Resources • Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort wyndhamriomar.com • Puerto Rico Tourism Co. gotopuertorico.com
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.