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Meetings & Conventions
Cahners Publishing Company
Out On The Island: Puerto Rico
By ANDREW JACOBS
April 1, 2001
To the east of the city is the El Yunque rain forest, featuring 28,000 acres of exuberant flora and fauna. El Portal, the forest's gateway complex, is a one-of-a-kind venue for special events. Groups can combine a trip to El Yunque with a stop at nearby Luquillo Beach, one of the finest and largest on the Island.
On the east coast is Fajardo, the boating capital of Puerto Rico . Culebra and Vieques , two small islands nearby, are popular watersports centers and home to quaint restaurants, charming hotels and secluded white sand beaches.
To the west of San Juan is the Rio Camuy Cove Park, one of the largest cave systems in the Western Hemisphere. Guided tours include the world's largest underground river and a 400-foot sinkhole. On the Island's northern coast, the Arecibo Observatory is a huge radio-telescope whose 20-acre dish is built into a natural geologic feature. The Bioluminescent Bay, in La Parguera, on the southwest coast, features billions of aquatic microorganisms that lend a magical glow to the night. It is one of the Island's most popular attractions, and the starting point for nightly cruises.
On the southwest corner of the island is San German, known for its stately homes and the Porta Coeli, a 17th-century whitewashed chapel. Mayaguez is home to the University of Puerto Rico engineering and science campus as well as the botanical gardens. The island's third-largest city boasts an elegant central plaza with a bronze statue of Christopher Columbus.
On the south coast is Ponce, the second-largest city in Puerto Rico . Here you will find the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the brightly painted Parque de Bombas firehouse. Ponce also is home to the famed Museo de Arte de Ponce. A short drive away, the Hacienda Buena Vista, a restored coffee plantation, makes for a fun excursion.
THE SPORTING LIFE
Puerto Rico 's clear blue waters and year-round tropical climate make it a paradise for sports lovers:
* Fourteen championship golf courses in spectacular seaside settings
* More than 100 tennis courts; major hotels have pros on-site
* Some of the most stunning coral reefs in the Caribbean
* Many hotels offer organized dives including night dives and shipwreck exploration
* Puerto Rico 's mountainous terrain and dense rain forest are ideal for trailblazers
* Guided hikes and horseback rides, ending with lunch at a secluded beach
* Thoroughbred racing year-round at El Comandante race track
* Bithorn Stadium in the center of San Juan is the winter home of many major league baseball players
* Trophy fishing, including the International Billfish Tournament
* Numerous sailing and surfing competitions
DINING AND NIGHT LIFE
Visitors can choose from a range of award-winning restaurants serving Italian, Cuban, Chinese, Argentine, French, Spanish, Japanese, Romanian and, of course, Puerto Rican specialties.
After dinner, attendees will want to check out the international casinos, bistros and the trendy discotheques in Condado, Isla Verde and Old San Juan. Others can take advantage of the Island's vibrant arts scene, featuring dance, opera, drama, and all forms of music.
San Juan's Luis A. Ferre Centro de Bellas Artes, with three halls seating 2,000, 750 and 450, is the largest and best-equipped performing arts complex in the Caribbean. In addition to symphony concerts and the prestigious Casals Festival, the Center hosts operas, ballets, plays and popular music concerts. The University of Puerto Rico Theater showcases a variety of local and international acts. The historic Tapia Theater opened in 1830 in Old San Juan and hosts shows and various cultural events throughout the year.
Lounges in Old San Juan feature jazz or local favorites such as salsa and merengue. Hotel casinos offer slot machines, video poker, blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat and more.
SPECIAL EVENTS AND THEME PARTIES
With its colorful history and architectural wonders, Puerto Rico offers innumerable possibilities for unique themed events. Here are a few exciting and entertaining ideas the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau can help you plan:
Conquistadores Night Wander back 500 years to a Conquistadores celebration in the stunning San Geronimo colonial fortress overlooking the sea. Spanish flags, wooden barrels, sandbags and torches recreate the image of a real garrison guarding the entrance to Old San Juan. The event includes mounted Conquistadores in authentic 16th-century costumes, a buffet or cocktail party, as well as a fanfare of trumpets announcing arriving guests. Events are best scheduled for late afternoon or early evening, when fiery sunsets give way to the sparkling lights of metropolitan San Juan and the starry tropical sky. San Geronimo accommodates up to 500 guests. This event can also be recreated in a hotel ballroom or pool area.
Carnival Night Brazilian samba music intertwined with authentic Puerto Rican Bomba y Plena sets the stage. Confetti, costumes and colorful decor complete the festive atmosphere.
