on the whole island.
Fifteen-ish minutes from Buye is Combate Beach, where perfect white sand, vibrant trees, and endless beach bars await. You won’t go wrong with any of these spots, but for the best meal, order up some seafood at Annie’s Place, renowned for having the freshest stuff in Cabo Rojo.
Call it a night at the Combate Beach Resort, where you’ll have easy access to the sand for a morning run (or even easier access to the bars if running wasn’t part of your vacation plan).
Drive through the desert and into the heart of coffee country
Get an early start and continue east from Combate. You may notice the landscape shifting from lush, tropical jungle to arid desert. That’s because the winds blowing in from the southeast keep this part of Puerto Rico perpetually dry; in total, it only gets about 29 inches of rain per year.
The best place to immerse yourself in the landscape is at Bosque Estatal de Guanica, or the Dry Forest of Guanica. Hike about an hour each way to a stunning lookout over the town, which gives you a good sense of the ecosystem with a nice payoff at the end. Just make sure to do it in the morning when it’s still cool, and bring twice as much water as you think you need.
Stop for lunch in Ponce, the largest city in Puerto Rico outside the San Juan metro area. The old town here is full of the same colonial architecture you’ll find in San Juan, minus the tourists. It’s also home to the south coast’s best brewery at Papa Rupe and fresh Puerto Rican seafood at Restaurante Alexandra. You can also stop here for the night if you want to take it extra easy and explore town.
Now that you’ve seen the beaches and the desert, it’s time to ascend into the jungle. From Ponce, head north about two hours along Route 149 to the small mountain town of Ciales, a tropical mountain city ripped from the opening of a coffee commercial. Puerto Rico’s capital of coffee boasts dozens of small plantations and a Museum of Coffee, where you’ll taste some of the best stuff on the island and get a little energy boost for the windy mountain drive ahead.
There isn’t much in the way of hotels in Ciales, so your best bet for a night stop is Caguas, about an hour away if you backtrack through San Juan. But this road trip is about discovery, so channel the spirit of adventure and traverse the winding roads that run between Ciales and Caguas. You’ll journey through the heart of the Puerto Rican mountains, traversing tiny towns and roadside fogóns full of revitalizing lechón and pinchos. It adds an extra hour to the trip, and you’ll need to honk at every blind turn so oncoming cars know you’re there.
Relax after a long day with a cocktail and a few hands of blackjack at the Four Points Sheraton in Caguas, then hit the hay.
Explore tropical lagoons, surf, and kayak the bioluminescent bay
Take a morning stroll through old town Caguas before loading up and heading east to the Humacao Nature Reserve. This former sugar plantation was flooded in 1979, refilling the once-dredged wetlands and creating magical lagoons perfect for kayaking. The reserve is your chance to experience the island’s coastal swamps by hiking, biking, or paddling through some of the most peaceful terrain in Puerto Rico. After, stop into Patria Bar and Restaurant just outside the reserve.Though you may be reaching your empanada lifetime quota, it’s the most convenient place to grab a decent bite.
Skirt the coast along Route 3 through Fajardo and onto Luquillo, home to one of Puerto Rico’s more unheralded surf spots at La Pared. You can easily rent a board or take a lesson, and though the waves aren’t quite what they are at Rincón, neither are the crowds. The food stalls in the town square are also not to be missed; though the choices can be overwhelming, we’ll recommend El Terruno, which makes a killer rabbit dish.
Tomorrow you’ll explore the El Yunque rainforest, and if you’re looking for an overnight experience within the park, check into the Rainforest Inn. The boutique bed and breakfast isn’t luxe, per se, but it offers some of the most unique lodging on the island.
After check in, check off a bucket list experience at Laguna Grande, one of Puerto Rico’s famous bioluminescent bays. Based in Fajardo, Pure Adventure offers nightly kayak trips through the glowing waters along the bay. A tip: Plan your trip around a new moon so you have minimal light interference.
Hiking El Yunque, eating from kiosks, and a perfect ending in San Juan
If you just have the morning to explore America’s only tropical rainforest, hit the El Yunque Trail, which takes you to the highest point in the park in just 2.6 miles.
For a dose of culture before you head back to cosmopolitan San Juan, stop into Loíza where the beachside stands in Los Piñones have some of the best fried food you’ll ever try. If you need to do some last minute souvenir shopping, Loíza’s traditional vejigante masks—with their sharp horns and howling faces—are a treasure that will both delight children and terrify adults.
