PUERTO RICO Travel Guide
Don’t you just love creative hotel industry titles? Well, to add another Puerto Rico’s Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa has appointed Brian Lewis Postle, a 20-year hospitality veteran, as its new “Director of Romance.” If he spies any couples not being romantic, he’ll put them in a romance time out. We kid!
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‘Tis the season to celebrate and there’s no better way than with a holiday-inspired beverage. And, as we all know, a holiday cocktail a day keeps the Grinch away. For Hotel Holiday Cocktail Week, we’ve scanned the globe for some delectably delicious cocktails that will leave you humming a merry tune that doesn’t include, “You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch.”
For those of you lucky enough to find yourselves in a tropical idyll over the holidays, way to plan ahead. For the rest of us, we’ll have to content ourselves with having this tropical version of eggnog to tide us over until we, too, find ourselves in a swinging hammock overlooking the ocean blue.
Popular in the tropics right about now is the Coquito – a traditional holiday bevvie made with evaporated and condensed milk and rum. The San Juan Marriott Resort offers lucky hammock-swinging guests complimentary glasses of the stuff during the holiday season (OK – they actually give it to guests at the property’s oceanfront restaurant, La Vista Latin Grill, but we’re sure hammocks must be close by).
If you’d like to try this creamy cocktail at home, beware: the recipe below makes a gallon of it and, because it’s seriously delectable, it’s also seriously dangerous!
San Juan Marriott Coquito
4 cans Evaporated Milk
4 cans Condensed Milk
2 cans Coconut Cream
1 liter White Rum (preferably Don Q)
1 cup Brandy
Vanilla to taste
Cinnamon to taste
Mix together all the ingredients and let stand in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.
[Photo: San Juan Marriott Resort]
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One of the coolest and "greenest" new boutique hotels to surface in the Caribbean is on the popular island destination of Vieques, Puerto Rico. El Blok, located in the town of Esparanza, at the southern end of Vieques, is putting on its final touches and will be fully open by this weekend.
El Blok, designed by San Juan based Fuster+ Architects, goes for the softer side of modern minimalism, with a curvalineal shape that compliments the natural coastline and Esparanza's beachfront promenade. The hotel offers just 22 rooms, thus keeping its footprint small both literally (the hotel occupies the site of a former home) and environmentally (El Blok is LEED Gold Certified.) Virturally every aspect of the hotel's design has an environmental benefit.
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If you are so inspired by the gorgeous scenery at the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort that you feel like you want to marry it, now you can do the next best thing: get married in it.
The Puerto Rican resort has partnered with renowned designer Lela Rose (dresser to many of the stars, including Anne Hathaway and Cameron Diaz) to create an capsule collection of wedding dresses inspired by the resort and destination. It's the only place you'll be able to buy one of the special dresses: the collection is available exclusively to brides booking their wedding at the Bahia Beach, where they do a roaring wedding business and even have their own wedding planning team on staff.
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The first same-sex wedding performed at W Retreat and Spa, Vieques Island
Same-sex marriage rights are being honored more and more across the country and now Puerto Rico's The W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Islandhas become the first hotel to exclusively partner with an LGBT wedding planner.
The resort has joined with Bernadette Coveney Smith and her customized “14 Stories Wedding Day” business to offer same-sex couples an opportunity to exchange vows on Vieques.
Coveney Smith's 14 Stories is said to be the first business in the U.S. to specialize in planning legal gay and lesbian weddings.
Couples who host their nuptials at the W's deluxe hotel can expect the following:
· A legal marriage ceremony performed in NYC or Boston
· 45 off-site planning hours
· One pre-wedding tasting and planning on Vieques Island with Coveney Smith and the W's culinary team
· Coveney Smith’s attendance fee to personally oversee the Vieques ceremony and rehearsal
· Post-marriage resources specializing in the LGBT community
· A personalized website for guests to book hotel rooms, view photos, learn about wedding festivities and the couple’s complimentary registry
· A donation to a marriage equality charity on the couple’s first anniversary
· 12,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points which can be redeemed towards a free night at W Retreat & Spa – Vieques Island and other onsite options.
