Bucket list destinations: Puerto Rico

Bucket list destinations: Puerto Rico

Winter is upon us, and baby, it’s cold outside. Do you find yourself dreaming of soaking in the sun on tropical beaches, dining on spicy exotic food and cocktails, exploring rain forests, or galloping on horseback with the wind flowing through your hair? You can have all this and more in one fabulous island paradise. And better yet, forget about any hassles with currency exchange and you can leave your passport at home.

I’m not talking Hawaii, but Puerto Rico.

This “All Star Island” has it all: indulge in luxury resorts, Caribbean cuisine and 270 miles of coastline beaches, including Flamenco Beach in Culebra, which has been hailed as one of the best beaches in the world and ranked within the top 10 by Travel Channel. If you’re more about adventure and taking in the great outdoors, this is your paradise. Hike through the beautiful rain forest with waterfalls and crystal clear pools of water. Or try some mountain biking or horseback riding. Maybe one of the best adventures of all is the longest zip line in the world, soaring over a breathtaking view of the rain forest of El Yunque, the only rainforest in the US National Parks service system.

Personally, I recommend you do it all. Life is short, baby: Live your own 5-star vacation story in Puerto Rico.

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Still not convinced? Maybe you’re one of those experienced travelers who seek out something really different from your other experiences. Well, check this out: Puerto Rico boasts the Bioluminescent Bays.  Microorganisms in the water create a blue-green glow, so you can take a midnight swim in mother nature’s marine lighting. Or paddle in the moonlight.

If you’re a foodie, you must check out the local cuisine and have an icy cold mojito… or any rum drink, as 70% of rum in the US comes from here. Puerto Rican cuisine blends Spanish, African, and Taíno cuisines, with a dash of American influences for a tasty melting pot of cultural food. Try some carne guisada puertorriqueña, which is a Puerto Rican beef stew, or lechón asado, which is barbecued pig basted in a sour orange juice sauce and served with roasted green plaintains. Or if you’ve watched one too many episodes of Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern, try some sesos empanados: breaded calf brains.

I think I’ll stick with the pig roast, myself.

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Are you packing your bags yet? What would you do if you took a vacation to Puerto Rico? Comment below if you dream of hopping on a plane to Puerto Rico, or if you’ve been there, share your experiences with us!

And don’t forget to check out SeePuertoRico.com for more information, plus Follow @PRTourismCo on Twitter, and Like SeePuertoRico.com on Facebook.

Bucket List Destinations: Prague

Prague 1000 Bucket List Destinations: Prague

I’ve never been to Prague, Czechoslovakia, but it was love at first sight. It was back in the 80s, at the height of my obsession with  INXS, and particularly, singer Michael Hutchence. If you’re at all familiar with their music and their videos, you probably know I’m referring to the video for the song “Never Tear Us Part.”

Michael sang this romantic love song around various locations of Prague, including Charles Bridge. It was a perfect fit for the song and the man, and implanted a deep desire in me to see the city before I die, a desire that has not lessened one bit in almost 25 years.

Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and if you love that old school architecture and high Gothic embellishments, boy is this the city to visit! It was spared much of the damage that other nations received during World War II, and as such, now has one of the most varied and extensive collections of architecture you will find anywhere in the world: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Gothic, Art Nouveau, Cubist, Neo-Classical and ultra-modern.

I’ve often looked into taking a course to teach English as a second language, and when considering the classes in an international setting, product is my first choice destination. I obsess over it. Apparently I’m not alone, as Prague is now ranks sixth among the most popular cities in Europe for visitors behind London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Berlin.

Lest you think this city is nothing more than a pretty picture, remember that before was the Czech Republic, it was Bohemia, and the birthplace of the term “Bohemian.” Aside From the obvious tourist attractions, some more unconventional sites to check out include Bunkr Parukarka , a 1950s cold war bunker turned techno night club. Housed underground in what was a 1950s nuclear bunker, this quirky nightclub welcomes revelers through a graffiti-covered door that juts out from a hillside.

And if you really want a rough things up after hours, go to the suburb of Zizkov, with more than 300 bars in the neighborhoods to square miles. No need to dress up for these dive bars, where you can expect your beer in plastic cups. That should give you little feel for the neighborhood.

For a more open space outdoors, ride the railway to the top of Petrin Hill, Which has an eclectic assortment of attractions in itself: a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower, a mirror maze, and  the Church of St. Michael–a 17th century wooden building relocated from a village in the Ukraine.

And of course, there’s food. You knew that was coming, right?

In get your food, beer and accommodations all in one at the 550-year-old  Hotel Midvikdu. As this is the home of the infamous X-Beer 33 with it’s alcohol content of 11.8% (the strongest in the Czech Republic), the accommodations will come in handy. They ferment this dark lager for six months in an oak barrel. Fortunately, they also have a menu that guarantees you won’t want to drink on an empty stomach: half of duck with potato, white bread, bacon dumplings, red and white cabbage; larded roast beef with rosehips sauce and croquettes; boar steak with baked apple cranberries and potato chips; and their signature Brewers pork steak with homemade beer sauce, bacon and fried onion, with a side order of french fries.

That almost sounds American.

food Bucket List Destinations: Prague

Or if you want to go high-end La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise, but allow plenty of time for this six course tasting menu, which can take up to three hours to complete. It seems they no longer have the “gelatinous tomato meringue that melts to release honey and balsamic vinegar,” but I’m sure they have found plenty of suitable replacements surprise and delight your palate.

I found some fantastic images on Flickr by Moyan Brenn under CC ATTRIBUTION AND NO DERIVATIONS licensing, so I included a gallery below–check out the wonderful photos on his site. And, of course, the video that inspired me so much to add Prague to my bucket list.

If this sounds–and looks– good, you may want to consider a couple of great tour options to drink in Prague. Monograms offers independent tours of Vienna and Prague, over six nights. Your in country transportation, hotels, breakfasts and must see site admissions are included, as well as having your own city guide available to consult. And without the big herds of a traditional tour. If 2 1/2 days in Prague isn’t enough for you, you can add on a four-day Prague city package. Or just do the four-day package on its own. Vienna to Prague starts at $1497 pp, and the four-day Prague tour starts at just $663 pp.