5 Reasons to Meet in Puerto Rico

Planners will find that Puerto Rico’s international flair and easy domestic access—combined with history, culture, cuisine and diverse meeting venues—make successful events as easy as a day at the beach.

Puerto Rico Convention Center (PRCC)
The Puerto Rico Convention Center (PRCC) boasts 600,000 square feet of flexible event, exhibition and meeting space, including 16 separate meeting rooms easily divided into 29 breakout rooms.
Photo: Courtesy of Discover Puerto Rico

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While scores of event planners operated from the sidelines for the past two years due to COVID-related constraints, Discover Puerto Rico (DPR), the island’s four-year-old destination and marketing organization, doubled down on strengthening connections with planners, delivering real-time information for groups poised and ready for meetings ahead.

“We followed studies that suggested 83% of meeting planners were still working during COVID,” says Ed Carey, DPR’s chief sales officer. “We took this time to engage at another level. We knew planners were in a bad place and kept conversations going through a series of virtual coffees. By communicating consistently throughout, we came out [of the downturn] more quickly than others.”

Recent slowdowns haven’t hampered the island’s march in expansion and upgrade of meeting and convention assets. San Juan’s Puerto Rico Convention Center (PRCC), the largest and most comprehensive in the Caribbean, never closed during the pandemic, using lower occupancy rates to accelerate major capital improvements. These included comprehensive HVAC and air purification upgrades, connectivity to a state-of-the-art wireless network with scalable 5G architecture, installation of touchless automatic doors and certification in ASM Global VenueShield program (a robust protocol of cleaning, health and safety measures for major event venues). Puerto Rico Convention Center (PRCC)At 153,000 square feet, PRCC's Exhibition Hall seats 17,000, while the largest ballroom accommodates more than 4,000.Photo: Courtesy of Discover Puerto Rico

Last summer’s grand opening of the long-awaited Distrito T-Mobile entertainment complex, immediately adjacent to the PRCC, is another huge plus for groups. With a dozen dining venues; clubs; lounges; the 5,000-seat Coca-Cola Music Hall; the ToroVerde Urban Park with two dizzying zip lines, a 50,000-square-foot outdoor plaza featuring a digitalized stage system with 4,000-plus square feet of LED displays, including one of the largest horizontal displays in the U.S.; and the newly developed 177-room Aloft San Juan, meeting-goers have plenty of reason to linger after daytime conferences.

DPR’s outreach efforts and consistent work with destination partners helped land Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, the national State Tourism Director of the Year for 2021, awarded by the U.S. Travel Association. Puerto Rico’s first-ever win represents a boost for a destination that’s bounced back from Zika, Hurricanes Irma and Maria and COVID-19. Their efforts are paying off as recent (2021 and 2022) groups and events hosted and scheduled include U.S. Chamber of Commerce Association Committee, Conference Direct CEO Summit, North American Travel Journalists Association, Land X-Change MICE Conference and the American Federation of Government Employees. Distrito T-Mobile, Puerto Rico“Distrito T-Mobile brings experiences to the convention district that simply weren't there before,” says Carey. “It builds on a tremendous value proposition we offer. Visiting Puerto Rico is a domestic destination that delivers an international experience. We're celebrating 500 years with San Juan as our capital. Influence from Spain, India, Africa and America have created a history and culture and world-class contributions in music, dance, arts and the culinary scene. Coming here, visitors have a meaningful experience. It’s a huge differentiator for us.”Photo: Courtesy of Discover Puerto Rico

Here’s why planners should keep Puerto Rico on their shortlist (and register to attend BizBash Live in Puerto Rico at Connect Spring Marketplace, taking place May 22-24, 2022!): 

1. Easy Access 
Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU) is serviced from the U.S. by major carriers, including Southwest, Spirit, JetBlue, Frontier, American, Delta, United, Sun Country Airlines, Cape Air, Silver Airways and Alaska Airlines. SJU receives 169 daily flights—up 15% from July 2019.

SJU is serviced by more than 25 direct flight markets from the U.S., including: Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas/Fort Worth; Detroit; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Hartford, Conn.; Houston; Miami; Minneapolis; Nashville; New York City; Newark, N.J.; Orlando; Philadelphia; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; St. Louis; Tampa, Fla.; and Washington, D.C.

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, with no passports required for entry by U.S. citizens. Accepted currency is the U.S. dollar, and English is widely spoken. Latest travel and COVID-19 protocols can be found here.

2. Premium Event Space
Puerto Rico Convention Center is just six miles from SJU airport and overlooks the Isla Grande peninsula. PRCC hosts 600,000 square feet of flexible event, exhibition and meeting space. At 153,000 square feet, the Exhibition Hall seats 17,000, while the largest ballroom accommodates more than 4,000. PRCC has 16 separate meeting rooms easily divided into 29 breakout rooms, enjoys a newly developed third-floor, high-tech executive conference room, plus a massive covered terrace overlooking the plaza and San Juan Bay for outdoor receptions and seated affairs for up to several hundred. 

“More than half a million visitors attended events here in 2021,” says Margaret Colon, PRCC director of sales and marketing, “Our hosting of the Caribbean International Auto Expo in September saw more than 20,000 guests alone. I love to tell planners we’re one of the only convention centers with an ocean view.”

