Luxury in Puerto Rico: A Guide for a Lavish Island Visit
Puerto Rico has always been known for its beautiful white beaches and vibrant nightlife, yet the Island has even more to offer discerning travelers seeking an exceptional vacation. The Island’s unique golf courses, plush spas and multiculturally infused cuisine, equals luxury in Puerto Rico.
Travelers looking for a glamorous San Juan getaway should consider the Ritz Carlton San Juan Hotel, Spa & Casino, which pairs dazzling nightlife with great restaurants and amazing suites. Visitors can take advantage of the exclusive casino, the state-of-the-art Caribbean spa or dine at the hip Sushi Bar.
Nearby La Concha Marriott Renaissance Resort, located minutes away from the pristine beaches of Isla Verde, greets guests with its contemporary design theme, soothingly lit rooms and white minimalist décor.
The W Vieques stands out as a quintessential location for relaxation, fun and dining. Located on the beaches of Vieques and within a short drive of the charming fishing village of Esperanza and the Bahía de la Chiva beach, The W offers fantastic views of the Atlantic and nearby Culebra.
The W’s traditionally modern décor is tempered by a rustic charm, and the property’s 157 rooms start at a generously-sized 550 square feet. A “don’t miss” is Sorce, featuring ocean views and presenting a selection of dishes influenced by Puerto Rican heritage.
For those seeking a unique boutique hotel experience, consider Hotel El Convento, a prime example of a small, luxury hotel. A Carmelite convent built three centuries ago, Hotel El Convento has been renovated with modern amenities, but still retains its colonial charm with features such as marble chessboard floors and mahogany furniture.
For the more adventurous traveler, resort hotels such as the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort and the Waldorf Astoria El Conquistador Resort and Las Casitas along Puerto Rico’s magnificent Eastern coast offer every activity under the sun, from golf to snorkeling to windsurfing. These resorts boast world-class spas, sparkling pools and relaxing beaches.
On the western coast in Rincón, the Horned Dorset Primavera Hotel, which caters only to guests aged 18 and older exemplifies what this part of Puerto Rico is all about. Hidden on a secluded beach, the Horned Dorset promotes the art of relaxation with no phones, televisions or radios in the guest rooms.
With more than 20 courses, Puerto Rico boasts the finest golf in the Caribbean. This starts with The Trump International Golf Club in Río Grande, site of the 2012 PGA tournament Puerto Rico Open. Located in golf-rich Río Grande, the Tom Kite-designed, 36-hole club features four unique nines with water views at every turn.
Bahía Beach Resort and Golf Club, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and located at the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, preserves the natural integrity of the original site. In fact, every aspect of the golf course was guided by Audubon International to ensure minimum impact on the environment, making it the first in Puerto Rico to become a Certified Gold Audubon International Signature Sanctuary. Bahía, an 18-hole course totaling 6,979 yards, offers amazing seaside views and tee sets for pros and beginners.
The Arthur Hills Golf Course at El Conquistador Resort features a scenic, 6,662-yard course whose distinctive undulation provides breathtaking vistas to enhance the round. Located in Fajardo, it is easy to see why – this track simultaneously overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and El Yunque Rainforest.
To the West lies Royal Isabela, an 18-hole track (opening January 2012) en route to “Worldwide Top 100” status according to Fairways and Greens. Located within the 1,800 acre Costa Isabela community, this private course (restricted to residents, villa and hotel guests) intersects European-links design with a Caribbean atmosphere.
Equipped with the most advanced facilities, staff and services and surrounded by a tropical paradise, Puerto Rico’s spas treat guests to experiences found nowhere else. If visiting San Juan, consider booking an appointment at The Spa at The Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel and Casino.
Signature therapies include Café con Leche, an exfoliation using Puerto Rican coffee; Borinquen Body Polish, which uses a tropical fruit extract to remove dead skin from the body; and the Cleopatra, a hydrotherapy milk-bath maximizing the effect of fatty acids, amino acids and vitamins.
Located east of San Juan in nearby Fajardo, The Golden Door Spa at Waldorf Astoria El Conquistador Resort was voted the top Caribbean Spa by readers of Caribbean Travel & Life and the Best Spa for Treatments by Condé Nast Traveler. The Caribbean’s largest spa, the Golden Door has 25 treatment rooms and a staff-to-guest ratio of 4-to-1.
Golden Door offers services such as Terra del Yunque, a mud application using medicinal herbs and locally grown plants; a Rainforest Facial, using organic products; and Baño de Oro, a full body masque, moisturizing massage and hydrotherapy.
At Mandara Spa at Río Mar Beach Resort & Spa, therapists and aestheticians bestow their expert touch to resonate and restore. It specializes in Balinese-inspired services such as massage and aromatherapy. Visitors should try the spa’s signature treatment – a four-hand massage with two therapists working in synchronicity and serene silence.
