Attention MasterCard users: when you pay with your MasterCard, you can enjoy all kinds of savings and specials at participating hotels, restaurants, boutiques and activities. Check out the full list of offers here, which includes deals like:
- 50% at the bar or a free dessert when you dine in at Meat Market Restaurant from Monday-Wednesday, 5:30 - 7:00pm.
- $100 debit card, 20% off car rental, 20% off Dragonfly Adventure outing, Plaza Las Américas discount book, and buy one get one free breakfast entreé when you stay a minimum of 4 nights at The La Concha Resort. Use MasterCard® Adventure reservation code UBXL when booking.
- 2 pastas for $22 at Blonda when you pay with MasterCard® Black, World Elite or Platinum.
- 20% off the room rate, $50 resort credit for every 2 nights, 20% off poolside massage, 20% off at the nearby Zen Spa, and $25 casino match bet coupon per adult when you stay a minimum of 4 nights at the Condado Plaza Hilton. You must pay with a MasterCard® Black, World Elite or Platinum to take advantage of the deal.
- 15% off the room rate, free buffet breakfast per paying adult, and $25 casino match bet coupon per adult when you stay a minimum of 3 nights at the El San Juan Resort & Casino. You must pay with a MasterCard® Black, World Elite or Platinum to take advantage of this deal.
As we all know, taxes are due in just a few days, and I, like so many others, am waiting until the last minute to file them. But tax day doesn't have to be bad news. In Puerto Rico, a few hotels have taken it upon themselves to offer a few unique tax breaks and ways to enjoy yourself on the 15th. Here are the details.
- Spa Treatments at the W Vieques - The lovely W Retreat on Vieques Island is offering guests complimentary signature AWAY Spa 10 minute and 40 second spa treatments by the pool area on April 15. And they'll chip in a complimentary green cocktail as a toast to "green" returns from Uncle Sam.
- Butler-Delivered Tax Returns at the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort - Enjoy a complimentary rum punch and hand your tax return to your friendly St. Regis butler, who will hand-deliver your package to the post office free of charge.
- Relax at the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa - With happy hour specials all day long and all week long, guests can enjoy Medalla Mondays ($4), Tequila Tuesdays ($5), Whiskey Wednesdays ($5), Tropical Drink Thursdays ($5), Flavored Rum Fridays ($5), Sangria Saturdays ($5) and SKYY Vodka Sundays ($5).
Heads up, foodies! Saborea is just around the corner. Puerto Rico's premier food festival, and one of the preeminent events for gourmands and gourmets in the Caribbean, is just over two weeks away. I've been to Saborea a few times and enjoyed every second of the experience.
Saborea gives you front-row seats to chef battles in the kitchen stadium, access to sunset parties, a giant tent filled with food stations and freebies from more than 30 restaurants and food purveyors around the island, and of course the chance to a few of your favorite chefs. This year, I don't see guest chefs and TV personalities of the caliber I've seen in the past, but Saborea tends to bring a festive and ready-to-party community of fellow foodies, so I wouldn't be surprised to find one or two celebs in the mix.
With new properties like the Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Dorado and the St. Regis Bahía Beach, Puerto Rico is becoming an elite destination for luxury travel. And now, it's poised to enhance its luxury offering with major investments of more than $450 million devoted to the development of elite properties around the island.
About $200 million will be invested in a luxury beach and marina community on the east coast of Puerto Rico, which includes the Punta Candelero Beach Resort and Solarea Beach Resort luxury condominiums, as well as the Marina at Palmas del Mar and The Yacht Club Marina.
Add them to properties like the W Vieques Retreat and the Horned Dorset Primavera, to name a few others, and you've got a range of outstanding hotels that range from boutique elegance to exclusive resort. With a new marina resort on the way and the hallowed Vanderbilt soon to reopen its doors, Puerto Rico will be more attractive than ever for those seeking an escape to Caribbean luxury.
I recently had a reader write in asking about San Juan as a Spring Break destination... and when you think about it, the island has everything you need for Spring Break: it's easy to get to from colleges all over the east coast; it's got beaches, nightlife and beautiful people.
But in truth, this isn't a huge destination for college kids looking to escape the cold and let loose a bit. You won't find throngs of students partying on the beach with DJs, wet tshirt contests and general hedonistic revelry. You will find plenty of idyllic spots in the sun, all the rum you can drink (and remember, the legal drinking age in Puerto Rico is 18), and clubs that don't close until the wee hours of the dawn.
If you're looking for the Cancún or Miami Beach experience, Puerto Rico isn't the best place to be (except perhaps the Señor Frogs in Old San Juan). But if you want to escape to a warm Caribbean island with plenty to see and do, this is the place for you.
