Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

A team of young professionals in Puerto Rico has responded to travelers who demand and expect more from each travel experience.

Local Guest is a San Juan-based company dedicated to providing unique experiential travel adventuress to residents and visitors.

The company is just a few months old; its website went live in early August, and its offerings are inspiring, legitimate, unusual and fun.

"Experience tourism is not only born from the need to evolve beyond homogenized mass tourism and create an authentic connection to the destination, but also is based on the sustainable development of everybody involved and the strengthening of communities," said Carmen Portela, one of Local Guest's co-founders.

The Local Guest company in San Juan offers experiential adventures to locals and visitors. Above, some of the hosts of the various tour programs offered.
The Local Guest company in San Juan offers experiential adventures to locals and visitors. Above, some of the hosts of the various tour programs offered.

The goal is to diversify Puerto Rico's tourism product and foster economic development consistent with the changing behavior of travelers.

"We recognize that tourism is the single economic sector that remains solid despite the current financial crisis, but it has not progressed to embrace the shifts in the world travel and tourism industry, such as the emergence of experiential tourism," Portela said.

The company also wants to offer experiences that focus on all aspects of life in Puerto Rico, including the poorer sections of the island, where travelers can contribute in some way to the local community.

Local Guest hooks travelers up with local hosts who craft and host the experiences, which fall into five categories: nature/adventure (Adventure Galore); gastronomy (Foodies Galore); art/culture (Artsy Scene); aquatic (Water Escape); and celebrations/nightlife (Party Vibes).

Anyone can become a Local Guest host, such as Juan Cruz, host of the El Comerieno experience that includes a kayaking trip along La Plata river and lunch from the crops at the Adicto a la Tierra farm in the center of Puerto Rico.

Visitors help farm workers feed the animals, work at the farming chores, take a swim in the river and end the trip with a visit to sunflower fields. The six-hour tour is priced at $80 person and is limited to 10 participants. The pickup point for the tour is in Corozal, about 45 minutes southwest of San Juan.

"In Comerio we are developing many collaborative community efforts, and Local Guest is the perfect channel to drive new opportunities and create awareness of our rural town as a travelers' destination," said Cruz.

In San Juan, the El Catorce restaurant features a hands-on pasta class with Argentinian chef and owner Mariano Sena, followed by cocktails and a four-course lunch, priced at $75 per person.

At the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve in Rincon on the west coast, participants spend time with marine biologists, don gear and snorkel among one of the largest Elkhorn coral reef colonies in the Caribbean. The local hosts on this tour are Chelsea and Evan Tuohy, both resident biologists in Puerto Rico. The four-hour tour, limited to five participants, is $114 person.

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