Remède Spa at the St. Regis Resort, Bahía Beach, offers an exclusive selection of treatments designed with indigenous and cultural influence using organic native ingredients such as coconut and sugar cane. In the tradition of “Fiestas Patronales,” each service is inspired by Puerto Rico’s Queen Loiza and celebrates the Island’s African, Taino Indian and Spanish heritage.
For South Coast visitors, the Bodyderm Spa at the Copamarina Beach Resort concentrates on massages and full body treatments. Specialties include an anti-cellulite application and an Aroma Steam Capsule, a 15-minute European therapy that combines the physical and mental benefits of steam and aromatherapy.
It has been said that Old San Juan has more museums per square foot than anywhere on Earth. The city itself is often considered a life-size museum of colonial architecture due to the number of buildings that have been declared National Historic Sites.
At the San Juan Museum of Art and History, once a marketplace in 1855, visitors will find exhibits of traditional Puerto Rican art that showcase the island’s rich history. The Museum of the Americas, housed at the Cuartel de Ballajá, old military barracks built in the 1850’s, offers the finest collection of popular and folk art of Latin America.
For those interested in Caribbean art and architecture, San Juan’s Museo de Arte is a must-see; the museum houses a collection that spans the art history of the Island.
Ponce is home to Plaza Las Delicias, which contains old fountains, well-kept gardens and the Cathedral of Our Lady Guadalupe. The Ponce Museum of Art, designed by Edward Durell Stone, (mastermind behind New York’s Museum of Modern Art), will captivate art lovers with more than 1,000 paintings and 400 sculptures of the most elegant European works in the Caribbean.
Five minutes outside Ponce is the Serrallés Castle, a mansion built in 1930 for Ponce’s wealthiest family and owners of the Don Q rum distillery. Visitors take a step back in time as they view antiques from long ago.
Finally, a must-see in Caguas is the Caguas Botanical and Cultural Garden. Its 60 acres of landscaped gardens include among other things, the remains of a 19th century sugar plantation as well as waterfall features, as small museum and a small are called the Garden of Conscience, dedicated to endangered endemic species.
A fusion of European, Afro-Caribbean and Latin American cultures has produced one of the most palate-tempting cuisines in the world. In San Juan’s latest urban locale, SoFo (south of Fortaleza Street), restaurants range from the French provincial Trois Cent Onze, to the ever-popular Parrot Club, where the chic clientele revels in Latin fusion dishes and luscious martinis. Another Nuevo Latino favorite is Aguaviva. This trendy retreat features a myriad of eclectic seafood entrees.
Diners who want some of the best fine dining the Island has to offer could head to Pikayo at the Conrad Condado Plaza, owned by run by chef Wilo Benet. Also in Condado, Iron Chef Roberto Trevino owns Casa Lola specializing in “criollo” cuisine and Budatai, an elegant restaurant that serves Asian dishes with Caribbean flare.
Food lovers can enjoy courseafter- course of mouth-watering delights at these prestigious Island restaurants, with dishes that include lobster risotto and veal carpaccio using only all-natural, local ingredients.
For those seeking further name recognition, consider the fine dining at Laurel, where Chef Mario Pagán showcases his “Nuevo Caribe Cuisine.” Pagán, a finalist on Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef, makes a point of incorporating the plethora of local, fresh ingredients, including aged cheeses. Queen snappers, and butter avocados. Located in Santurce, Pagan’s creation joins exquisite food with breathtaking art.
Chef Damián Hernández’s modern interpretations of local cuisine classics can be enjoyed against the backdrop of South Beach-inspired minimalist décor in shades of black, white, and orange, at the Verdanza Hotel Eighty20 Bistro.
Those who want to see and be seen in San Juan make a point to dine at the new Augusto’s restaurant. Chef Ariel Rodríguez’s menu, international with French and Caribbean influences is a most see for any person who desires the best of the best.
With a multitude of offerings guests may be accustomed to in the United States such as Armani, Ann Taylor and Lacoste, combined with local boutiques and designers, Puerto Rico is the home for shopping in the Caribbean.
In San Juan, guests can spend the day at Plaza Las Americas, the Caribbean’s largest indoor mall. Commonly referred to as Plaza, this shopping paradise located in the neighborhood of Hato Rey is home to more than 250 stores, open seven days a week.
If seeking a boutique experience, guests who love “Hollywood casual” should head to Lisa Capalli, a local business that specializes in producing its own designs as well as promoting other Puerto Rican designers. Lisa Capalli has two locations – Old San Juan and downtown San Juan. For more information, visit http://www.lisacappalli.net/.
Elsewhere, another boutique, Valija Gitana, showcases “boho chic” styles. Featured in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, this boutique chain of 10 stores specializes in international fashion. It also uses 100 percent biodegradable plastics and donates handsomely to the area.
Other high-end shopping destinations include the boutiques of David Antonio, Stella Nolasco, Glamour by Carlos Antonio, Oui Boutique, and La Femme Boutique. For more information, visit: http://www.seepuertorico.com.
Travelers can find luxury in Puerto Rico at every level.