Puerto Rico for your pleasure

In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, many of Puerto Rico’s business and hotels were forced to close – some for good.
Fast forward two years and the island (that Americans don’t even need a passport to reach) is back on the Caribbean travel map, with its promise of winter sun which won’t cost a fortune.

Here’s eight things you need to see, eat and do in sun soaked Puerto Rico.

Meet me in San Juan

Meet me in San Juan

Get lost in old San Juan
Old San Juan is arguably the jewel in Puerto Rico’s already overcrowded crown.
Expect charming cobblestone streets, pretty pastel painted colonial buildings, flower bedecked balconies, elegant plazas and majestic fortresses (step forward St Christopher’s Castle and El Morro) all juxtaposed against a backdrop of the sparkling Atlantic Ocean. Simply put: Old San Juan is sure to cast a spell over even the most jaded of travellers.

If all you want to do is laze on golden sand and top up your tan then rest assured, my friend, that Puerto Rico won’t let you down: the small island boasts some of the most spectacular stretches of sand found anywhere on the planet.
Take your pick from Playa Flamenco over on the island of Culebra (approximately 90 minutes from Fajardo), Playa Santa in western Puerto Rico which stands in front of a splendid 19th century lighthouse and Luquillo. The latter, celebrated for its surfing, is popular with sanjuaneros (San Juan locals) so, if you want to avoid the crowds, try to visit on a weekday.
Regardless of which beach you for, look forward to soft sand, rolling waves, and endless sunshine. What’s not to love?

Lovely Luquillo

Lovely Luquillo

Fill your boots
Puerto Rico’s food is the Caribbean’s best, a tantalising blend of influences, but if you only try one dish make it mofongo. This Puerto Rican staple is made from plantains that have been mashed and cooked with garlic, pork and plenty of spices. This delicious dish is so popular among Puerto Ricans that bananas are often imported in from the neighbouring Domincan Republic to meet the demand. A great place to sample mofongo is at Los Kioskos De Luquillo, Luquillo’s famous line of kiosks.
Locals are also mad about their meat and to say that they adore Lechon asado (roast suckling pig) is akin to calling Champagne a fizzy drink: a major understatement. Puerto Ricans’ passion for Lechon asado will see them make a pilgrimage to Guavate (at the edge of Bosque Estatal de Carite) at the weekend for a plate (or two) or pork.
Mofongo and Lechon asado are invariably washed down with, what else, rum… the island is, after all, the home of Bacardi (the world’s largest producer of rum).
Buen provecho!

Make time to try mofongo – your tastebuds will thank-you

Make time to try mofongo – your tastebuds will thank-you

Get ready to salsa
Jamaica may be famous for its reggae but Puerto Rico shakes it hips to a different beat… salsa.
The dance may have originated in New York (by Puerto Ricans living in the Big Apple) but the island – more specifically it’s colourful capital, San Juan – is the  spiritual home of salsa.
Shake it like Shakira in nightclubs and bars where bands play until 4am (and not just at weekends) or, our pick, in La Placita de Santurce. The vibrant barrio’s most famous market, La Placita, particularly rewards a visit on Thursday and Friday nights when Puerto Ricans flock to the plaza to meet, eat, drink and dance salsa into the early hours.

Seek out the central mountains
For a different take on the island, away from the Caribbean beaches and condos, head up high into the central mountains to town of Aibonito (pronounced Ei-bo-nee-to) which is situated some 2,401ft above sea level and holds the record for the lowest temperature ever recorded in Puerto Rico so yes, be sure to pack lots of layers.
It was while in Aibonito that my friend Karen and I met two sisters who shared with us what life was really like – read no running water and electricity for two months – after Hurricane Maria struck describing it as “the scariest experience we have ever been through.” Their US based children sent constant supplies but alas, they were stolen in transit.
Close to Aibonito lies the dramatic Canon de San Cristobal, definitely one for the ‘gram.

