Things That Matter

Why Puerto Rico Continues To Top The List Of World Travel Destinations


When Puerto Rico started showing up on many acclaimed publications’ top lists of world travel destinations for 2019 we weren’t too surprised. The Island of Enchantment is a slice of paradise that’s easily accessible to visit for a weekend getaway and is bustling with Latino culture. The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Robb Report, and Fodor’s are directing their travel lusting readers to the Carribean Island in order to support the local economy–something we can totally get behind. 

The Latino community can’t help but feel a bit burned as the media played such a major role in betraying the American people of Puerto Rico during the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the deadliest natural disaster in modern U.S. history.

It’s astonishing how few U.S. citizens know about the colonization of Puerto Rico–amigas, you can’t say American without the ‘Rican.

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If foreigners want to support the recovery of the destruction from the natural disaster in Puerto Rico through tourism they must be mindful of being conscious of the way they travel while exploring the Island. It’s crucial more now than ever to support local businesses by staying in locally-owned guesthouses, eating at roadside chinchorreo food stalls, and hiring local drivers and guides in order to put your tourism dollars directly into local hands which will reinvest into their community. There are countless reasons why Puerto Rico continues to top the list of world travel destinations. 

Puerto Rico is one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean. The Island suffered from a major drop in tourism after the 2017 hurricane season which left major devastation. While parts of the island are still fragile and rebuilding, Puerto Rico is perfectly safe to visit. The Island boasts great weather year-round with winter and spring being the peak-seasons. The Atlantic hurricane season usually runs from June to November, but devastating natural phenomenons like Hurricane Maria are quite rare.

Discover Puerto Rico reports that the island has made a major comeback in terms of welcoming visitors.

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Over 110 flights land on the island daily from 28 airlines. Locals are getting involved in tourism by offering unique cultural homestays and experiences on Airbnb to give visitors an authentic chance to experience the charms of the Island. 

Listings on Airbnb initially dropped by 11% after Hurricane Maria but have grown exponentially since–there are now over 8,300 accommodation listings and 120 tourism experiences on the Island which has significantly surpassed pre-hurricane levels. According to Airbnb, Puerto Rico is trending as one of the top 5 destinations in the Caribbean.

The tourism industry accounts for 6.5% of Puerto Rico’s GDP and employs 77,000 people on the Island. Exploradoras can do their part by prioritizing responsible and impactful travel experiences that will support recovery efforts and local communities. Souvenir shopping can also make a positive impact if you purchase artisan handmade crafts from social enterprises such as Concalma which supports local craftswomen. 

Locally owned tour company Local Guest curates unique tours that help visitors explore off-the-beaten-path areas of the Island including the spectacular cave system of Cabachuelas in Morovis.

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Carmen N. Portela Martínez is the co-founder of Local Guest and prides herself on creating authentic tourism experiences by “working hand in hand with local communities and

entrepreneurs in order to build a more sustainable tourism ecosystem.” Martínez tells FIERCE that “Puerto Rico has been through a lot in the last two years but through the strength and hard work of our people we can be proud to celebrate our Island again and what we have to offer which has always been the beauty of our people and culture.”

“After a natural disaster, it’s important to make sure that we implement systems and practices that support the local economy for the benefit of host communities and for the conservation of our country and resources. Responsible travelers leave a lighter footprint in destinations and tend to support local business and explore beyond the traditional tourist attractions. Community-based tourism is a way of immersing yourself in a destination while interacting with host communities. The human and cultural exchange on both ends can be very meaningful and long-lasting,” says Martínez.

Traveling throughout the lush landscape of Puerto Rico may give a false pretense that the Island is fully recovered but there are still numerous people who are displaced and recovering from the extreme loss of homes and loved ones. Support those who are still facing the impacts of Hurricane Maria by donating to local nonprofits that are providing aid to those in need such as Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo which is bringing solar energy to the Island to combat ongoing power outages and Ayuda Legal Huracán María which is a collective of law professionals that aid local communities with disaster legal aid and assistance.

