Frankie De Soto is a Global SEO Analyst for Hilton Worldwide, where he also works as a national ambassador for @HiltonSuggests, offering insider tips for travelers visiting Puerto Rico, his homeland. Frankie currently lives in Dallas, Texas, but was born in Puerto Rico and frequently visits today. When he's away, he enjoys teaching first-time visitors about the country's beauty, people and culture, while making recommendations on the best places to stay, see and eat, even if it's just for the weekend.
I was born in the small town of Ceiba in the northeastern corner of the island, but I consider all of Puerto Rico my home.
When reminiscing about Puerto Rico, it's not just the beautiful beaches, the cool ocean breeze and the mystical El Yunque rainforest that keep tight reigns on my heart. It's also the history, the culture and the people that make up the island that is so aptly nicknamed "The Star of the Caribbean." Even though I live full-time in Texas today, I always look forward to my future visits back home and frequently reminisce about my childhood summer trips.
My family is spread across San Juan, Cataño and Bayamon. When I was a boy, we would start the weekends at Luquillo Beach, one of the largest beaches on the island. We'd enjoy relaxing with great food before taking a dip in the warm ocean water. You never forget a great beach day in Puerto Rico - even though they are not hard to come by.
Aside from playing in the sand, I often used the weekends to explore small towns. In particular, Old San Juan, which is deeply rooted in the island's history, comes to mind. For nearly 400 years it has expressed itself through gorgeous Spanish architecture on ornate cobblestone roads. It is there that you will pass the famous El Morro Fort, a 16th-century Spanish citadel stronghold that kept pirates and invading naval ships at bay.
Beyond Old San Juan, on summer weekends I remember venturing to the small town of Guavate. Local restaurants across both sides of the mountain roads were set preparing traditional roast pork that filled the air with sights and smells beyond words. In combination with the famous pork, rice and beans, chicken, sweet plantains and sweet potatoes were always ready for those looking to savor authentic Puerto Rican cuisine.
After dinner, the dance halls were filled with music as the young and old hit the floor with rhythmic sounds of Salsa, Merengue and Bachata music that fueled them through the night. No matter where you go in Puerto Rico, there is always a gathering of locals and travelers from abroad getting together to share their love of good times and good food. It's the island's diversity and sense of community that allows this. A mix of Spanish, African and Taino, a native island descent, culture inspires visitors to share in the island's rich identity.
My first child will be born soon, and I cannot wait for him to experience Puerto Rico and introduce him to his family back home and let him live his heritage. I'd like to start by taking him to Old San Juan to explore its colonial history, to listen to beautiful music and to see the colorful art and architecture of our people. Beyond that, I want the island to take him away, setting him forth to create his own memories that he can pass to his children. I hope he grows to love Puerto Rico and keeps it close to his heart, because I certainly do and always will.
Puerto Rico, I love you.