Puerto Rico goes back to the future

John McMahon with Luis Rivera-Marin


When I was a child I had an uncle who loved to travel. It seemed he spent more time in the Caribbean than at his home in New York. On his return, I couldn’t wait to see the pictures from these amazing destinations and only could dream about going there one day. This was the ’70s and in those days, after a trip, you would take your photos in film form to be developed into slides. My memories were of my dad setting up the projector so we could see the photos from my uncle’s trips and hear him narrate every photo. This was the highlight of a Sunday night family gathering. How antiquated today—as film is a thing of the past and social media lets you experience others’ travel instantly.

Many of my uncle’s trips were to San Juan. His description and my memories were of a destination for the affluent jet-setters. He talked about different hotels and how he would bounce from lobby bar to lobby bar. That was San Juan! It was all about the vibe and feel of the hotel lobbies not only for guest staying in the hotel but for everyone to enjoy. If you think about it this is very unique to Puerto Rico. Most resorts in other destinations try and cater to their in-house guests and do not encourage others to enter.

The Puerto Rican hospitality is defined by openness and friendship. I recently returned from my first trip to Puerto Rico in two years and saw a remarkable change. The destination has taken a step back in time to take a big leap forward in hospitality. New hotels are popping up mostly in the luxury and boutique category. All the hotel lobbies have brought back that sophisticated Caribbean vibe.

A perfect example of this is the new Condado Vanderbilt in San Juan. The rooms aren’t finished yet but the lobby is open for business. In no other destination would a hotel open its lobby before the rooms were ready.

A very popular saying is “mi casa es su casa” and they mean it. During my visit I had the opportunity to sit down in the home of this month’s cover person Luis Rivera-Marin, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (shown with me here). Luis’ passion is Puerto Rican hospitality and he is very proud of his destination’s accomplishments.

Also, take a look at pages 76-82 for the affluent traveler summary that our partners, MMGY Global have crafted for us and watch for more luxury findings from them in future issues.

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