There are several reputable eco-tourism organizations that have crafted tourism experiences to allow guests to participate in reforestation of areas that were devastated by the storm. Travelers can join environmental conservation nonprofit Para La Naturaleza to aid in a variety of community projects such as planting native trees as a part of their Tree Nursing Maintenance program which aims to reforest Puerto Rico with 750,000 indigenous trees over the next seven years.

Nature is a major draw for visitors in Puerto Rico.

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Tierra Madre seriously blessed the Island with stunning natural feats. Many of these fragile ecosystems suffered during the storm but through the dedication of the gente of Puerto Rico who care for their land–they’re once again thriving. Endless eco-tourism experiences await around the Island. Visit the mangrove forest in Cataño with local nonprofit CARAS de las Americas to support reforestation and learn about the unique ecosystem. If you seek an adrenaline rush, strap into a harness and go for a zip-lining adventure at Toro Verde.

Waterfall lovers will be in paradise in Puerto Rico. Some of the best cascades to witness include La Soplaera Waterfall in Peñuelas, Charco Piazza waterfall in Yauco, and El Roble Waterfall in San Sebastian. Puerto Rico even has its own Salt Flats located in Cabo Rojo which are a sight to behold. The natural treasure appears to have pink sand and is very delicate so swimming is not allowed. Nearby is the stunning Los Morillos Lighthouse which looms over the ocean near the Natural Arch Beach.

For an unforgettable evening, swim in one of the Islands bioluminescent-bays in Mosquito Bay and La Parguera. Hire a local fisherman to take you out to explore the coastline between Luquillo and Fajardo and you might get blessed with a sighting of the vulnerable leatherback sea turtles. If you seek sand and sun you’ll find picture-perfect beaches all around the Island such as Playa Caña Gorda, Cayo Aurora (Gilligan’s Island), and Punta Ballena Beach in Guánica. The western coastline in Cabo Rojo has many gorgeous stretches of sea including Playa Combate, Playa Buyé, and Playa Sucia.

Cultural buffs will love to visit the 16th-century citadel of Castillo San Felipe del Morro in San Juan. But, to really explore the rich history of Puerto Rico rent a car and head outside of the capital city to visit lesser-known areas such as the southwest region of the Island which is only a 2-hour drive from San Juan. As Martínez says, if you only visited San Juan you don’t know Puerto Rico. If you love architecture stop in Ponce to visit the historic eye-catching firehouse of Parque de Bombas which established in 1882 then take a stroll along the picturesque La Guancha Boardwalk.

Head to San Germán to take in the beauty of Porta Coeli which dates back to 1609 making it one of the oldest churches in the western hemisphere. The surrounding town reflects a similar old-timey ambiance. If you’re drawn to the colonial style of Spanish buildings pay a visit to San Germán, La Ciudad de las Lomas, which was the original capital city of Puerto Rico and the second oldest city on the Island.

Foodies won’t want to miss the chance to taste all the Puertorriqueño delicacies.

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And by that, we mean rum, of course! Bacardí was founded in Cuba and be headquartered in Bermuda, but the rum distillery in Cataño is a highlight for many travelers who’ve tried their hand at mixology. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during the winter holidays don’t miss out on a special seasonal treat that’s unique to the Island–coquito! The sweet coconutty drink is best enjoyed with a splash of rum, of course.

Puerto Rican native Jessica van Dop DeJesús of Dining Traveler encourages those who seek genuine Boricua comida to head to the center of the Island and consume local foods in order to make a positive impact. “There are so many great restaurants in the mountains of Puerto Rico. Roasted pork, music, and a gorgeous island view… What else can you ask for?” she told FIERCE. Her favorite spots include Casa Vieja in Ciales, Casa Bavaria in Morovis, and Lechonera El Cuñao in Cayey. If you’re not too full after your feast, go explore the surrounding mountainous scenery which boasts many gorgeous waterfalls. 

In order to have the best experience in Puerto Rico van Dop DeJesús has a simple suggestion-talk to locals wherever you go. As she says, Boricuas love to talk! “What makes Puerto Rico truly special are its people. Let’s be honest, you can find gorgeous beaches and mountains across the Caribbean. However, Puerto Rico has a very unique and diverse culture. We have a unique sense of openness that makes visitors feel right at home,” she says. Have you booked your flight yet? Nos vemos en la Isla del Encantamiento!

