The Puerto Rico Governor’s office recently declared the Zika virus epidemic over, as only 10 new cases were found through April of this year. Tourism experts hope that the declaration will boost the island destination’s inbound tourism, following a modest drop in travel in 2016.
Since sharing travel secrets is one way travel agents can set themselves apart from online travel agencies, Travel Market Report asked two Puerto Rico experts to share insider tips that will help make agents look like a superstar with their clients. Here’s advice from Camille Pepe Sperrazza, owner of The World Awaits Travel in Brooklyn, NY, and Narciso Moreno, senior sales manager at Puerto Rico Tourism Company.
1. Arrange for clients to accompany the chef at the Royal Isabella Golf Resort, Porta del Sol, to a local farm to pick the food they will eat. The luxury boutique hotel is comprised of 20 "casitas," and farm-to-table dining there utilizes locally grown produce.
2. Soak up the laidback surfing culture of Rincón, on the west side of the Island, even if you don’t surf. “A beachfront resort with a fun dive bar is The Hotel villa Confresi, offering a Mexico kind of laidback vibe. Sit at the bar and the friendly bartenders will tell you tales about the town,” Pepe Sperrazza said. “It’s a fun place if you want to spend your days hanging out on the beach and aren't concerned about luxury.”
3. For adventure-loving clients, recommend a side trip to the Cueva Ventana, the “Window Cave,” located in Arecibo, just off of Route 10. There are two caves visitors can enter, and the views are amazing.
4. About a 2 ½ hour drive from San Juan is La Parguera, a fishing village with bioluminescent bays and the best diving in the Caribbean, said Moreno. “It is where the locals go,” especially for seafood and Sangria. Get there soon, as the new Dreams all-inclusive resort is being built nearby.
5. For an authentic experience adjacent to El Yunque National Forest, book your clients in the 12-room, Rainforest Inn, an upscale bed-and-breakfast near Fortuna Beach, for horseback riding and ziplining in Carabalí Rainforest Park, said Pepe Sperrazza. “Book a large enough group, and they can have the entire place to themselves. Surprisingly, there is an upscale restaurant nearby, La Cava del Terrior, known for steak, wine, and seafood.”
6. In the far southwest corner of the island is Boquerón, a village of about 5,000 residents, recommended by Moreno for its oysters and “magnificent beach.” For divers and those looking for authentic island appeal, including wooden shack restaurants and wildlife preserves, this town is a must-see.
7. Tell clients about live music on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at the Farmer’s Market in Old San Juan.
8. Take in Old San Juan’s culinary highlights. "For gastronomy fans, there are some fabulous tours in Old San Juan that are usually overlooked,” Moreno said. “A favorite of mine is cheese making at Casa Lila.” The two-hour workshop is held in a restored 300-year-old home by a woman who grew up in the Puerto Rican countryside.