By Ann-Marie Carrano and Andrew Leibstein, Travel Consultants
San Juan is a bustling city whereby you do not feel you are in the Caribbean, in fact you almost feel as if you are in New York on your way from Kennedy Airport to Long Island during the approximately 45-minute drive to Dorado. Thankfully, this feeling immediately changes once you enter The Ritz Carlton Reserve and are met in the exotic Reception Pavilion, then escorted to your room by your private Embajador. Your Embajador is a dedicated butler who is available for any request you have throughout your stay. The grounds by the rooms are filled with tropical gardens and lagoons which are expertly manicured.
Once a plantation owned by Lawrence S. Rockefeller, The Ritz Carlton Reserve is now a private retreat maintaining an environmental philosophy instilled by Rockefeller. The hotel features 115 beachfront accommodations on 50 acres, most with private plunge pools that are just steps from the ocean. Both Andrew and I each had an Oceanfront King Plunge Reserve Room. The rooms were a spacious 1,025 square feet with such features as a walk-in wardrobe, indoor and outdoor showers, deep soaking tub and expansive veranda with a private infinity plunge pool. We both agreed the views of the Caribbean Sea from the verandas take your breath away.
You can relax all day on the beach or enjoy everything this 1,400 acre resort has to offer, including two ocean view pools with dedicated poolside service, a state of the art fitness center, privileges at 4 Dorado Beach Golf courses and 5 tennis courts. There is also a water sports pavilion which offers many exciting water activities. Jean-Michel Cousteau Ambassador of the Environment offers programs for both children and adults.
Spa Botanico is a 5 acre natural sanctuary designed to inspire well–being and provide relaxation. I had the opportunity of having a massage in the open air tree-house. It was definitely a unique experience but not recommended for anyone that enjoys their massage in the comfort of an air conditioned room (as Andrew did and enjoying every minute of it). Perhaps the tree-house massage would be more enjoyable in the cooler winter months. The purification gardens are a must before or after your treatment, filled with tropical pools, steam rooms and unique scrubs.
Also enjoyable for nature lovers since the resort’s opening has been the Historic Rockefeller Nature Trail. It is an 11-mile trail throughout the resort that winds through forests, past fairways along the beaches and the secret coves and reefs. Along the way you will see unusual exotic birds, reptiles, trees and plants. I opted to walk a few miles of the trail … Andrew experienced it on a bicycle. You can also ride a golf cart or take a guided tour.
The crown jewel of the resort is the Spanish Hacienda Su casa situated on the water’s edge, boasting four spacious bedrooms, an elegantly appointed living room and dining area. An expansive outdoor veranda which opens onto a private lush outdoor enclave with a private infinity – edge pool and spectacular views of the ocean. The services of a private concierge is also included.
The hotel features three gourmet restaurants. Mi Casa is the signature restaurant by renowned chef José Andrés and open for breakfast and dinner. You could eat from the breakfast buffet or order from the Al a Carte Menu. The waffles were a delicious breakfast treat which Andrew had every morning. The Dinner tasting menu was a very unique, tasty and whimsical experience.
Encanto Beach Club Bar & Grill and Positivo Sand Bar both offer casual beach and pool side dining. Both open for lunch and dinner. We found the food and service were very good at both restaurants.
Standouts for lunch were the fresh fish tacos and the mouth-watering half pound kobe beef burgers. Dinner standouts were the fresh Caribbean fish dishes and delicious prime steaks.