Puerto Rican Night Participate in a typical town Patron Saint's Festival. Set against a backdrop of folkloric music and dance featuring the famous Vejigantes and Cabezudos, this celebration also includes traditional island fare such as lechon asado (pork slowly pit-roasted). Make a salsa dance contest part of the fun. Winners receive Puerto Rican rum, coffee and candies.
El Yunque Rain Forest Hold your event in the only tropical rain forest within the U.S. National Forest System. Or, let us decorate any function room with tropical plants and flowers, exotic centerpieces, even a waterfall. Sounds of the rain forest and pre-Columbian music add to the ambiance. The menu features international gourmet fare and native cuisine.
Treasure Hunt Everybody wins! Teams start from three different locations and follow a printed guide with instructions to photograph certain sites with disposable cameras. At the end of the hunt, cameras are collected and presentation kits are made for each group.
Artist Showcase Party Everybody participates in this hands-on event. Guests test their abilities while professional artisans show them how to make santos (carved wooden saints), seashell jewelry or carnival masks. Nobody leaves empty-handed, but the most talented wins an original piece of artwork.
Horseback Safari Party A leisurely horseback ride takes participants through the countryside or along a deserted beach. Either way, there are plenty of photo opportunities. Upon return to the stables, the party begins. Enjoy well-deserved pina coladas, Puerto Rican cuisine and lively entertainment.
WORLD-CLASS HOTELS AND RESORTS
While it may be home to 500-year-old houses and hostelries, Puerto Rico also boasts the most modern accommodations available anywhere in the Caribbean. A host of world-class hotels and resorts offer a wide range of accommodations, conference facilities and recreational options for groups. As an added bonus, most major hotels also feature international casinos. Larger groups can stay at any of the 18 major properties on the island.
The recently renovated 644-room Caribe Hilton, a unique city resort situated on 17 secluded oceanfront acres in San Juan, is only a five minute drive to Old San Juan and the Condado area. As Hilton's first international property, it has been one of the Caribbean's premier resorts for the past 50 years. The birthplace of the Pina Colada offers a private beach, beachfront pool complex, lush tropical gardens and unique live musical entertainment. The Caribe Hilton features 65,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting and function space, including 28 meeting rooms and the largest hotel exhibition area (18,000 sq. ft.) in Puerto Rico . The property's 300-year-old Fort San Geronimo is ideal for theme parties, receptions and dinners. An additional junior ballroom and a new spa complex are under construction.
Resembling a landlocked ship, the Art Deco-style Radisson Normandie Hotel was built in 1939. Its ornate salons formerly were a popular gathering place for Puerto Rican high society. Remodeled by Radisson in 1999, this hotel retains its original grandeur, and features 177 rooms, most of which have parlors and sun rooms. The property's more than 13,000 sq. ft. of function space includes six meeting rooms and a 3,200-square-foot ballroom.
OLD SAN JUAN
The Wyndham Old San Juan Hotel and Casino is uniquely located on the waterfront in historic Old San Juan boasting magnificent views of the bay. It features 5,800 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space, 240 guest rooms, a rooftop pool, a 10,000 sq. ft. casino and shopping arcade. It is Old San Juan's newest upscale hotel.
Hotel El Convento is a historic landmark in the heart of the Old City. El Convento offers the unique charms of an intimate hotel, the rich character of a well preserved 16th century convent, and the gracious amenities that modern travelers demand. All 59 rooms and suites feature remote-control TV and VCR, full stereo entertainment system, refrigerator, two-line telephones with data ports, hair dryer, iron, ironing board, and bathrobes. There is a plunge pool, fitness facilities and massage room. For the business traveler the hotel offers full business center services as well as meeting and conference facilities for up to 250 persons. A variety of restaurants, cafes, art galleries, and shops are housed within the complex.
A luxury property and one of the Island's leading corporate, group and leisure hotels, the 570-room Condado Plaza Hotel & Casino is the only hotel to offer both ocean and lagoon views from its guest rooms. The Plaza is home to the luxurious Plaza Club, a VIP floor, and one of Puerto Rico 's largest casinos. The hotel's 27,000 sq. ft. of meeting facilities include 18 meeting rooms plus tropical grounds for outdoor activities.
Opened in January 1995, the deluxe San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino is situated on Condado Beach, just 10 minutes from the airport and Old San Juan. The 525-room full-service oceanfront hotel features two outdoor pools, a complete fitness center and spa, and an exciting casino, 24-hour room service and several specialty restaurants. A total often meeting rooms, including a 7,000 sq. ft. ballroom and conference rooms.
