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Are long passport processing times dashing your dreams of a tropical getaway this summer or fall? Never fear, your solution is here! You don’t have to settle for an annual pilgrimage to a Florida beach when your soul is longing for change. Puerto Rico invites you to Live Boricua!

“Boricua [boh-ree-kwa] is a person from Puerto Rico by birth or descent. More than a name, Boricua is a state of mind and joy for life that is embodied by the Puerto Rican people and shared by all who visit.” (Discover Puerto Rico, the official tourism website for Puerto Rico)

Joyful Journeys recently attended the ASTA (American Society of Travel Advisors) Global Convention in San Juan. We were invited to arrive early and explore the island for three days with a small group of elite travel advisors. We said yes, and boy are we glad we took advantage of this opportunity.

Puerto Rico is a beautiful island! As a US territory, it’s easily accessible without a passport for US citizens. Traveling to San Juan is as easy as flying to any major US city. Pack a bag, grab your driver’s license, and go! Driving a car is easy, there’s no need for currency exchange, and most every Puerto Rican you meet is bilingual and can communicate easily with you in English. Comfortable like home….but with so many new things to see and do!

With over 270 miles of coastline, there is no shortage of lovely beaches to explore in Puerto Rico. The crystal-clear waters and soft white sand provide plenty of opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, and taking an afternoon nap under a beach umbrella. If you like more active water activities, try your hand at surfing; the island’s warm waters and consistent waves make it an ideal destination for surfers of all levels, especially in Rincon the surf capital of Puerto Rico. Culebra and Vieques, two small islands off the east coast of Puerto Rico, are known for their beautiful coral reefs and are great locations for scuba diving. And for those who enjoy being on the water with little to no physical effort, a laid-back sunset catamaran cruise may be just the thing. We certainly enjoyed our sailing experience after a full day of resort tours!

When you tire of relaxing on the water, hop in your rental car or book a tour to visit El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the US National Forest System. Here, nature lovers can hike to stunning waterfalls, observe the vegetation of the rainforest, and possibly see a Coqui frog or endangered Puerto Rican parrot. Adventurous travelers can experience the rainforest from a different perspective by zipline, horseback, or ATV.

All this exploration can make one hungry! In Puerto Rico, you’ll never have to worry about finding something tasty to eat. The cuisine is a blend of local, Spanish, and African influences that truly tempts the tastebuds. Arroz (rice) is a staple and is served at almost every meal, typically combined with beans, peas, or meat and a delicious blend of spices and seasoning. Plantains are another common menu item – fried and served as a side dish (tostones) or used as the primary ingredient of mofongo. Pastelillos, fried turnovers filled with spicy, flavorful meats, are amazing. Churrasco – skirt steak – is so tender. Pork dishes were delicious! (Side note for all our foodies out there…Did you know Puerto Rico has not one but three Pork Highways? Look it up. Your mouth will be watering in no time.) Vacation calories don’t count anyway!

No tropical vacation is complete without a pina colada, and you’ll certainly want to enjoy one while on the island because Puerto Rico is where the drink was born! With or without the rum, this creamy goodness isn’t to be missed. Regardless of which resort or hotel you call home during your vacation, you may visit Caribe Hilton – the first luxury hotel built on the island back in 1949 – to try the official drink of Puerto Rico at the hotel where it was invented!

We found the people of the island to be friendly and welcoming. They were eager to share their culture and truly wanted us to enjoy our time. They are proud of their heritage and history. They have shown amazing resiliency in rebuilding their infrastructure and tourism industry after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and the negative health and economic impacts of COVID.

We enjoyed our time on the island and saw thousands of vacationers doing the same. (You see a lot of people when you stay at or tour seven different hotels and resorts in 2.5 days.) We feel confident that Puerto Rico is ready to welcome our clients, and we know that our clients will enjoy their time on the island. Ocean, beach, natural wonders, adventure, fantastic food, and pina coladas. Sounds like paradise – no passport required!

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