Puerto Vallarta Has Long Been An LGBTQ-Friendly Travel Destination And Here’s Why

Culture

Puerto Vallarta Has Long Been An LGBTQ-Friendly Travel Destination And Here’s Why

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Puerto Vallarta is one of the favorite Mexican tourist destinations of the LGBT community. There are hotels, bars, nightclubs, beaches, and even drinks specifically for LGBT travelers, and due to the safety and welcoming environment for these guests, it is the first city in Mexico to receive the Gay Travel Approved distinction by GayTravel.com.

But why PV? What made Vallarta Mexico’s top gay destination?

Let’s start back at the beginning.

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In the south of Puerto Vallarta you will find the “Old Town,” also called “The Romantic Zone,” the tourist area favored by expats and foreigners who want to soak up local traditions. The Old Puerto Vallarta is also considered the gay neighborhood since 1980, when the gay community and retired Canadians and Americans bought land and properties in order to create gay-friendly businesses. Today there’s a wide variety of attractions with this focus, including bars, restaurants, stores, nightclubs, and both budget and boutique hotels.

In this zone is nestled the popular beach Playa de los Muertos, which, although not exclusively gay, for the last 20 years has been known as a gay-friendly beach (also called Blue Chairs, because of the many blue chairs placed by a gay resort which bears the same name), mainly in the high season, from November to March.

Why is this pristine beach the LBGT meeting point? Because the gay-friendly beachfront hotels in the area causes—and guarantees—a concentration of LGBT tourists, bringing a multicultural ambience where members of this community will be respected without discrimination. In the morning they can socialize and enjoy the party atmosphere, and in the afternoon walk holding hands under the dazzling sunset, in a romantic atmosphere free of hostility. Such is the high demand for LGBT-friendly vacation spots that the area has been extended to include the green chairs and as far as the north coast, in the elegant Oceano Sapphire Beach Club, owned by gays.

But it’s about more than just the beach.

Credit: David Stanley / Flickr

Unlike certain countries, laws against homosexuality never existed in Mexico. There is, however, a strong macho culture and religious influence which disapproves it—nonetheless the locals show respect. Under these circumstances, the growing community has led LGBT organizations to work to promote a change of culture in the pursuit of equality. Their work has gotten results: they have achieved recognition of gay rights, and implemented laws against the provocation and incitement of hate or violence against LGBTs, and also to guarantee equality in employment and public accomodation and services. Even more, in 2013 Puerto Vallarta legalized civil union between LGBT couples, followed by same-sex marriage in 2016.

This city organized its first Gay Pride March, and has hosted the Pink & Proud Women’s Party—the equivalent lesbian celebration—for the last four years, with assistance from the local Canadian and American communities. The multiple events in support of the LGBT community have marked out Puerto Vallarta as the “Mexican San Francisco.”

Now, there’s a giant and flourishing LGBTQ tourism industry that welcomes people from around the world.

Credit: Kristopher Roller / Unsplash

For the last 10 years, the number of LGBT visitors has increased in Puerto Vallarta and Jalisco, and in order to meet demand, the number of LGBT-friendly resorts and touristic attractions has also increased. Now three of every 10 hotels in Puerto Vallarta are LGBT-friendly, and most also offer weddings and other symbolic ceremonies.

Bars, nightclubs and other amenities are already focused on this market, and there are also tours—like the Gay VIP Bars Tour—and even drinks—like the Gay Tequila and the Gay Energy Drink—to make these guests feel extra welcome. As a result, Puerto Vallarta now hosts International LGBT Business Expos, with important conferences and events, including fashions shows, beach parties and music festivals to celebrate this booming market.

Puerto Vallarta remains the gateway to Mexico for many LGBTQ travelers.

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Some other cities have recognized the demand, and are now attempting to attract LGBT tourism to their destinations. Puerto Vallarta is not letting it happen: diverse businesses—no matter the sexual preference—are joining forces to create organizations to promote this targeted brand of tourism. The market gives consumers what they want, and they have identified this growing target and will not let it go.