Coliseum of Puerto Rico JosĂ© Miguel Agrelot, the largest indoor arena in Puerto Rico dedicated to entertainment and sports, is known as "Choli" by locals. The venue accommodates up to 18,500 spectators and recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation. 

3. Ample Accommodations 
More than 13,000 hotel rooms are found in Puerto Rico (including eight five-star and 15 four-star properties) with nearly 7,000 rooms in San Juan.

Caribe Hilton: This resort and meeting destination (fun fact: the Pina Colada, Puerto Rico’s national cocktail, was invented here) offers planners more than 65,000 square feet of flex-space in the form of four ballrooms and 24 meeting rooms. With 652 guest rooms and suites and 11 restaurants and lounges situated across 17 acres of tropical landscape, the Caribe Hilton is an ideal “meet, stay and play” venue in the tony Condado district—steps away from Old San Juan and a short ride to the PRCC.

Condado Vanderbilt: The beachside, Spanish-inspired (designed by noted architect Whitney Warren) Condado Vanderbilt offers guests five-star treatment even before arrival with attentiveness and preplanning to ensure groups are pampered while in their care. The property houses 317 rooms (including 106 suites) and delivers 25,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. An on-site, full-service business center and VIP lounge are supported by attentive staff including dedicated IT support. East and West verandas overlooking the Atlantic provide 5,000 square feet of reception/seated dining space.

Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino: Planners find 523 guest rooms (including 22 suites) and 35,000 square feet of flex-space at the Sheraton, fronting the plaza at the PRCC. A 16,000-square-foot ballroom configuration accommodates 1,900 theater style. A in-house casino, six dining venues and the newly opened Distrito T-Mobile entertainment complex offer plentiful close-by after-work options.

Contado Vanderbilt, Puerto RicoPuerto Rico's Contado Vanderbilt houses 317 rooms (including 106 suites) and delivers 25,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. An on-site, full-service business center and VIP lounge are supported by attentive staff including dedicated IT support. East and West verandas overlooking the Atlantic provide 5,000 square feet of reception and seated dining space.Photo: Courtesy of Contado Vanderbilt4. Engaging Experiences
“Puerto Rico offers planners a variety of special cultural, historical, culinary, nature and adventure opportunities to make meetings and events truly memorable,” says Janet Melendez, president of Interactive DMC Puerto Rico, a leading local destination management company. Her top recommendations include:

Old San Juan: “Touring here is must for groups,” says Melendez, who crafts historical walking tours such as visits to Castillo de San Cristobal (Spanish fortress dating to 1783) and El Morro (formally known as Castillo San Felipe del Morro) this oft photographed citadel dates to the 16th century), various plazas, churches and museums in this picturesque and walkable section of San Juan. Most popular are signature Chasing Cobblestone Experiences, Melendez says, which can be customized to include cooking and mixology workshops, Bomba (indigenous dance) workshops and gallery hops featuring local artists.

Antiguo Casino: Themed galas held at this beaux-arts architectural gem built in 1917 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places offer planners an elegant backdrop for up to 500 guests.

Hacienda Campo Rico: This two-level event venue accommodates 480 guests and is an ideal backdrop for a traditional Puerto Rican Carnival-style, colorful street festival with traditional Puerto Rican dishes such as mofongo, pig roast, rice and pigeon peas and assorted fritters, rum tasting, cigar rolling, local artisans and traditional characters such as Vejigantes (Medieval demons), Big Heads, stilt-walkers and Pleneros (folk musicians).

Soft adventure and nature tours: El Yunque Rainforest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System, is also one of the most biologically diverse. Hiking, zip lining, birding, ATV and river touring are all easily arranged for groups. Kayaking and night exploration in one of Puerto Rico’s three Bioluminescent Bays (Mosquito Bay/Vieques, Laguna Grande/Fajardo and La Parguera/Lajas) are unique group experiences not soon forgotten.

5. Post-Meeting Dinner Spots
Here are some places to unwind at the end of the day.

Ron Barrilito Hacienda Santa Ana: Rum tops libations lists in Puerto Rico, and this boutique distiller shares a wonderful backstory, tour and specialized mixology classes with thirsty groups who learn there’s much to experience beyond Pina Coladas when it comes to this storied spirit.

Villa Pesquera de Loiza Restaurante Cultural: Perched along the northeast tip of the island, minutes from El Yunque, this outdoor, casual (think: flip-flops and shorts) eatery serves up some of the best seafood on the island. The restaurant is available for buyouts (100-plus guests), Loiza treats local shrimp, conch and snapper with extra TLC. (Tip: Lunch is even better when consumed with a local cervesca, such as a Medalla.)  

1919 Restaurant: When executive chef Juan JosĂ© Cuevas returned from a global culinary tour to his native Puerto Rico, he set out to create a vibrant and gastronomic experience for guests here. With 1919 (an homage to the year the Condado Vanderbilt, the restaurant’s home, was built), he combines his signature flair with world-class ingredients, a knock-out wine list and expertly trained staff to routinely exceed guest expectations. Multicourse tasting menus are always on the menu here and delight with features such as lobster salad with burrata and spicy tomato vinaigrette, gnocchetti with local lamb, shishito, aji and chicharron, and prime beef eye of rib with chickpeas fricassee, potato churros and creamy kale. 

Join us in San Juan from May 22-24 for BizBash Live at Connect Spring Marketplace! Learn more about the hybrid experience and how to register here.

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