Visiting Puerto Rico feels like home
Thursday, August 14, 2008
• Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort
• Puerto Rico Tourism Co.
Puerto Rico is one of those foreign places that doesn’t feel foreign. You can find plenty of folks able to converse en ingles and, since it’s a U.S. territory, you pay in dollars—a real benefit as the value of the dollar falls—and you don’t need a passport. There are even reasonably priced direct flights from Chicago to San Juan.
On a recent trip, we stayed as guests of the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort, an upscale resort on the Atlantic Ocean about 15 minutes from the El Yunque (pronounced El June-kay) rain forest, the only rain forest that is a part of the U.S. National Forest Service.
We took a hotel-sponsored tour to the rain forest, led by one of many "New Yoricans" we met there. Our guide explained all about his native Puerto Rico in a thick Brooklyn accent, a product of living most of his life in New York.
The tour included a one-mile hike up and down the mountain floor (the guide called it a walk, but the terrain was rugged enough to qualify as a hike) to a beautiful waterfall, complete with a small swimming hole. If you don’t want to swim, at least bring water shoes for wading into the cool, refreshing water. Hats, sunscreen and water are a must. Skip the bug spray, though. The cute little Coqui frogs keep the area blissfully bug-free.
The Rio Mar resort is a convention hotel, but the pool, beach and daily iguana feedings keep it family-friendly. A basic room starts at $189—but there are myriad deals to be had on the Internet. There are five restaurants on site, all delicious but pricey. Without a car, you’re stuck on property, so be sure to include a hefty meal allowance in your budget.