In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, many have put off their plans to book a vacation to Puerto Rico due to uncertainty of the island’s conditions. We’re here to tell you that there are plenty of amazing places around the island that are back open and ready for your business! We sent men’s lifestyle and travel expert Joe Miragliotta from Joe’s Daily to Puerto Rico to show us why it’s still one of the best Caribbean vacation destinations around.

When I first shared on social media that I would be heading to Puerto Rico only 6 months after Hurricane Maria, I was met with a mix of concern and confusion from quite a few people. We’re all aware of the devastation that the hurricane caused, and how much work there is left to be done. Unfortunately, the number of places that have been restored seem to have gotten lost in the mix. Now you definitely won’t hear me arguing about the hierarchy of importance. However, with tourism being such a big part of the island’s economy, it’s definitely a point that deserves attention.

Upon landing in San Juan, I have to admit that my curiosity left me looking around for signs of destruction. As it turned out, the city looked basically normal. Sure, there was still construction going on here and there, but I can’t tell you the last city I’ve been to that didn’t as well. After that, I think it took all of about 5 minutes before my attention was taken over by of the beautifully vibrant buildings, clear sunny skies, and refreshingly salty air.

Where to stay in Puerto Rico

When it comes to hotels, there’s no shortage of fantastic places to stay, especially around the capital. My current personal favorite is La Concha Resort, the only lifestyle hotel/resort in all of Puerto Rico. I honestly don’t think there’s a single part of this place that I don’t love. The moment you make your way through their front doors, the massive open-air lobby perfectly establishes the vibe for your stay. Between the super-sleek bar, incredibly high ceilings, transitional indoor-outdoor hangout spaces, and huge floor-to-ceiling doors, the entire place is a unique combination of grandiose and inviting.

La Concha Resort Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico

View from the lobby looking out to the main pool of La Concha Resort. Photo: Joe Miragliotta

As for the rooms, these too were spacious and comfortable. I myself had a phenomenal view of the Atlantic, but others boast a spectacular picture of the city or a lookout to one of their gorgeous pool purlieus. My mornings usually consisted of enjoying a cup of coffee while staring out at the view and planning my day in San Juan.

La Concha Resort's Main Pool

La Concha Resort’s Main Pool. Photo: Joe Miragliotta

After venturing out, I can’t say I spent very much time in my room until I got back for the night. The hotel offered so much to do, whether it be on their grounds or through a partnership with a local vendor, it was hard to know where to start. But, whatever I began with, at some point in the day I would inevitably end up at one of their three pools or down at the beach (crazy, I know), where servers were always nearby to take a food/drink order. It was just about everything a person could want in the beach part of a beach vacation.

Additional Amenities

  • 24/7 fitness center
  • The Spa at Condado Vanderbilt
  • 2 Hot Tubs
  • Golf at Bahia Beach Resort in Rio Grande
  • Complimentary Bikes to cruise around Condado

Food and Nightlife at La Concha Resort

And of course, there’s La Concha’s food, drink, and nightlife. Altogether, they have a total of six restaurants for you to enjoy: Perla, luxury seafood (dinner); Delicias, Puerto Rican cuisine (breakfast/dinner); Solera, light poolside dishes (lunch/dinner); Sereno Beach Bar & Grill (lunch); Komakai Sushi Bar (lunch/dinner); and Serafina, Italian (dinner). Additionally, the lobby bar offers delicious signature cocktails that can be paired with food from either the sushi bar or the outside grill.

Signature drink at La Concha Resort's Lobby Bar

The “Kontraste” cocktail. Signature drink by Juan Antonio Noriega. Photo: Joe Miragliotta

The resilient people of Puerto Rico

“My family lived without power for over 3 months. We learned a lot from it and about ourselves, like how we were at our strongest when we were together as a team.” – Juan Mendoza

I met Juan outside of a cafe, not far from the resort. Curious about the camera equipment I was toting around, he asked what I was doing in Puerto Rico. After I mentioned that I was visiting to report on the current conditions of the island with a focus on tourism, he was eager to give me his firsthand perspective. It was quite clear that he and his family weren’t going to let Maria dictate how they would live. The theme was absolutely about resilience—and it didn’t stop with Juan.

