Puerto Rico is having a moment, as though it took a hurricane to remind many of us of how much precious beauty and culture is there to be enjoyed, protected and rebuilt. Puerto Rico is well on its way, and major resorts have reopened. While there are charming and luxurious hotels in Old San Juan I can recommend to you, if you desire a resort with lovely pools and beach access, you'll need to leave Old San Juan - but not far. You are in the Caribbean, after all, surrounded by the ocean, and you'll certainly want to dive in and enjoy Puerto Rico from the water too! Two especially enticing hotels sit along Puerto Rico’s Atlantic coast: Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, and St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort. Sparkling after multimillion-dollar renovations, the resorts are proof of Puerto Rico’s comeback.
February 2019 article excerpts by Susan Skelly sponsored by Marriott International is from Virtuoso.com.
The Island of Enchantment casts its spell all over again. Above the main bar in the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Puerto Rico is a mural called The Long Awaited Voyage by Arnaldo Roche Rabell, depicting a traveler canoeing through a tangle of vibrant vegetation. Rabell was one of the island’s most significant artists, and Puerto Rico was his muse until his death last year. After Hurricane Maria hit the island in September 2017, the painter restored his artwork (photo above) with the same devotion Puerto Ricans have shown in rebuilding their Caribbean home. Now, the island is again the tropical sanctuary depicted in the artist’s canvas.
The new-look St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is a collaboration between Puerto Rican designer Nono Maldonado and San Francisco-based Hirsch Bedner Associates. It’s light, modern, and organic, with a blue-and-white palette that reflects its surroundings. Reopened in December 2018, the 139-room resort pleases the hungry, the health-seeking, and the hedonist. Just take a look at the amenities: oceanfront golf course; DecoTurf tennis courts (good enough for the U.S. Open); trails for walking, biking, and running; a raft of water sports; and gold-plated treatments at the Iridium Spa, where guests can tailor their treatments by selecting essential oils and herbs from the Synergy Decanter Table. The beaches are better than ever in Puerto Rico, including the stretch in front of the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort. Designated as a Certified Gold Audubon International Signature Sanctuary for its environmental awareness, the resort is home to two private bird sanctuaries, an in-house “green team” led by a marine biologist, and a garden that supplies fresh produce.
Dorado Beach reopened in October 2018 after an exacting restoration. Set among 300,000 new plantings and miles of bike tracks, the 114-beachfront guest rooms and suites sport floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, infinity plunge pools, and an embajador (ambassador) who provides butler and concierge services. Dial things down further with Dorado Beach’s legendary three-hour Spa Botánico Manos Santos Apothecary Ritual. In a nod to tradition, healers known as manos santos oversee the preparation of fresh herbs, healing oils, and powerful affirmations. It’s not all chilling out. Soon after the relaunch, Dorado Beach hosted a celebration of the island’s rebirth with distinguished guests, including Questlove, The Roots’ front man and drummer, and Leslie Odom Jr. of the original Broadway cast of Hamilton. In January, more stars arrived to support the month-long run of that beloved musical and to draw attention to Puerto Rico’s role as an arts and culture destination.
The spirit of a new day is palpable on the island, and the work to rebuild communities and restore natural areas continues with visitors eager to be a part of the effort. The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort partners with the Soul of Bahia Foundation to facilitate volunteer activities that benefit the environment and local communities. You can spend the day as a manatee caretaker in the marine biology laboratory of the Manatee Conservation Center, join the resort’s Green Team for a two-hour coastal beach cleanup, or help restore trails in El Yunque National Forest. Animal lovers can bathe, play with, and walk rescue animals, or be on hand to protect vulnerable leatherback turtles when they hatch.
Another way to help move Puerto Rico forward is to enjoy it! The list of things to do is long: Tour a rum factory or a coffee plantation, wander the historic towns of Old San Juan and San Germán, explore caves and old forts. Schedule a musical moment, perhaps the Festival of Puerto Rican Music, a celebration of traditional plena and bomba drum music that takes place in November.
Contact me to become part of the restoration of the spirit of Puerto Rico!