appiness may not be a place—think of it more as a feeling, a state of being—but there is a road that’ll take you there. Lined with golden beaches, swaying palm trees, and outdoor bars where you can catch kaleidoscopic sunsets, the Road to Happiness is real. Aka Route 413, the Road to Happiness winds along the coast in Rincón, Puerto Rico, a laid-back surfing community on the island’s western corner. And, after the last two crazy years spent largely at home riding out the pandemic, it’s a trip you need to take—if, for no other reason, for the sake of your own wellness.
Rincón, Puerto Rico, is the destination we all need right now. The sleepy little beach town is an unconventional tropical paradise with all the things—including world-class waves that send siren calls to pro surfers from around the globe. Rincón is the ultimate spot for wellness travel lite, perfect for low-key types whose mood is more California surf rock than Miami EDM. It’s just as close as Tulum with all the modern conveniences but none of the megaresorts or tourist traps—and you won’t need a vacation to recover from your vacation. You don’t need a passport to get there; your cell phone will (probably) work; most people speak a mix of English and Spanish; the U.S. dollar is the official currency, and flights tend to be cheap. (You will want to bring your medical marijuana card if you’ve got one or apply for one before you go if you don’t. More on that in a bit.) Local cuisine jumps out at you on every corner, along every major road, and at all spots in between. Truly, it’s the best island for people who are hungry all the time (aka stoners).
Word about this blissful spot has been out in some circles for a while now already. The international surfing community got the memo about Rincón basically forever ago—1968, in fact. That’s when the fourth-ever World Surfing Championship literally put Rincón on the map. (The town often didn’t warrant inclusion before then.)
Thanks to the surfers and the creative types who follow them, Rincón’s got an authentically bohemian vibe and a freaky, fun-loving atmosphere. Life in Rincón is essentially one relaxed party, and even non-surfers find it easy to fit right in…and then find it hard to leave. This is the type of place you visit for a weekend and wind up staying for a lifetime. Just ask any of the expat locals who comprise a good portion of the town’s population.
The Beautiful Place
Start with Sandra Torres. The native Puerto Rican visited Rincón with her husband Raul for the town’s annual triathlon in 2014 and fell in love with the area and the community. “We have the prettiest beaches on the island,” she says. “This is one of the most beautiful places in Puerto Rico.”
At the time, Puerto Rico was on the verge of legalizing cannabis for medical use, and they were interested in getting in on the ground floor. Friends of theirs in Rincón—Ovidmarie Garcia and her husband, Hector Ramírez—outlined their vision for a wellness-focused dispensary that would cater to patients through personalized attention and education.
“My husband entered the industry when it started in Puerto Rico,” says Ovidmarie. “He was born on 4/20, he’s a surfer, and he’s a cannabis connoisseur. He’s a doctor who certifies patients [for medical marijuana], and it was my dream to have a dispensary in Rincón. So why not?”
With a vision in mind, this group of friends got together to put the plans in place for The Green Room. The medical cannabis dispensary now sits in the heart of Rincón, about a block off the beach and not too far from where the Road to Happiness begins. It’s a fitting location for a place where you can pick up the blissful fuel you need to get to your happy place. Keep in mind that tourism is a mainstay of the economy, so any time and money you spend in locally-owned shops like The Green Room is injecting much-needed capital into the community.
Just don’t forget to bring your medical marijuana card. (Told you there’d be more on that.) Puerto Rico accepts out-of-state mmj cards—no need to get a new one on the island. You will, however, need to get a medical recommendation from a Puerto Rican doctor if you want to purchase flower, otherwise you’ve got to stick to vapes, edibles, tinctures, topicals, anything other than smokable flower. If flower is your thing, don’t fret: this is where Dr. Green comes in. One of the island’s foremost medical marijuana docs, Dr. Green is also your go-to guy if you don’t already have a med card in your home state but use (or want to use) cannabis to treat a qualifying medical condition—and in Puerto Rico, lots of conditions qualify, including depression, insomnia, migraines, and more. (For more details and to plan ahead so you’re not wasting any precious vacation time doing paperwork, visit thegreenroomrincon.com.)
A Place Like Home
Stop by The Green Room on any given day and you’ll feel the welcoming vibe. “When people come to The Green Room, they can feel like it’s home,” says Ovidmarie. “This is a place where they can come and feel comfortable. And that’s what makes us different. We can’t know every patient, but we know most of them by name most of the time. We speak with them about what’s going on in their lives. It’s a more personal service, and I think that’s what makes us different from other dispensaries.”
(We’d argue that the location, mere steps from the sand, also elevates The Green Room above the rest. Because seriously, what’s better than a beachfront dispensary? Nothing. There’s nothing better in our book.)
That, and the personal service that stems from their close relationship with Dr. Green. “We are in communication with our patients’ doctor, so we have a one-on-one service,” says Ovidmarie. “Every patient has different conditions, there are many different ways they can consume cannabis, so we give every patient special treatment.”
They also give them lots of options, with a wider selection of products than you’ll find in most dispensaries on the island and a staff of budtenders trained to help patients select the elevating products that will work best for their needs. “Our budtenders are professionals,” says Ovidmarie. “They welcome patients by name, they know who you are and what you like. They know what they are selling. They know what is good for you, what will work best for your condition, what amount you need for your treatment and how it can be mixed with another type of product. Our budtenders are the most knowledgeable in the area.”
Spend a little time in Rincón (and we highly recommend that you do), and you’ll quickly realize that the town’s close-knit community wouldn’t have survived this long without safeguarding. Across the Caribbean, even the quaintest of beach towns have been bulldozed into megaresorts devoid of personality or sense of place. But thanks to the efforts of local entrepreneurs and community stakeholders like the team at The Green Room, Rincón’s bursting with both.
There’s no better place to see that in action than the weekly Art Walk, which happens every Thursday evening. What began as a community effort to support local artists almost a decade ago has evolved into a cultural happening every week that transformed Rincón’s central plaza into the cultural and economic hub of the surfing town. An eclectic mix of artisans and performers transform downtown in to an open-air gallery for Puerto Rican art and culture.
The Green Room’s team gets involved through partnerships with other local businesses that center on the wellness of the community. Which is to say they are highly involved—both attending events and hosting them in collaboration with other area entrepreneurs and businesses. They’ve partnered with Centro La Paz wellness center to offer patients yoga sessions on Zoom during the pandemic, they host cannabis educational events for seniors, they support local artisans during Art Walk, and they’re planning events centered around the Rincón triathlon in June. This is their community, and they love everything about it.
“We have good places to eat well, to see the sunset—good music, good vibes, good company,” says Sandra. “That’s what Rincón is all about.”