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Executive Travel

Well Traveled: A Rejuvenating Retreat to Puerto Rico

The island paradise is the perfect mix of Latin culture and Caribbean flavors. Plus, Puerto Rico native Jorge Calderon shares his travel tips.
| |Images courtesy of Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf and Beach Resort
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Well Traveled: A Rejuvenating Retreat to Puerto Rico

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Though it is a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico blends Latin American culture and language with Caribbean flavors and landscapes. I was excited to experience this unique blend during my stay at Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf and Beach Resort, located on the island’s northwestern coast.

I started my trip with a glass of Coquito, a Puerto Rican cocktail that mixes coconut cream, coconut, milk, vanilla, rum, and spices and tastes similar to eggnog. I then went to dinner at Caicu Bar and Tapas, where I sipped on a rum-tasting flight with spirits from Panama, Puerto Rico, and Spain. I ordered the Pionono, sweet plantains stuffed with picadillo beef, before diving into the tuna crudo. 

The next morning, I joined the resort’s 50-minute yoga class and then enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Marbella, loading my plate with sushi, lox, and fresh fruits while sipping on a well-done cappuccino. Satiated, I took a walk along the beach just beyond the resort’s 20,000 square feet of sundeck before settling in to read at a private poolside cabana near one of Grand Rio Mar’s three lagoon-style pools. A family of iguanas lives on resort property, and on this day, the male perched poolside, eyeing observers while basking.

I munched on fresh tamarinds before ordering the Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl and the Mofongo Cup at 5 O’Clock Somewhere Grill & Bar, one of the resort’s two poolside restaurants. The poke was fresh and tasty, while the Mofongo Cup, featuring fried yuca and mushrooms, provided a flavor of the local cuisine. 

Once I was finished sunbathing, I took the resort’s shuttle to the Clubhouse for a decadent meal at steakhouse concept Iguanas Cocina Puertorriqueña. I started with the Croquetas de Jamón and the Tenderloin Escabeche, a sweet potato cup filled with filet mignon and topped with oregano, garlic, and butter sauce. For my main course, I chose the Pan-Seared Atlantic Salmon with fried plantains. I ended the night with the Flancocho—vanilla custard, chocolate cake, chocolate crisp pearls, whipped cream, and chocolate and caramel sauce. 

I spent my second morning walking about a mile up the beach, admiring the Memeyes River, which reaches the ocean near the resort’s edge. I stopped to order lunch poolside at Tiki Hut, where I enjoyed a piña colada and a fresh Pineapple, Watermelon, and Mixed Green Salad before setting out on a tour of El Yunque National Forest with my guide, biologist Ashley Perez. 

Perez shared facts about flora and fauna, including the island’s bright green Puerto Rican parrot and giant ferns that reach up to 35 feet, as our driver led us to waterfalls—where I was able to wade in the water or dunk under the powerful stream—and a tower overlook of the rainforest. El Yunque includes four forests and four ecosystems that reach up to 3,400 feet in elevation, a tropical wildlife haven and the only tropical rainforest under the U.S. National Forest System. I ended the night with a pumpkin, pesto, mushroom, and goat cheese pizza from Caribbean comfort concept Roots Coastal Kitchen.

Before returning home, I enjoyed a relaxing custom massage at Mandara Spa, the perfect way to bring this well-rounded trip to a close.—Kelsey J. Vanderschoot 


Travel Tips from Puerto Rico Native Jorge Calderon, Capital One’s Dallas Market President

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Jorge Calderon

Jorge Calderon was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Despite now calling Dallas home, he frequently returns to his roots in Puerto Rico, finding solace in its serenity away from the fast-paced culture of the mainland. While there, he revels in the simplicity of life, indulging in the island’s natural beauty, rich cuisine, vibrant music, and warm hospitality. Calderon says that Puerto Rico offers something for everyone, whether you’re a history enthusiast, a culinary connoisseur, or a nature lover. 

Old San Juan, with its centuries-old architecture and charming streets, offers a glimpse into the island’s past, with its pastel-colored buildings, military forts, and grand cathedrals. Meanwhile, the local cuisine, deeply rooted in tradition, beckons food lovers to explore the island’s culinary treasures, from beloved family-owned eateries serving generations-old recipes. “My favorite leisure activity is what we Puerto Ricans call ‘chinchorrendao,’ a term used for restaurant hopping. Each restaurant will have a signature dish, so you go with all your family and friends and hop from one restaurant to the next,” he says.

Located right outside the Rio Grande is Luquillo, a small beach town where visitors can soak up the sun and experience the local pastime of baseball, all while enjoying the refreshing sea breeze. With kiosks lining, Luquillo Beach offers an array of snacks and treats. Puerto Rico isn’t just about history and food; it’s also a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. With its lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and crystal-clear waters, the island offers endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation. “I always argue with my friends whenever they come to rent a Jeep and just explore. No matter the direction you go, you will find a beautiful beach,” he insists.—Bridget Reis

Authors

Kelsey Vanderschoot

Kelsey Vanderschoot

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Kelsey J. Vanderschoot came to Dallas by way of Napa, Los Angeles, and Madrid, Spain. A former teacher, she joined…
Bridget Reis

Bridget Reis

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