So you’re tired, stressed, and looking to get away for a few days to recharge. Perhaps the kids have a school break and you want something easy. As a Commonwealth of the United States, Puerto Rico is easy--easy to get to, easy as everyone speaks English, easy as there’s no customs or currency exchange—easy! Typically, I look to go somewhere new, exotic, authentic, or action packed, but every so often I love a vacation where there's nothing to do. That’s when a beach resort is just the thing-- a book on the beach and a margarita at sunset. And Dorado Beach has it all--an unspoiled stretch of beautiful sand, a protected cove that makes for great swimming, challenging golf, a gorgeous infinity pool all set in a beautiful lush landscape. Add to that a beachfront restaurant by acclaimed chef Jose Andres, a 5-acre spa and a Jean Michael Cousteau Ambassadors of the Environment program-something for everyone!
Dorado Beach is approximately 45 minutes from the San Juan airport. If you don’t plan on venturing out much a car is unnecessary. The hotel can arrange your transport from the airport, and taxis are inexpensive and readily available for dinnertime excursions.
Why not spend a few days before or after in San Juan? It may get a bum rap, but San Juan is a fun and colorful destination for a few days. There is a real foodie scene, nice beaches and a charming old town.
If you prefer to use Dorado as your home base, Old San Juan is only 20 minutes away, make sure to include a stop at El Morro Fort after exploring the blue cobblestoned streets.
History: It all started as a citrus and coconut plantation owned by the Livingston Family. When Laurence Rockefeller bought the property in the 50’s and built the Dorado Beach Hotel it quickly became the place to be. When the climate economically and politically in Puerto Rico changed in the 80’s Dorado fell on hard times, eventually it was sold to the Hyatt chain and then ultimately closed.
Comeback: Ritz Carlton Reserve is the new ultra luxury brand of the Ritz Carlton chain; their first property was Phulay Bay in Thailand. They went all out spending 342 million dollars on a renovation and restoration that in my opinion has lived up to all the press and hype. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. This luxury does not come cheap, and the Reserve is expensive, especially compared to other properties in Puerto Rico.
Book this: All the rooms are beautiful and spacious, but at Dorado location is key. Rooms on West Beach (Buildings 1-5) offer direct access to the beach. It’s a big plus to walk out onto the sand. We had rooms at East Beach, and while we had water views, the beach is rocky and you have to walk, or golf cart back to the main building.
Wake up: There are 2 gyms, one right at the main hotel and one a short bike or golf cart ride away that is part of the larger complex/residences. The latter is huge, complete with great fitness and yoga classes and state of the art TechoGym machines. If you prefer to be outside, bike or run the 11-mile Rockefeller Nature Trail or play tennis on the resorts 5 courts.
Tee Up: Golfers will be happy with 3 courses designed by Robert Trent Jones. The Pineapple course is better for less experienced golfers, while the Sugarcane course is the most challenging.
Breakfast: There’s a very nice buffet set up at Mi Casa each morning, but you must order the Huevos a la Cubano off the menu, which translates to “like Jose’s Mom made”. (If the chef put his mom’s name on it you know it’s going to be good!) Fried eggs with sautéed rice, crispy bacon, caramelized banana and tomato sauce-delicious! You can make up for it later with a light lunch of gazpacho or salad.
Water World: The Watermill is pretty impressive, located right across from the tennis courts and gym. Yes, right in the resort grounds is a private water park complete with water slides and a lazy river. It’s not big, but even my twenty year old enjoyed it for an hour or so.
Relax: Pick your spot at the pool or beach, and don’t move till lunch.
Lunch: Encanto beach club is a pretty open-air restaurant; you can walk down the beach (around 5-10 minutes) or get a ride at the front desk. I found it more crowded as it’s also for members of the whole complex. (Encanto has a nice Asian inspired menu at dinner) We preferred the Positivo sand bar, feet in the sand overlooking the pool and beach. The terrace at Mi Casa is also a pretty spot for lunch. If you’re here for a few days you’ll probably want to mix it up a bit and try them all.
Spa: Book a massage in one of the open-air treehouse rooms for a unique and magical experience.
Sunset: You don’t actually see the sun splash—the sun sets behind the complex, but the sky afterwards makes up for it. Have a drink at Positivo and watch the sky explode or better yet enjoy a late swim in the ocean as the day ends.
Dinner: At Jose Andres’ Mi Casa dinner is fun—featuring the molecular gastronomy he’s known for. Sharing tapas and small plates makes for an entertaining experience. The bar is beautiful and good for a pre or post dinner cocktail. The food is very good, especially considering you’re at a resort.
Other options: If you’re here for a few days you might want to leave the resort and venture out in the community. We went to two local restaurants off the property. The food was good, not great, but it was fun to do something different. The most highly recommended is Grappa for Italian; it’s a small restaurant in the downtown section of Dorado. Green House is a casual family owned restaurant for local food—my kids weren’t so sure where I was taking them when we pulled up outside, but once inside the Michael Buble holiday special playing in the background, the mofongo and the pitcher of sangria won them over.
Worry: As the Reserve is part of the larger Dorado Beach Resort Community with future residences and the eventual rebuilding of the now defunct and empty Cerromar hotel (once a sister property to Dorado Beach) the resort may eventually feel crowded and built up. Right now it’s peaceful, especially when you are at the Reserve. I’m confident they can keep that private feeling going.