From here it’s a short drive into San Juan, depending on traffic. The city has no shortage of places to stay, but if you want somewhere near the airport that’s still got Puerto Rican charm, spend a night at the Fairmont Old San Juan. The mid-century hotel was originally built for overnighting airplane crews, but was reimagined by legendary architect Morris Lapidus in the 1960s. The result is a lobby with ornate, wood-carved ceilings, a center bar with a multi-layer tilted chandelier, and a cabaret with live Spanish music every night.
You’ll also find a sprawling lagoon pool deck and private beach access, the perfect place to continue your feeling of isolation while still staying in San Juan. In the morning, you’re less than ten minutes from the San Juan Airport. And, sadly, a trip back to whatever not-as-enchanted place you call home.
ONE of downtown Vacaville’s most storied buildings—from housing several savings and loan branches to a community-connected, iconic travel agency–has itself been launched on a new journey.
Wasserman Travel, wedged by Merchant and Parker Streets since 1994, has been sold by Wasserman family’s Jim Kellogg to Tom Rapisarda, a rising star in Vaca’s real estate firmament. He has a vision for his new site’s new life. “I’d really, really like to bring in a restaurant” to the 3,800 sq. ft. space, Tom said. That depends, of course, on getting a like-minded tenant.
The site includes off-street parking, which could be used for outdoor dining. At the same time, Rapisarda purchased a long-vacant lot next to Merchant & Main on which he plans to build a realty office for his firm. Early Vacans will remember that property as home of Walter Hansel Ford. I can still see Walt pull up at The Reporter in our new-generation ’49 sedan. In recent months, Tom and his family made a personal and historic purchase –the stately Hartley House at 100 Buck, at the corner of West St., a citadel at one end of the so-called Avenue of the Giants.
* * *
WASSERMAN Travel’s web of moving parts includes Central Calif. Federal Savings & Loan; Heart Federal S&L; US Bank; American S&L; Bank of America, Vaca Saturday Club and a time capsule sealed 50 years ago, but never opened.
The first piece in the mosaic was set in place in 1909 when Vacaville Saturday Club was formed, the first women’s civic and social club in Solano. It met in various venues until 1936 when a fire in the Vacaville Inn on Merchant St. caused big damage. Sat. Club took it over. All went well, until BofA decided to enlarge its Main St. branch. It liked the club property and offered to build them a new clubhouse on Kendal St. in exchange for its Merchant St. site. It’s still the club home.
In the 1960s, Central Calif. Federal Savings & Loan sent Obie Ladd here to open its first satellite branch. It opened in a tiny space on Main St. Not long after, the S&L bought the site near the tip of Parker-Merchant, Obie’s son, John, told me. His dad built it, and we all came. In later years, the S&L name was changed to Heart Federal S&L. In 1971, the time capsule was embedded in its walls. One item was a column by me: “Greetings to the people of Vacaville of 1980,” and so on. In 1971, Obie’s branch moved across Merchant, the capsule with it. It’s still there, in the base of a flagpole. The intent was to open it in 20 or 30 years.
SATURDAY Club got its new home and BofA built its new bank. It soon outgrew it, and built its present branch on Parker St. Heart Federal wanted BofA’s vacated site on Merchant, and got that. The building is now home to US Bank. (Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz.) The capsule followed them, and so did Obie Ladd’s name—it’s on the plaque at the base of the pole. Another S&L moved in behind Heart Federal. Then came the Wassermans. They were operating their travel agency in the Cal-Hawaii building on Mason St. In 1994, WWII pilot Morris Wasserman, his wife Betty and daughter Wendy made a bid for the building for a new Wasserman Travel. They got it. In 1982, Wendy and Jim Kellogg were married. He became part of the family, and the company. In the latter 2000s, a dark cloud moved in over them. Morrie died in 2017, Wendy in 2018, Betty in 2021. COVID raged. Travel all but stopped. Jim had to lay off employees, and worked at home. “The agency isn’t closed,” Jim told me this week. “I am taking and making calls–(707) 447-1100–honoring trips contracted but not taken during the pandemic.” I flashed on times when one of my flights to Europe ran into a snag. A frantic call home called Morrie into action. In no time, a new ticket was waiting for me at the terminal. It’s called service.
Weeks ago, Jim sold the building to Tom Rapisarda; he’s on a roll toward his own future. By honoring a past that filled his life, so is Jim. One of these days we’ll explore what’s inside that time capsule. I wonder what I predicted 50 years ago.
