An unincorporated territory of the US, Puerto Rico is situated in the north-eastern Caribbean. Not an island, but rather an archipelago of exotic gorgeousness with various islets clustered around Puerto Rico itself (which, with an area of roughly 5,500 square miles, is almost exactly the same size as Cyprus!).
It boasts a Hispanic culture: English may be one of the territory’s official language, but almost 95 per cent of its roughly three million residents speak Spanish at home. Even the name itself pays tribute to these roots: although Columbus named the place San Juan Bautista in honour of Saint John the Baptist, and the indigenous islanders (the Taíno), it was the traders’ moniker that stuck: the Spanish for ‘rich port’.
Here, the mundane becomes magical: the women are purportedly among the most beautiful in the world (Puerto Rico competes as a separate ‘nation’ in Miss Universe, and has won the title a staggering five times); the local coffee is said to rival the Columbian product in terms of quality; and the official drink is the exotic, rum-based piña colada (no surprise there: Puerto Rico boasts the world’s largest distillery, the Bacardi Rum Factory).
Even the food is enchanting, the local cuisine a majestic amalgamation of ingredients, cultures, and recipes, with mofongo its king. A tasty concoction of mashed plantains, delectable seasonings, and an unlimited choice of fillings – including shrimp, steak, pork, and veggies – this is a dish that’s found everywhere from Michelin-starred restaurants to roadside stalls. There’s also arroz con gandules, or rice with peas. Which doesn’t sound that special until you learn that pork, chorizo, red peppers, and olives also go into the mix, and there’s a secret sauce (sofrito) of uniquely Puerto Rican origin which accompanies each dish. And for a snack? Well, it’s alcapurrias all round, even if you’re right by the sea – these stuffed fritters (filled with anything from pork to yam or cheese) are a beach-food staple, cooked under the palms and before your eyes.