Ritz Reserve – Dorado Beac
100 Dorado Beach Drive, Puerto Rico, 787-626-1100; doradobeach.com; 115 rooms starting at $1,500.
When Laurance Rockefeller was looking for a spot to build a resort in Puerto Rico, he could have any land he wanted. He settled on a long stretch of sand on the north coast known as Dorado Beach, less than an hour west of the San Juan airport. Here, in 1958, he opened one of his RockResorts, an eco-friendly place for the era with great golf, great food and idyllic tropical surroundings. His name and his lush resort attracted a
celebrity clientele (think Elizabeth Taylor and John F. Kennedy), but after being sold off to various owners it fell into disrepair. Shortly after the turn of the century, it closed. Now, it has been reborn as the Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, a property at the top of the Ritz's food chain. A $342-million reno has raised the property like a phoenix.
Dorado Beach sits on three miles of Caribbean coastline, and the resort is about 30 minutes west of San Juan – far enough from the madding crowd, but close to enough to pop into the old city and explore the Spanish forts and architecture. Puerto Rico is about a five-hour non-stop flight from the East Coast, so it's conceivable that within six hours you could be at the Ritz, changing into sandals for a walk on the beach right out your front door.
This is a golfer's paradise with four Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed golf courses on the property. The East Course, reinvigorated by Jones' son, is an iconic Caribbean golf destination – Joe DiMaggio, Dwight Eisenhower and JFK have played here; with the changes many of the 18 holes now overlook the ocean.
WHOM YOU'LL MEET
With rack rates starting at $1,500, the Ritz Reserve is full of guests living out Great Gatsby fantasies.
ROOMS WITH A VIEW
One thing you won't have to ask for is a room with a view, since all 115 rooms overlook the Atlantic. There's also the Su Casa hacienda, the only surviving building from the original property, which has undergone a $2-million reno. This eye-popping property, with its red-clay tile roof, sweeping double staircase and four bedrooms, is yours for $30,000 a night.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT?
Stay on the resort. Internationally acclaimed chef Jose Andres features local cuisine with his trademark Spanish flair at Mi Casa restaurant. Try oysters pina colada, iberico ham with guava, goat cheese cones with green papaya, and any pork dish. Or, dine al fresco at Positivo Sand Bar, where the tables closest to the Atlantic are right on the beach.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
Near the reception area is a small glass building called the Library. But the windows are fixed and the air-conditioning is cranked up. It is cold and institutional and there seems little reason to go in and read. It would be a much better tropical experience if the front walls were replaced with hurricane doors that let the trade winds flow through.
The writer was a guest of the resort.