The 828-room Wyndham El Canquistador Resort & Country Club is one of the Caribbean's most spectacular resorts, with a medley of five unique resort environments, each with its own personality and style. Recreational facilities at this $400 million destination resort include a Golden Door Spa, championship 18-hole golf course, seven tennis courts, and six swimming pools. The hotel's tropical paradise Palomino Island offers a wide variety of water sports. Located 60 minutes from San Juan, the El Conquistador features 70,000 sq. ft. of meeting space with a 20,000 sq. ft. ballroom, three junior ballrooms, 20 meeting rooms and an exhibit area that can accommodate up to 125 (8'xl0') booths. The resort also features 12 restaurants, 10 lounges and a casino.
LAS CROABAS, FAJARDO
Las Casitas Village, a AAA 5-Diamond resort, caters to the world's most discriminating travelers. Guests stay in one of only 90 "casitas" featuring every luxury imaginable, from kitchen and living rooms to spectacular ocean views to 24-hour butler service for a level of personal attention few resorts can rival. While Las Casitas itself offers an extremely intimate setting behind a gated entry, guests are free to enjoy the many amenities of the adjacent Wyndham El Conquistador Resort & Country Club.
Rated by Travel and Leisure magazine as "the most happening, exciting hotel in the Caribbean," and by Conde Nast Traveler as "one of the World's 50 best tropical resorts," the 39O-room Wyndham El San Juan Hotel & Casino sits on 15 landscaped acres, five of which are Registered Botanical Gardens. The sophisticated resort has one of the Island's most elegant lobbies and the Island's largest casino. The property's 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space comprises 14 meeting rooms and an 11,040 sq. ft. ballroom.
Puerto Rico 's only all-suite hotel in San Juan, The Embassy Suites Hotel & Casino San Juan, features 300 two-room suites in a beautiful atrium setting. Facilities include over 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting and banquet space, a lagoon pool, fitness center, business center, parking and one of San Juan's newest and most exciting casinos. Various food and beverage services including the Outback Steakhouse. The hotel is two blocks from the beach and close to the International Airport main entrance.
Recently named the Best Hotel in the Caribbean by Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler magazines (1999), The Ritz-Canton, San Juan Hotel Spa & Casino offers views of the ocean or city from many of its 414 guest rooms and suites. With more than 24,000 sq. ft. of function space, including an 18,000 sq. ft. ballroom, the hotel provides the ideal setting for meetings and corporate events. Business and leisure travelers alike will appreciate its beachfront location, outdoor pool, two tennis courts, full-service spa and fitness center, and vibrant casino. A variety of watersports activities and dining options are also offered.
The new Inter-Continental San Juan Resort & Casino is located on Isla Verde Beach. The 400-room resort includes 26 suites and 2 VIP concierge levels. The San Juan Resort features five restaurants, an out-door pool, tour desk, Seaside Spa & Fitness Center, Martini's Lounge, Grand View Piano Lounge, 24-hour room service and casino, 18,678 sq. ft. of new and hi-tech facilities, which includes a state-of-the-art conference center and luxurious ballrooms that can accommodate groups from 10 to 600.
Fully restored to its original splendor after a $20 million renovation, the renowned Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort & Casino is one of the Caribbean's most beautiful and unique beachfront resorts. This tropical paradise of 298 rooms, located just 22 miles away from the capital city of San Juan, and a short 35 minute drive from the airport, was designed to preserve its natural setting. Meeting facilities totaling 18,669 sq. ft., include a 6,000 sq. ft. ballroom with pre-function area, garden plazas, beachside terraces and a secluded beach for catered events. The resort offers two spectacular Robert Trent Jones, Sr. championship golf courses.
Guests at Hyatt Dorado Beach and Hyatt Regency Cerromar enjoy all the facilities of both hotels, including complimentary shuttle service.
The vibrant Hyaff Regency Cerromar Beach Resort & Casino is set amid 1,000 lushly landscaped acres. Just 22 miles from historic Old San Juan, you'll find a world-class 506-room resort on one of the most spectacular beaches in the Caribbean. The resort features 43,000 sq. ft. of newly renovated function space, which includes 11 conference rooms and one of the largest ballrooms in the Caribbean. A major attraction is the world's largest fresh water river pool, which features slides, waterfalls, a Jacuzzi and swim up bar. There's also Le Spa, Bacchus Night Club, a casino and two 18-hole championship golf courses designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr.
Guests at Hyatt Dorado Beach and Hyatt Regency Cerromar enjoy all the facilities of both hotels, including complimentary shuttle service.
The Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort, Country Club & Ocean Villas sprawls across 500 acres on Puerto Rico 's northeast coast featuring a one-mile secluded beach adjacent to the Caribbean National Forest of "El Yunque". Situated 19 miles east of San Juan's International Airport, the 695-room luxury resort boasts two championship golf courses, including the legendary Tom & George Fazio Ocean Course and the challenging Greg Norman River Course; a Peter Burwash Tennis Complex with 13 courts; 11 dining and entertainment venues; Le Spa Health Club and Fitness Center; a casino; basketball and volleyball courts. In addition the resort offers two swimming pools, a Jacuzzi, a full variety of water sports as well as a PADI 5-Star dive shop.
The resort's convention center features 48,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting and function space and 24 meeting and breakout rooms. There is also a 10,000 sq. ft. outdoor terrace and 2-acre garden for outdoor events. The Ocean Villas at The Westin Rio Mar Beach (opening fall 2000) will feature 58 luxury villas and a permanent boardroom.
The Doral Resort at Palmas Del Mar, on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico is uniquely located amidst a tropical paradise of soft, sandy beaches and glorious vistas. There are seven styles of luxury accommodations, ranging from deluxe hotel rooms to Garden View or Caribbean Sea side 1, 2 and 3 bedroom villas. The resort features two championship golf courses, the largest tennis center in the Caribbean, Adventure Club for kids, fitness center, a casino and fifteen restaurants, bars and lounges. Our Executive Conference Center offers 6,000 sq. ft. and converts into four sections with four breakouts ideal for meetings from 10-200 people. Palmas is a complete resort destination sure to satisfy even the most discriminating vacationer. With myriad activities, guests can select horse-back riding, snorkeling, scuba diving and deep-sea fishing or daily excursions to nearby attractions.
The Ponce Hilton and Casino faces the Caribbean Sea with many nearby attractions. The hotel features 153 guest rooms, 2 restaurants, 3 bars, casino, swimming pool, 4 tennis courts, fitness center, golf practice range, aerobic room, extensive convention facilities and Business Center. All this combined with excellent service and traditional Hilton hospitality. Meeting facilities total 15,159 sq. ft. and include 15 meeting rooms and a 12,000 sq. ft. ballroom.
The Mayaguez Resort & Casino is the premier business and resort hotel on Puerto Rico 's scenic West Coast. Situated on 20 acres of landscaped gardens, the resort has a hilltop view of the deepwater harbor of Mayaguez and is a 5-minute drive to the city's business center and the University of Puerto Rico .
The resort has 140 luxurious guest rooms and suites and over 10,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space. The resort also features a restaurant, two lounges, a casino, two swimming pools, outdoor Jacuzzi, mini gym, walking trail and three tennis courts.
The new luxury resort, Martineau Bay, is the ultimate island sanctuary. This incomparable retreat is in Vieques , an island located just eight miles east of Puerto Rico . Plantation style resort featuring a 10,000 sq. ft. spa, 2 tennis courts and 2 private beaches providing a great setting for romantic walks. Conference facilities include 4 meeting areas with a maximum capacity of 190 persons, bars and lounges, casual and gourmet restaurants, children/teen center and programs. The 156 impressive rooms and suites are comfortably spacious with Spanish and French influences in the design and decor. In addition the resort will offer 30 privately owned villas with private swimming pools and housekeeping quarters.
Visitors will discover there are many ways to travel comfortably throughout our Island. You will find trained, uniformed personnel to help you at the Ground Transportation Information Center. So make the most of your trip by visiting some different locales on the "continent" of Puerto Rico !
We have a variety of regular taxis that charge metered rates plus the new Taxis Turisticos whose drivers have received special training to serve the tourist areas. The Taxis Turisticos are painted white with the official logo on their front doors, and offer fixed rates along the following routes:
Zone 1 - Airport/Isla Verde - $8.00
Zone 2 - Airport/Condado/Miramar - $12.00
Zone 3 - A Airport/Old San Juan Piers - $16.00
Zone 4 - Piers/Old San Juan - $6.00
Zone 5 - Piers/Puerta de Tierra - $6.00
Zone 6 - Piers/Condado/Miramar - $10.00
Zone 7-Piers/Isla Verde - $ 16.00
Ferries are a fun and scenic way to travel. The small islands of Culebra and Vieques , renowned for water sports, can be reached by ferry from the city of Fajardo on Puerto Rico 's eastern coast. The ferry ride takes 90 minutes and costs $4. Visitors to San Juan will want to take the five-minute ferry ride across the Bay to visit the Bacardi Rum distillery.