Mountain life

Mountain life

Get a caffeine fix
While Puerto Rico (correctly) continues to be associated with salsa, the country is fast earning a reputation for producing some of the best coffee in the Caribbean.
Caffeine addict will, ahem, be full of beans about the prospect of visiting one of Puerto Rico’s historic coffee plantations which allow an insight into the various stages of the coffee production process, as well as offering the chance to enjoy a fresh cup of Joe.
Haciendas (coffee plantations) worth heading to include Hacienda Pomarrosa,  Hacienda Tres AnglesHacienda San PedroHacienda Buena Vista.

Add the Luquillo food kiosks to your “must-do” list

Add the Luquillo food kiosks to your “must-do” list

Hike Reserva Forestal Toro Negro
Most travellers head straight to El Yunque National Forest, and for good reason: this soaking rainforest, which spans nearly 29,000 acres, is one of Puerto Rico’s top treasures offering both easy and arduous treks. 
However if you’re after a quieter, less touristy alternative to El Yunque, we have the answer: take a bow the Toro Nego Reserve, home to the island’s highest peak (Cerro la Punta) and some of Puerto Rico’s most memorable hikes.
One caveat: Toro Negro lacks El Yunque’s finesse so don’t expect an army of staff, food stalls and toilets.

Exploring Toro Negro

Exploring Toro Negro

Play ball
If you want to experience Puerto Rico like a local, make a beeline for the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan to catch a baseball game. 
Puerto Ricans are crazy about baseball and the bleachers at beisbol (baseball) stadiums are invariably packed (perhaps helped by the fact that tickets are dirt cheap ranging from $5-18 with kids qualifying for a 50 per cent discount). 
Teams play during the winter (from November to February) but, in San Juan, the two teams garnering all the headlines (and fans) are the Cangrejeros de Santurce (Santurce Crabbers) and Gigantes de Carolina (Carolina Giants).
Even if you aren’t a fan of baseball, going to a game is a great (inexpensive) way to meet locals. More than that, it’s worth watching a game for the raucous atmosphere alone.

Words and pictures: Kaye Holland

Currency Chronicles: what I spent on a last-minute city break in Tbilisi

Welcome to the third installment of our new series Currency Chronicles, in which travellers reveal every penny they spent while away on holiday. Last time we looked at a weekend at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with friends. This week it's a two-night break in Tbilisi. The total spent is at the bottom…

Back at the beginning of the summer, I booked three days off from the Telegraph Towers which I planned to spend being a tourist in my hometown: London. Alas as the time drew closer, the weather looked as though it wasn’t going to play ball – which is how I found myself on Skyscanner booking a last minute flight to Tbilisi (Georgia), where temperatures were reliably in their 30s. Was my last minute trip to Tbilisi a budget break or a bouji-blow-out? Read on to discover what I spent...

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Cruise ship routes to Dubrovnik come under scrutiny

One of the world’s most magnificent walled cities, Dubrovnikhas become hugely popular with cruise ship tourists in recent years leading locals to fear Croatia’s most upmarket destination has lost its soul.

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Secret London: 10 of our favourite overlooked green spaces

The inaugural National Park City Festival takes place across London from July 20-28. It’s an eclectic celebration of London’s great outdoors, with events ranging from musical installations in Epping Forest to walking tours of Kensington Gardens.

Almost half of London is green space, and its eight Royal Parks cover almost 2,000 hectares of land and attract millions of sunseekers, nature lovers and flâneurs. But there are many more overlooked options – sanctuaries from the bustle of city life but unencumbered by crowds. Here are 10 of our favourites.

Thousands of holidays ruined after technical fault leaves cruise ship stuck in Barcelona

It’s every traveller’s nightmare: you’ve painstakingly researched and booked your trip, forked out thousands of pounds and are counting down the days until you set sail – only to find at the last minute that your holiday has been cancelled. 

That’s the scenario facing nearly 2,400 cruise passengers due to depart Rome tonight for a sailing around the Med on board Norwegian Pearl after a mechanical fault left the ship behind schedule.

The 10-day voyage was sold out, with passengers expecting to visit ports such as Santorini, Mykonos, Athens and Naples

Owing to the late cancellation of this cruise – customers were given just three days’ notice – many passengers had already arrived in Italy, meaning they’ll now be forced to pay for hotels or new flights.

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