The author is former publisher of The Reporter.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, May 21, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Discover Puerto Rico, the Island’s Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), is sharing updates for U.S. inbound travelers stemming from the local government’s latest Executive Order, announced yesterday. The order, which goes into effect on Monday, May 24th, includes modified restrictions such as the elimination of negative COVID-19 PCR molecular test requirements for fully vaccinated travelers on domestic flights and the lifting of the local curfew, which was established in March 2020.
“Puerto Rico has prioritized health and safety from the onset of the pandemic, becoming the first U.S. destination to implement an Island-wide curfew, among other measures developed to safeguard residents and visitors. As restrictions loosen, we look forward to welcoming travelers seeking to responsibly explore our Island, immerse themselves in unforgettable culture, unique natural wonders and delicious cuisine, while taking advantage of the ease of travel that comes with Puerto Rico being a U.S. territory, including no need for a passport for U.S. citizens,” said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico.
Additional reduced restrictions include increased capacities for businesses, raised from 30 to 50 percent; the removal of a mask requirement for fully vaccinated individuals in parks and beaches; and permission to consume alcoholic beverages in pools and beaches. The reopening of the Island’s coliseums, popular for entertainment experiences, will also be permitted at 30 percent capacity, with all attendees required to present either a vaccination card, or negative antigen test to gain admission. A full overview of the revised measures and arrival requirements is available in Discover Puerto Rico’s travel guidelines.
For those travelling to Puerto Rico, the Island offers a wide array of unique attractions, with no need for a passport, currency exchange or phone plan adjustments for U.S. citizens. From a unique history infused with Spanish, Taino, and African heritages, to a booming coffee culture, and unparalleled offerings in nature including El Yunque, the only rainforest in the U.S Forest Service; three of the world’s five bioluminescent bays and stunning pink salt flats – Puerto Rico has a plethora of one-of-a-kind experiences. Exciting updates on the Island include the recent reopening of El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo and the opening of the highly anticipated Distrito T-Mobile, which is destined to be the most vibrant and popular setting for events, conventions and performances in the Caribbean region, coming later this year.
Beyond leisure travel, Puerto Rico is also a great option for those working remotely. From turquoise waves to emerald hills and electric-orange sunsets, Puerto Rico’s expansive color palette will revive, relax, and rejuvenate. The Island also has 31 internet providers and three 5G networks, critical for today’s conferencing needs, and is conveniently in Atlantic Standard Time (AST), making for a seamless remote work experience.
Follow Discover Puerto Rico’s social channels on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to stay up-to-date on the latest, and for more information about Puerto Rico and measures in place, visit DiscoverPuertoRico.com.
About Discover Puerto Rico
Discover Puerto Rico is a newly established private, not for-profit Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) whose mission is to make Puerto Rico visible to the world as a premier travel destination. The DMO brings prosperity to the people of Puerto Rico by collaboratively promoting the Island’s diversity and uniqueness for leisure and business travel, and events. It is responsible for all global marketing, sales and promotion of the destination and works collaboratively with key local governmental and non-governmental players throughout Puerto Rico’s visitor economy and community at large, to empower economic growth. To discover all the beauty the Island has to offer, visit DiscoverPuertoRico.com.
SOURCE Discover Puerto Rico
The night boat cuts fast across a pitch-black sea and arcs into a narrow mouthed bay. Captain Cachi douses all but the navigation lights and heaves-to not far from the mangrove shore. He orders me overboard and I tumble in.
It’s as if l have climbed up into the night sky. I am swimming through stars, diving through nebulas. I plunge faster until, like the Enterprise, I hit warp speed. Galaxies pass. I stop, clap and sparks fly.
Finally I float to the sea’s warm surface. I am not far from La Parguera on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, in a bioluminescent bay where dinoflagellate plankton gather and thrive. The sea, it seems, is as incandescent as the people who inhabit this land.
The moment my flight from Florida touches the tarmac of San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín airport all the passengers start whooping. “I don’t know why we always do that,” says my neighbour. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the genius behind Hamilton: the Musical, once explained: “I clap every time a plane lands and so do most Puerto Ricans,” he said. “That’s like our thing. I love it. We cheated gravity and we’re alive.”
Puerto Rico is emerging as one of the strongest recovery stories in the travel industry. Year-to-date accommodation bookings are down only 13 per cent on 2019, which was a record year, and the tourist board says it sees potential for 2021 to set a new record for visitor numbers. Data from online travel agent Priceline shows Puerto Rico as the fourth most popular flight destination among US travellers in the second quarter of 2021.
Yet even in pre-Covid times almost all the tourists were from the United States — of which Puerto Rico is effectively a colony. Only about two per cent of arriving visitors come here from Europe, odd for the Caribbean. For many in the wider world, the island conjures little more than some half-remembered choruses from West Side Story, but its cultural impact on the US has been out of all proportion to its mere 100 by 35 miles.