It was truly rousing that there were so many others like him with these inspiring stories to tell. This was their home, and they were so proud of it. Each person I encountered on my trip, whether it was a driver, bartender, or someone on the street, was eager to share everything they knew. I don’t think I’ve ever visited a place and left with a combination of so many heartening stories, outlooks, and recommendations/tips for how to properly enjoy everything the area had to offer. And they were all thankful for why we were there, they really wanted to focus on the good. It was amazing.

A foodie’s dream destination

If you’ve never tried Mofongo before, you have no idea what you’re missing. It’s safe to say that it’s one of my favorite Puerto Rican dishes. Traditionally, it’s made with fried green plantains as its main ingredient, which are mashed with salt, garlic, and oil in a wooden pestle. If you think that sounds delicious, you would be correct. As for how it’s served, there are an infinite amount of variations to be found. So, if you somehow find a way to leave the island without trying at least two, saying you’ve done yourself a disservice would be putting it lightly.

Savory lobster mofongo at Restaurante Boronía

Savory lobster mofongo at Restaurante Boronía. Photo: Joe Miragliotta

Now, there are definitely tons of other dishes that you have to give a whirl while visiting, both native and non. While I’m sure this information is far from shocking, there is another bit about how Maria affected the food industry that I really wanted to share. After the hurricane hit the island, many of the restaurants were forced to change their menus due to budgeting and supply issues. What’s so noteworthy about this is how you would never know at all. Despite the setback, the quality, creativity, and taste of every dish I came across were all wonderful. So, even if you’ve been to Puerto Rico before, a visit just to see what the culinary scene is doing now would be well worth it. Here are a few of my favorite plates from the various restaurants I dined.

Mesclun salad from Verde Mesa

A colorful mesclun salad at Verde Mesa. Photo: Joe Miragliotta

Caribbean Rosa Vieja from Oceano Puerto Rico

Caribbean Rosa Vieja for lunch at Oceano. Photo: Joe Miragliotta

SAK-I Beef Tenderloin with roasted garlic and noodles

Beef tenderloin with roasted garlic and noodles at SAK-I. Photo: Joe Miragliotta

Pork dumpling soup at SAK-I

Pork dumpling soup at SAK-I. Photo: Joe Miragliotta

Endless things to do

Even with certain areas like the jungle still inaccessible, the list of things to do in Puerto Rico is pretty vast. I would highly suggest staying for a while, or, in my case, plan to visit the island once a year. One of my all-time favorite activities to do in the Caribbean is spending a day on a catamaran. It’s the perfect blend of time in the sun and on the water, plus you get to explore new areas. What’s not to love?

Since I’d yet to take a catamaran in Puerto Rico, I was grateful when I found Rico Sun Tours. They coordinated the entire day for us, so we didn’t have to worry about a thing. Our reservation was made for one of the East Island Excursions catamarans, which ended up taking us to Culebrita. The staff were completely lovely and they provided us with a great lunch and endless amounts of rum punch. Again, what’s not to love?

#PRstrong on Culebrita Beach

#PRstrong in the sand at Culebrita Beach. Photo: Joe Miragliotta

In terms of land-based activities, our walking tour of Old San Juan was for sure one of my favorites. There’s so much rich history there, and Rico Sun Tours did such a great job of showcasing it all. Can’t say I’m surprised after our previous water experience.

San Sebastián Street Festival

During my awesome visit to Puerto Rico, I was lucky enough to be there for this year’s San Sebastián Festival (San Se), an annual event held on the third Thursday of January in Old San Juan since 1970. The affair itself has evolved over time, starting as a community fundraiser and eventually becoming THE festival to go to, with loads of locals and tourists alike in attendance. Street performers, dancers, parades, artists and their works, local food, and musicians are just a small list of what you can expect to find. While it’s normally a 4-day event, it was extended to 5 this year to provide an additional boost to the local economy.

Dance team performing at San Sebastián Festival 2018

A dance team performing at San Sebastián Festival 2018. Photo: Joe Miragliotta

Though my trip (surprisingly) only came to 5 days in total, I had such a phenomenal and enlightening experience. There are still parts of the island undergoing rebuilding efforts, but that definitely doesn’t mean we should be staying away. So go ahead, help yourself and the people of Puerto Rico at the same time, and book yourself a vacation!

Joe Miragliotta of Joe’s Daily is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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