Seek out a rum with a view...

Puerto Rico El Conquistador Resort
Puerto Rico El Conquistador Resort
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WE islanders seem drawn to other islands.

Throw in year-round sunshine and a brace of Pina Coladas and Puerto Rico becomes a big draw.

Part of the Caribbean, with Antigua and Cuba as neighbours, this playful yet elegant island nation has become more accessible thanks to twice-weekly British Airways flights from Gatwick.

And beautiful old San Juan in the bustling capital alone justifies the air miles.

Colourful, largely well preserved architecture is a magnet for the camera, but there’s a personal warmth about the place that immediately matches the climate.

Much the same can be said of the Pina Colada, a rum-fuelled cocktail first shaken into existence by Don Ramon Portas Mingot in 1963 – unless, of course, you accept the claim of the casually classy Caribe Hilton hotel that they did it first.

What is certain is they were the first Hilton to open outside mainland USA – just an hour away by plane to Miami, which it honours with its al fresco reception lobby.

While the Caribe Hilton and newer rival Sheraton Puerto Rico are an ideal base, the radio on the brief cab ride into town confirms you are anywhere but the States, even if the US border control suggests otherwise.

Old San Juan is arguably where you take the pulse of Puerto Pico, amid cobbled streets alive with conversations and – when day trades for dusk – music.

Innocuous doorways suddenly open to reveal unlikely-looking bars, some doubling as general stores in between serving measures of Cuba Libre. Like any modern culture, the city caters for all tastes, but the common denominator is its people.

On this, the smallest of the Greater Antilles, Puerto Ricans retain an identity that makes this part of the Caribbean unique. And the Pina Colada is well suited to its environment: sweet, but not as innocent as it looks, laidback, slightly exotic, just a little mischievous.

That and other Puerto Rico charms were ably showcased in the 2011 film of The Rum Diaries. Life may have moved on since that era but Johnny Depp can’t keep away – some scenes of the most recent Pirates Of The Caribbean film were also captured in or around the world’s rum capital.

Arriving is less frantic than with Capt Jack Sparrow, of course. You can use the time difference to your advantage by rising early to explore old San Juan’s pretty streets. Just grab your map and let the vibe be your guide.

You’ll cross paths with characters as bright as some of the painted buildings, narrow streets providing shade as even winter temperatures barely dip below 80°.

Locals have been US citizens for nearly 100 years, but largely speak Spanish as well as retaining much of that culture in their food and passionate demeanour.

Nowhere more so than the atmospheric La Bombonera, the island’s oldest bakery and a haven for locals chatting over rich coffee from a device Spielberg might have contrived.

Sample an authentic Puerto Rican lunch of seafood asopao, a thick rice soup, and the house speciality, a sweet and savoury pastry called Pan La Mallorca.

In the evening, try the wonderful La Mallorquina, Puerto Rico’s oldest restaurant.

A curious mix of ancient paintings, clocks, marble floors and Baroque mirrors is the setting for enduring local dishes that have lured the likes of Orson Welles and Nat King Cole.