Puerto Rico’s restaurants prepare some of the finest cuisine in the world, but no island visit is complete without a sampling of our cocina criolla, the typical cuisine of Puerto Rico. Favorites include classic rice & beans (a P.R. staple), asopao (a stew-like soup), tostones (fried plantain slices), and mofongo (another green plantain treat). Of course, a great meal deserves a great beverage to accompany it.
Perhaps a piña colada – invented at a hotel bar right here – or a rum- and-anything, celebrating Puerto Rico’s role as the world’s leading rum producer.
After long days of panel sessions, it’s time to really break out and have some fun. Gambling is legal in Puerto Rico and lady luck may be lurking in any of our casinos. Lounges, dance clubs, restaurants and cafes are everywhere in metropolitan areas like Old San Juan, Miramar, Condado, Santurce and Isla Verde. All kinds of live music can be heard and danced to – from modern jazz to salsa, to folkloric plena and bomba, and the latest reggaeton (Puerto Rican reggae/hip-hop). Dancing shoes are a must-have travel accessory!
There’s probably no other Caribbean island with a greater number of venues dedicated to local artisans and performers. You literally can’t walk a block without seeing a brightly painted mural, hearing the rhythm of a street salsa performance, or running into a gallery, museum, concert, opera, or theater with something to enjoy. In San Juan, the collection at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico and its surrounding gardens with koi ponds and waterfalls are not to be missed.
Since pre-Columbian times, dance has always been part of our culture and has evolved according to the social and demographic changes. The earliest dances documented by the early historians were the Taíno areyto dances that were chanted by a chorus, set to music, and led by a guide. They told a story while the guide indicated which steps and songs to repeat until the story was finished.
As the Taíno population dwindled down, Spanish and African, and from 1898 on, North American dances appeared on the island and took root and developed in the mountains, on the coast, and in urban centers.
Dances of European origin also became popular among the country folk and the settlers of the central part of the island. These dances rapidly acquired distinctive features of rhythm, instrumentation, interpretation, and even dress.
The Bomba dance is a very important part of our cultural tradition and its now currently preserved as a special legacy that we will leave behind to future generations. The Afro-Puerto Rican bombas, developed in the sugarcane haciendas of Loíza, the northeastern coastal areas, in Guayama and in southern Puerto Rico, utilize barrel drums and tambourines, while the rural version uses stringed instruments.
The Danza, the dance itself and its musical form, is considered the most refined of the dances. Its inspiration is popularly known to come from the Cuban habanera; in any case, it achieved its own style, with two distinct divisions. During the first part, to the steady cadence of the music, the couples promenade around the room; during the second, with a lively rhythm called merengue, they dance in a closed ballroom position. This form of dancing was seen as such a passionate display of human contact that it was legally banned. But of course, art has its own voice and it was practiced in closed quarters.
Dating over two centuries, the Plena, is the last of the national dances to emerge before the beginning of the influence of the U.S in 1898. Born in rural parts of our second oldest city of Ponce, the songs were inspired by stories of everyday life and history, and this is why today, we describe it as a “musical newspaper”. The plena was also the first Puerto Rican rhythm to gain popularity beyond our own island and to influence the music of other countries.
Apart from the national dances we have briefly mentioned here, Puerto Rico has been internationally known for its music and dance, for its artists and their footprint in various genres. Today, you can visit us and dance to any type of music that your heart desires, either in a club or hotel lobby or hey, even on the street during a festival! Be sure to take some salsa lessons while you’re here and share with us your experiences!
The Old San Juan neighborhood was originally conceived as a military stronghold. The forts San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal were built to protect the Island from military attacks in the 16 century. Making Puerto Rico, today, the oldest place with european arquitecture in the United States.
In the present, both forts are a World Heritage and National Historic Site, administered by the U.S. National Park Service. The San Felipe del Morro fort is known for being the largest fortification in the Caribbean.
A few of the details that distinguish the Old San Juan City are the 500-year-old cobblestone streets, the trademark tile roofs, ornate balconies, colorful facades, and the heavy wooden doors guarding secret courtyards and gardens that are perfect examples of the Spanish influence in the Puerto Rican architecture.
The Island‘s architecture speaks of its cultural diversity. A tour of building facades and homes tells a tale of the evolving lifestyles over the past centuries. The buildings vary from historic and picturesque, to modern and efficient.