In the last year, I had an opportunity to visit a lot of places on four different continents. How lucky is that? Most of them were places I have never visited before, and covered areas with rain forests, snow, mountains, sand, water, and/or cement. Even though I may have not visited a destination before, I routinely have some preconception of where I am headed — what the people will be like and whether I will have a good time. This is always a bad idea. Sometimes, I can’t help myself.

This was especially true when I had received an invitation from a friend to visit Puerto Rico and thought, Nah. It was not that I had some problem with Puerto Rico or heard bad things, but I didn’t have a yearning either. Isn’t Puerto Rico just some version of the U.S., but on an island in the Caribbean? So much for preconceptions.

Fortunately, a short conversation with a different friend convinced me. He said, “If you don’t go to Puerto Rico, you’re an idiot.” I certainly didn’t want to be an idiot, and as it turns out he had good reasons to be so passionate. I also learned these reasons first hand during my stay in the spring. This is why Puerto Rico is ITKT’s surprise destination for 2009.

Puerto Rico is far from some a version of the US. This island nation has blue Caribbean water, great beaches, a fantastic old town, history, music and food, and an afro-Caribbean culture that is lively and good-natured. At the same time, goods and services are readily available. I also found it walkable as I made several trips from old town to where I was staying in the Condado District to soak in the sights and sounds.

At the same time, Puerto Rico does have some of the familiar signs that US-based visitors will appreciate. I found lots of common stores and brand names I am familiar, like Starbucks, United States Postal Service and, with a big shout out to my favorite brand resort for 2009, the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, which is ideally located to the Condado District, Old Town, and a beautiful beach. It is also worth eating at this Marriott’s fine dining option, Ristorante Tuscany.

I will have more favorite’s in the coming days as ITKT take time to salute the best in travel all over the world.
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