If you want to spice up your holiday season with a bit of exotic Caribbean flare, I can't think of a better destination than Puerto Rico. In fact, I'll give you five reasons why Christmas in Puerto Rico is a memorable and unique celebration. It's not just about Santa on the island; it's more than lights and gifts under the tree. Puerto Rico brings its home-grown traditions, flavors and customs to the holiday, making it a special occasion unlike just about anywhere else in the U.S.
1. The Lights
Okay, I know that listing "Christmas Lights" as a reason to visit a new place for Christmas is like asking you to travel overseas for free gift-wrap. But bear with me; your neighborhood, town or city might have absolutely dazzling Christmas decor during the holidays (silent salute to New York City).
But how many places in the U.S. can light up an ancient city that's more than 500 years old? (Europeans, please ignore the last sentence). That's the true magic of the Christmas lights in Puerto Rico: the timeless colonial beauty of Old San Juan decorated with the colorful whimsy and brilliance of the holiday season.
2. The Food
It wouldn't surprise me if people visited the island just for its food. Puerto Rico has become a true culinary capital, and it has done so on the merit of a unique blend of cultures, recipes and flavors. Not surprisingly, the island's culinary heritage is perhaps best expressed during the holidays, when the iconic foods and special treats of Puerto Rico come to the table. Christmas is one such time, with a menu all its own and different from most Christmas feasts.
3. The Shopping
Puerto Rico is well known as a shopaholic's destination of choice, and not just during Christmas. But the holiday season is also a terrific time to get a special Christmas gift (like a hand-carved wooden saint, or santo), a uniquely 'Rican souvenir, something shiny for a loved one, or even a great bottle of rum!
If you're in San Juan for the holidays, these shopping destinations should be on your to-do list.
4. The Three Kings
Okay, before I get hate-mail from half the Latin world, let me state explicitly that the Three Kings is most definitely not unique to Puerto Rico! The reyes magos are revered throughout Latin America, and add a another spiritual dimension to the holiday (not to mention extending the season into January).
Puerto Rico is no different, and its incorporation of the Three Kings into the season is a big reason why the holidays are special here.
5. The Deals
You'll have to check back with me to see if this still applies in 2011, but for 2010, at least, there are some terrific end-of-year deals going on in Puerto Rico. As an example, take a look at the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa is offering for guests who are staying there up to Chrismtas Eve. A beachfront resort for under $100 a night is pretty good in any city. Want another example? The Hilton Family also has some terrific packages on offer this holiday season.