Beyond the marketing, Puerto Vallarta became a platform to support gay rights, and the LGBT community knows it and feels welcome here. What really keeps the LGBT community hitting Puerto Vallarta is the activism, respect, and freedom they find in this beautiful paradise.

These Are Mexico’s Top Cenotes And These Photos Of The Swimming Holes Are So Stunning You’ll Want To Visit Them ASAP

Culture

These Are Mexico’s Top Cenotes And These Photos Of The Swimming Holes Are So Stunning You’ll Want To Visit Them ASAP

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Mexico is home to incredible natural landscapes and beautiful places to swim. But few are as other worldly nor as beautiful as the country’s thousands of cenotes – or underground swimming holes.

Cenotes are naturally occurring sinkholes that expose groundwater and trap rain as a result of collapsed limestone. They are beautiful caves that will light your spirit adventure and will transport you to an underwater world. 

The word cenote derives from the Mayan word Dzonot, which means “well.” Many of the cenotes found in Mexico are located in the Yucatán Peninsula due to the flat limestone that makes up the area. 

For Mayans, cenotes were considered to be entrances to the underworld. Cenotes are a source of great energy and some were used in rituals. 

Here are the best cenotes to visit next time you find yourself in Mexico.

Dos Ojos

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Located in Tulum, Mexico, the Dos Ojos cenote  is one of the most popular cenotes in the area. The term Dos Ojos mean ‘two eyes’ and was named that due to the passage way  that connects two sinkholes. The deepness of the cenote is perfect for those who want try snorkeling. 

The cenote is open from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM daily. The entrance fee is 200 pesos and snorkeling gear can be rented near by. 

Ik Kil

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The Ik Kil cenote is located in Yucatan, Mexico and is one of the most popular tourist attractions. The cenote is located almost 1.5 miles away from the famous Chichén Itzá. This cenote is perfect for divers. 

The cenote is open 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and there is an entrance fee of 80 pesos.

Choo-Ha

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Choo-Ha is located near the Coba ruins in the Yucatán Peninsula. This cenote is covered with naturally forming stalagmites. To enter, you will have to go through a staircase leading to a small hole above ground. The cenote also provides access to both Tamcach-Ha and Multún-Ha. 

The cenote is open 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM daily and there is an entrance fee of 100 pesos for each cenote.

Suytun

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The beautiful Suytun Cenote is located in Valladolid, Mexico. The word Suytun means ‘center stone,’ which references the platform that is located at the center of this cenote. This cenote is one of the most popular cenote’s and it’s with good reason. 

The cenote is open 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and there is an entrance fee of 120 pesos.

Dream Gate

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The Dream Gate cenote is just that, a dream. The cenote is located in Quintana Roo, Mexico and is incredibly popular among scuba divers. It has been featured in a number of documentaries. It’s a cenote that is recommended for experienced divers. 

The cenote is open 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily and there is an entrance fee of $15 (USD)

Gran Cenote

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Gran Cenote is located in Quintana Roo, Mexico. There are plenty of fish, turtles, and bats that are unafraid of visitors. Since this a pretty popular cenote, plan ahead and arrive early to beat the crowds. 

The cenote is open 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily and there is an entrance fee of 180 pesos.

Calavera

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The Calavera cenote, located in Tulum, Mexico, gets its name because the opening to the cenote makes it appear like a skull. You can cliff jump from the opening of this cenote into the cool clear water below. 

The cenote is open 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM daily and there is an entrance fee of 100 pesos.

Tajma Ha

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Located in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, this cenote is recommended for divers who are a little bit more experienced than average. Your dive into Tajma Ha will take you to a cave named Sugar Bowl. The dive will take about an hour each way, but the views will be worth it. 

The cenote is open 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily and there is an entrance fee of 232 pesos.

Cenote’s are wonderful because they occur naturally, are beautiful, and they have a lot of meaning behind them. If you plan on visiting one of these cenotes, plan accordingly and go when the weather is good such as from December to April.

If you visit one of these cenotes, please do not wear sunscreen or other lotions as they can damage the marine ecosystems located there. If you do use these products, make sure the cenote you are visiting has showers so you don’t contaminate the water. 

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