Sunday, February 10, 2013

Right now is high time for you to avoid the impending freezes of next month and book your flight to San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport

No Passport? No Problem: Puerto Rico - FENUXE Magazine - Saturday, February 02, 2013 - Tom Dempsey

Berlin Sylvestre, Staff Writer

Right now is high time for you to avoid the impending freezes of next month and book your flight to San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. Why? Three reasons: One, to flee the cold (Puerto Rico’s average high in February is in the high 80s); two, you don’t need a passport (it’s a U.S. commonwealth) or changing money (they use our dollar); and three, not only is it beautiful, but the food is savory and authentic, and the historic sites will transport you back to the days of Ponce de León and his battle with the British. OK, there’s a fourth: The happening gay scene, with its super-sexy and “down to party” Latin men, is more than enough to keep you constantly dipping into all the island has to offer.
With Spirit Airlines offering a roundtrip ticket (as in there and back, pal) at $385 for flights booked mid-February, it’s a no-brainer: Get your gorgeous selves to Puerto Rico.
The first thing you’ll notice stepping out of airport is that PR is balmy. Incredibly balmy. The blanket of humidity and defrosting properties of tropical heat sap the Georgia winter clean out of your bones. Then, it’s the smell. Salt and sea are carried on aqueous breezes as you wait for a rental car to pull around. Opting out of a rental car? Don’t — you’ll be doing yourself an impractical disservice, as they’re phenomenally cheap. Trust me: You’re not going to want to stay in San Juan the entire time.
Once you take the wheel, head toward the vibrant district known as Old San Juan (which is similar to New Orleans’ French Quarter, actually). It’s historic, full of architecture from the 16th and 17th centuries, and located on a small island full of fortresses in the semblance of Spanish castles. The food, music, boutiques, and updated (wildly affordable) hotels that are older than America itself will blow your mind.
For $80 a night, Da House Hotel is an art gallery/hotel that provides incredibly tasteful rooms with shiny hardwood floors, a four-poster bed, and French doors that open to your own giant balcony offering clear views of the Castillo de San Cristóbal. Want lodging with a deeper, darker past? Try El Convento, a hotel that started out as a convent in the 1650s, was transformed into a dance hall, then served as a flophouse rumored to be a brothel, and converted to a hotel in the 1960s when it settled into its current luxury lodging purpose — a sinful and sexy legacy.
Like history? Tour the two fortresses — Castillo de San Cristóbal and Castillo de San Felipe del Morro — and discover not only why the foundations are slanted (think horse “leavings”) but also how dark, despondent, and medieval the internal prisons were. Ghosts are rumored to roam the forts night and day and with a quick tour within their cold and gloomy interiors, you’re bound to feel the chill of their haunted pasts.
But don’t dawdle too long in Old San Juan. Fight the compulsion and hop back in the car, mi amigo.
There’s a literal rush to driving through the often-hectic traffic of Puerto Rico. Thankfully, the country drives on the same side of the road as we do, but the style of maneuvering the streets and narrow byways requires a bit of aggression.
Not into breakneck driving? That’s quite all right.
It’s easy to get away from the city and into the Great Wide Open of Puerto Rico, where smoother, quieter roads lead you toward the slower pace of non-tourist coastal roaming. Even if you don’t speak (or read) a lick of Spanish, road signs are pretty obvious (highway numbers are the same in Spanish) and most rental companies provide an English-compatible GPS that’ll guide you.
Head toward Fajardo, another oceanside city an hour to the west that, along the way, gives you fringe views of El Yunque, PR’s most famous, lush jungle territory. Fajardo is where, for $2.50, a ferry takes you on a gorgeous two-hour ride to Culebra, a crescent-shaped island consistently ranked as having one of the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world. There, you’ll be able to walk on the relatively deserted beaches and set up camp (literally, as tents rent for $8 a night) and get down to the most soothing and serene of island basics. After some world-class snorkeling that gives you VIP access to Culebra’s submerged marine metropolis, you can enjoy dinner at the small island’s only town, Dewey, whose “mami y papi” restaurants provide fresh seafood and native dishes you’ll never find in the U.S. Rent one of the abundant and affordable Jeeps or golf carts Dewey offers and wind around the mountains for sublime views of Culebra’s paradisiacal landscape.
Sleeping in a tent in the tropical weather of Culebra is only “camping” in a literal sense. Outdoor freshwater showers are provided (and it’s damn near deserted, but if you’re shy, just shower in your undies), and you don’t wake swatting gnats and mosquitoes from your face. Waking means that rain-like clicking of palm fronds overhead and distant calls of exotic birdsong has lulled you into an almost unreal consciousness. Softly crashing waves, an ocean breeze, silky white sand, and gentle sun beg you to come out and play.
Catching a ride back to the ferry in one of the copious Dewey taxis that frequent the island won’t run you more than $8 and another blissful boat ride back to Fajardo lets you finish off that sun-kissed look you can’t wait to show your friends back home.
Because of the “move move move!” nature of San Juan, expediting the return of your rental car is something at which the locals are adept. Toss your keys on the counter, watch the hasty inspection of the vehicle, jump into an airport-bound taxi and in no time, you’re boarding the plane.
With (most likely) a travel budget surplus still in your wallet, you’ve seen more history offshore as a U.S. citizen than you could have whilst traveling on the mainland.
Gay Hotspots:
Batucada: Calle Carlos Chardon #15 San Juan, P.R. 00918 (4 out of 5 stars)
A gay bar with occasional karaoke, the dance floor stays hopping until the lights come on. Local hits are intertwined with worldwide favorites, proving ample entertainment for townies and visitors alike. The bar is notorious for its cheap drinks and rowdy Sunday night scene. Compare it to Mary’s.
Tia Maria Jose de Diego: 326 Av. José de Diego San Juan, P.R. 00920 (4 out of 5 stars)
The oversized drinks are fantastically underpriced. If you’re looking to escape the tourist traps for a safe and gay-friendly setting, Tia’s is a local favorite. According to locals, get there early — it gets packed after 10 p.m., but it’s well worth it! Compare it to Blake’s on the Park.
Scandalo The Club: 613 Calle Condado San Juan, P.R. 00907 (3.5 out of 5 stars)
Down for a good drag show? If it’s Thursday, pop into Scandalo. (Nina Flowers, who is from Puerto Rico, has caved in the roof on many an occasion.) In the mood for hot naked strippers of the Latin persuasion? Sunday is your night. DJs pride themselves on house music and Latin rhythms which, in short, means you can shake that ass. Compare it to Burkhart’s Pub, featuring naked Ricky Martin clones.
SX: 1204 Ponce de León San Juan, P.R. 00907 (3 out of 5 stars)
Boasting the hottest male strippers in San Juan, this scintillating gay bar offers two floors of dance-centric hotness, a video bar, and VIP lounge. The modelesque dancers are known to be incredibly laid back and down to please their clients. Compare it to Swinging Richards.
Places to Avoid: La Perla, a slum known for its high rate of illegal activities has seen a boom of criminal activity that has attracted international drug traders, arms dealers, and narcotics distributors. It is highly advised that tourists avoid the seaside shantytown little more than a mile east of Old San Juan, as it is a haven for criminals who prey on tourists and locals alike.
PR in the News: Because of its terrible education system, crime rates, and struggling economy, Puerto Rico’s legislature sent a formal request to Obama and the U.S. Congress in December 2012 to end the current form of “territorial status” and to begin the process of admitting Puerto Rico to the Union as the 51st state.

No comments:

Post a Comment