In recent years, Puerto Rico and its diaspora have offered up not just Miranda, but J-Lo, Marc Anthony and Bad Bunny. That’s music. In politics there is AOC, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Let’s not even start on baseball.
I’ve longed to visit since working in a bar in Brooklyn where half my clientele were Puerto Rican. Reading Jorge Duany’s Puerto Rico before arriving, I discover that despite its wild and beautiful coastline, warm seas, and perfect beaches (Flamenco, on the satellite island of Culebra, is among the finest I’ve ever seen), Puerto Ricans, long put upon by outsiders (first Spain then the US), look inland for their soul.
So, after picking up wheels from Charlie Car Rental, I head for the hills. I want to find the children of the Jíbaro, the venerated early settlers who scratched a living in bare feet and straw hats, machetes at hand.
My fellow road users suggest there’s been a change of accessories. I’m joined by a Mad Max medley of vehicles: trucks with the snarling grills, super-sprung dune buggies and hatchbacks pumping music with all the power of mobile nightclubs.
The road narrows and switchbacks upwards. Before long I am traversing the spines of ridges where houses, veranda skirted, perch on the tops. It’s fearless architecture given the troubles Puerto Rico has faced in recent times. Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, killing an estimated 3,000. Then came earthquakes.
Near Orocovis, a local company, Toroverde, has created the world’s second longest zipwire (the longest one, also by them, is in UAE). I strap in. Many Jíbaros were Corsicans who arrived in the early 1800s and now, as I arrow downwards, I can see why they felt at home among the ravines and sharp edges — at least until the wind blessedly pushes my Covid mask over my eyes.
Back in the car, I drop down the island’s southern slopes and stop at Hacienda Jacana, in the hills above Adjuntas. Jonathan Pérez Marín bought the farm in 2015 “in the interest of being self-sustaining”. He has bananas, guavas, papaya, chickens, dogs, beautiful horses and tanks full of tilapia.
“After the hurricane we focused on quality coffee,” he says, making me an espresso from his single-source Latitude 18, roasting the beans in front of me. They used to say of the island’s crop that it’s the coffee of kings and popes, which seems fair.
When I suggest he’s a hipster Jíbaro, he smiles kindly. In truth he’s an example of resiliencia, a buzzword after the hurricane and the US’s widely criticised response to it, and now gaining a new currency.
Everyone I meet has been affected by Maria. On the western edge of the island, I fly-fish with Francisco Rosario, a guide with an international reputation. His bookings fell to nothing in the wake of the storm, and he turned in his boat licence rather than pay its $7,000 a year insurance. Instead we paddle-board among the mangroves, casting into the gaps for tarpon and spooking huge iguanas so they tumble into the water.
There is a lot of American clutter to Puerto Rico. The highway encircling the island is atherosclerotic with car dealerships. Charm returns only when I pull off at the Royal Isabela resort, the creation of Stanley and Charles Pasarell. Charles was the US’s top ranked tennis player in 1967.
At first Royal Isabela seems like a standard high-end golf destination. The main house resembles a sugar mill, like those in Barbados or Antigua, and from its central courtyard, you can gaze through a door to a perfectly framed ponytail palm. Beyond, the green of fairways give on to the bleach-scoured cobalt of the Atlantic Ocean.
But then I play, and it becomes like a sci-fi version of golf. There are tees that require drives over chasms that fall 100 feet to the unruly ocean, the trade winds the player’s only friend. From clifftop greens I look down to where vast rollers crash against reefs, whitewater flooding a deserted golden beach to reach the sun-dappled dunes.
The resort’s 20 casitas are set against a slope with views to the blue horizon. They are big and comfortable and have outdoor Jacuzzis and large terraces (and are a steal at $325 per night). Dinner of local snapper is prepared by Jeremie Cruz, who opens a bottle of red and tells me about the vegetable and fruit farm he has created on the edge of the course.
I continue to the capital, San Juan, a journey of a little over an hour. As the city builds, resorts appear along the coast — party places like the Fairmont, with interlocking pools, sun cabanas, and its fresh bistro Caña. Or the Condado Vanderbilt, with a star-studded history and a truly spectacular French restaurant, 1919.
Here is where the Miami-fication of the Caribbean is most apparent, and it draws vast numbers of American holidaymakers. People wander about wearing very little, heading to the shops, or mall-style bars, or to the beach. Later they might head to the new El Distrito, a vast entertainment complex across town.