There's music in the air this month in Puerto Rico. The Casals Festival is in full swing, with premier classical artists and performers delighting audiences at the Luis A. Ferré Performing Arts Center in Santurce. The Heineken Jazz Festival is just around the corner, bringing world-class jazz acts to the capital. And three live acts bring local music (at the Taste of Rum Festival), Top 40 Rock bands (Paramore at the Coliseo) and electronica (courtesy of Coors Light Soundfields) to San Juan.
If you prefer sport to music, you can catch world-class golfers at the Puerto Rico Open or surfers taking to the waves at the 25th Corona Pro Circuit in Rincón. And speaking of world-class, who wouldn't want to see Jerry Seinfeld live? He'll be in town this month at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan.
All that and more takes place this month in a very busy and entertaining calendar of events.
Puerto Rico gets a long list of celebrities visiting the island every year, whether in town for a movie or just to get away from it all. Johnny Depp has been a frequent visitor, thanks to The Rum Diary and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. And the latest "celebrities" to make some news on the island are the "Real Housewives" of Beverley Hills, who were on the the island just a few days ago.
Joyce (Miss Puerto Rico, TWO TIMES, okay!) orchestrated the trip, but the whole crew came with. They chose to stay at Las Casitas at the El Conquistador Resort, and Joyce in particular seemed to appreciate the continuous serenade of the coqui tree frog, the food and the beaches.
There are many hotels where celeb-watching can be a rewarding pastime. I saw one of my favorite actors, John Malkovich, at the El Convento Hotel in Old San Juan; New York Knick Carmelo Anthony has been known to frequent the St. Regis Bahía Beach Resort, and I ran in to Baseball player Carlos Beltrán at the El San Juan Hotel & Casino... and I've seen my share of stars on Culebra and Vieques Islands.
So whether it's a housewife, a sports star or one of the most revered actors of his generation, Puerto Rico is host to many celebrities throughout the year.
Who have you seen on the island?
March 2014 kicks off in grand style with the Taste of Rum Festival. One of the biggest food and drink events on the island, Taste of Rum is the official rum festival of Puerto Rico, and takes place on March 1 along the Paseo de la Princesa Boulevard that stretches from the docks to to the Raíces Fountain at the foot of the old city.
Beyond the island's favorite spirit, you can enjoy local food from restaurants like Perrurican and Soleil Beach Club and enjoy live music, this year featuring a tribute to The Police and Marc Anthony. Tickets are $45 for the rest of the month or $60 on the day of the event.
When it comes to travel, Condé Nast Traveler sets the standard for everyone to follow. And their annual Gold List sets the standard for excellence. Voted by their readers, the Gold List reflects the popular choices for the best hotels in the world.... and this year over 80,000 people voted.
The 2014 Gold List included three Puerto Rican properties:
1. The St. Regis Bahía Beach Resort: close to 500 pristine acres of land, a living wildlife sanctuary, a breathtaking stretch of beach, and all the luxury and comfort you could ask for make this a unique and elite destination.
2. The Horned Dorset Primavera: One of my favorite hotels in Puerto Rico, the Horned Dorset is a true escape, with meticulously appointed accommodations, a stretch of Rincón coastline that absolutely dazzles at sunset, a staff that is friendly and attentive, and an absolutely fabulous restaurant.
3. Las Casitas: A ritzy enclave within the El Conquistador resort, Las Casitas are a string of fully equipped cottages on the East coast of the island. Along with relative privacy and perks like butler service, guests get also get all the amenities of the resort, like the private island, water park, casino, spa and numerous restaurants.
Three properties worthy of the Gold List label; three hotels worth getting to know in Puerto Rico.
One of the newcomers to the dining scene in Condado, Bibi Ké occupies a busy stretch of Ashford Avenue. Located next to Ummo Argentinean Grill (and owned by the same folks), Bibi Ké skips the parrilla and returns to its native roots with a purely Puerto Rican menu. Even the name comes from the indigenous Taíno language, and the artwork on the walls celebrates the colors and flavors of the island.
Speaking of flavors, you'll find all the Puerto Rican classics here; mofongo, arroz con gandules, asopao and all manner of fritters and crisp bites (predominantly made with plantains) can all be enjoyed at this casual spot, which has a pleasant outdoor patio if you want to dine al fresco.
My favorite dish at Bibi Ké was their chicken pasteles, faithful recreations of homemade food and perfect for the holiday season, when I was there. But this is a reasonably priced newcomer that serves solid food. It's not the kind of Puerto Rican food that will wow you, like Casa Lola or Pikayo (both nearby in Condado), but it will definitely give you the flavors of Puerto Rico.
In fact, the food I enjoyed the most here were among the simplest dishes on the menu: the aforementioned pasteles, the arroz congri (rice and beans with green peppers) and the yummy garlic shrimp.
Is it among my favorite eateries in Condado? I can't go that far... but I can say that Bibi Ké offered plenty of good taste on a late night out in San Juan.