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Puerto Rico's Small Inns Soothe
Kitty Bean Yancey
October 10, 2003
Puerto Rico is known for high-rise San Juan beach hotels and bustling casinos.
But savvy travelers in search of a quieter, more authentic experience seek out the island's two dozen paradores -- a network of small, family-owned inns that's celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
Among them is the Hacienda Gripinas, a restored 19th-century coffee plantation nestled in the central mountains near the town of Jayuya.
Guests sip locally grown java, read on the veranda, dine on Puerto Rican specialties and fall asleep to the music of the local tree frogs known as coquis. A double at the homey, 19-room hacienda is a bargain $125, including breakfast and dinner for two.
Some travel agents don't even know of the paradores' existence, says Glenda Pagan, Hacienda Gripinas secretary. "We get a lot of business by word of mouth and from repeat customers," she says. "They like getting away from it all. It's really quiet and relaxing."
Other paradores include the Villa Parguera, a favorite of divers, which overlooks the nighttime glow of the Phosphorescent Bay. The newer Palmas de Lucia is a modern lodging on the island's uncrowded southeast coast.
The paradores give tourists the opportunity to explore the island's interior and interact with the local families who own them, says Rafael Molina, Puerto Rico Tourism Company's deputy executive director for internal tourism. "It's family taking care of family."
To mark the 30th anniversary of The Paradores of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company is offering visitors a third night at a parador for $30 through May. Information: 800-866-7827, or www.GoToPuertoRico.com/parames/paradores/frame.htm.