The authorities are doing their best to mitigate the dangers of people flying in. Everyone needs a PCR test and afterwards a daily email asks for symptoms. Unlike in Miami, distancing, temperature-taking, mask wearing and hand-sanitising are all enforced by a nervous population.
I keep going into the old town. It’s on an islet at the mouth of the bay, a colonial city of pastel-washed houses packed tight to provide shade. Its tip is the Morro, a vast fortress.
From Columbus’ first visit in 1493, this was the first port of call for Spanish ships riding the trade winds west. Captains would round the fortress and drop anchor off a tiny beach, climb a short path and give thanks at the cathedral, the second oldest in the Americas.
The Palacio Provincial is next door. It opened in January, the first significant new hotel in Old San Juan in two decades. It is a beautifully proportioned building from the early 1800s, that once played host to Infanta Eulalia on her way to the world fair in Chicago in 1893, five years before the US took Puerto Rico from Spain by force.
Now the cloisters that surround two central courtyards give on to cool, calm rooms. There is a pool on the roof which looks out over the bay, to where smart yachts pass and Bacardi makes rum on the opposite shore.
Breakfasting in the courtyard, I meet the only other Brit I see in three weeks. On hearing my accent, a bull head swivels like a gun turret on a Union Jack buff. It’s the UK’s honorary consul, Tony Phillips, and we become friends.
With the sun rising, I explore the old town with Pablo Garciá Smith of Spoon Experience. It’s less a tour than a detour, in that we’re forever dropping into cafés, bars and restaurants.
We drop by El Convento, an extraordinary hotel in itself. The convent was founded in 1642 by Doña Ana, its first Mother Superior, a young widow rich enough to surround herself with nunnish friends. We explore the many crevices of La Factoria, regularly listed as one of the best bars in the world. The main room retains the name of a previous establishment on its wall: Hijos de Borinquen.
Borinquen, meaning “noble”, was how the indigenous Arawak called their island. Their hijos (children) are the few — less than five per cent — who still believe in full independence from the US. Pablo tells me his mother is one: “This is where she’d meet other independence activists.” Not long ago he discovered the family had an FBI file.
Currently the island’s 3.2m inhabitants have US passports but no vote in Congress. At a referendum last November, Puerto Ricans voted to become a US state; a bill for full statehood was introduced in the US Congress in March, only to be talked down by Chuck Schumer, the US Senate majority leader. He says the referendum — 53 per cent to 47 per cent — wasn’t emphatic enough and attacked the island as a tax haven. Few expect a change soon.
It seems that for the moment Puerto Rico will continue to survive through its force of character. I turn up for a walking tour in the second city of Ponce. Melina Aguilar Colón (who had introduced me to the coffee farmer Jonathan) is my guide.
We don’t walk far. By the city’s historic fire station, painted red and black like some Knight Errant’s tent, we fall in with a crowd of undertakers, widows and fiends. I find myself in the back of a big pick-up truck and cops on big Harleys are roaring past to shut off the streets ahead.
A vast sound system leads our 35-car convoy. It turns out to be the last day of Ponce’s carnival, and Melina, now transformed into a pink demon — a vejigante — has decided I should be part of it.
Residents emerge from their homes, and begin to dance. As the evening grows darker, the barrios become more far-flung, and, in truth, more sketchy. I turn to see two men with the long, moustachioed faces of Sergio Leone gunslingers gazing up at me, cold eyed.
I wave my tiny Ponce flag, and mutter to Melina: “This wasn’t the tour I was expecting.” The men suddenly grin and my demon guide laughs. “To be honest,” she says, looking round. “I’m no longer sure where we are.”
Ruaridh Nicoll was a guest of Discover Puerto Rico, staying at the Palacio Provincial (doubles from $195), El Convento ($149), Royal Isabela ($325) and St Regis Bahia Beach Resort ($599). The tour of Old San Juan was run by Spoon, Ponce and Hacienda Jacana by Isla Carib, and the bioluminescent bay by Paradise Tours. British Airways offers return flights to San Juan via Miami from £498 return.
Puerto Rico is currently open to most tourists but, like the mainland US, not those from a list of countries that includes EU members, the UK, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. All arriving travellers must show a negative coronavirus test, even if they have been vaccinated. There is currently a curfew between midnight and 5am; restaurants, museums and hotel pools are limited to operating at no more than 30 per cent of their capacity. See discoverpuertorico.com for more. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently advising against travel to Puerto Rico, and recommends US residents delay all domestic travel until they are vaccinated