Is The Olive Hotel Spicy Enough For You? A HotelChatter Review
Nearly a year ago to the day we wrote about a new boutique hotel coming to Puerto Rico and we were super excited. It had been a while since the popular island introduced a new development, so it was most welcome. Since then, the Olive Hotel has remained one of those hidden secrets, which we can appreciate. Still, people ought to know more about this sexy spot that was recently visited by brunette bombshell Roselyn Sanchez, who just launched a television series produced by Eva Longoria and starring Judy Reyes, Ana Ortiz and Susan Lucci, called 'Devious Maids'. Oh, and we stopped by, too.
Lobby Layout: Upon walking in the Olive, you get the feeling you’ve just stepped into someone’s living room. And in a way you have. The small, but heavily decorated space is filled with treasures from the owners travels. We were looking right, left, up and down at the paintings and unusual artifacts. It also happens that the Olive has a sister hotel, the budget-friendly Hostería del Mar, where you can find more of the owners eclectic collection.
Checking In: Check-in was swift and accompanied by a glass of wine (hola!), which we weren’t mad at. We were handled an old-fashioned tasseled key and led via elevator up to our room.
Room Reaction: When we first mentioned the opening of this hotel and showed the first images, we thought the rooms would be huge. Well, our room was a mite smaller than what we expected. In fact, it was called a petit chambre . One could touch the shower wall from the bed, and the sink was outside of the toilet. Definitely the European style the website described, still, the open-design did take us off guard at first.
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Last week we told you about the first star-studded wedding at the new Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, but today we’re focusing on the hotel’s own celebrity. That would be Spanish chef extraordinaire and ThinkFoodGroup owner José Andrés who opened the restaurant Mi Casa at the luxury resort.
Normally you’ll find José’s restaurants on the U.S. mainland at the SLS hotels in Miami and Beverly Hills, as well as other restaurants in Washington D.C., Las Vegas and other cities. However, having eaten at a few of those places, we found familiar items from those far-away restaurants right on hand at Mi Casa, so we’d like to think that they are the chef's favorites, or perhaps they’re a starter menu and he’ll be creating items to put the Ritz-Carlton stamp on Mi Casa.
Our photo gallery highlights the fun design and food surprises we found at the restaurant.
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The Ritz-Carlton, Dorado Beach Reserve in Puerto Rico has only been open since December, but a boatload of guests have already booked and stayed, even with their most-expensive-resort-on-the-island rep. However, even this high-class hotel's chops were tested when they had their first wedding of the season—a big ‘un with a $5 million budget to spend.
Plus, they only had one month to pull it off.
Who was this anxious-to-wed couple? Actor/musician Duane McLaughlin and his fiancé, Lumiere De Vie skin care product founder, Amber Ridinger. Originally the pair considered the St. Regis (at the time, the most swank space in PR), but after hearing about the RC Dorado and taking just one look, Amber changed her mind. Soon after, wedding invitations were sent out to the couples’ high profile pals (which included Khloe Kardashian and Scottie Pippen) for their April nuptials.
Now that the Ritz Carlton Reserve Dorado Beach is opening on December 12th, travelers are booking as fast as we type this--and why not? The resort is impressive (and expensive).
We've talked at length about the Dorado's high points, from the Jose Andres restaurant to the five-acre spa with treehouse massage platforms. And didn't you hear? Guests will also receive gold bars at turndown. We lie about the latter, but it's not unlikely.
So, what's the fate of the original Ritz-Carlton, San Juan? It probably will no longer reign as mother hen to Puerto Rico's jetset—but it's still a top property that shouldn't be forgotten.
In fact, here are 5 reasons we encourage you to still stay there, especially if the Dorado's four-figure price tag is tripping you out.
As Puerto Rico says goodbye to native son Hector "Macho" Camacho, in what can only be described as a heinous crime, let's not forget that the island, though plagued with problems, has a sunnier side.
This view, taken from the El Conquistador Resort near Fajardo, is a shining example of the country's beauty.
The 18-hole, par 72 golf course has just one of the many gorgeous views from the hotel which is located atop of a steep hill overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
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With all the emphasis on “new!new! new!” we like it when an old lady gets her groove back. That’s kinda what happened today. After being shut down for 20 years, Puerto Rico’s historic Condado Vanderbilt Hotel flung open her doors to San Juan’s awaiting public. We are crazy jelly of the party that's happening tonight, but they're not there to see the rooms, which aren't ready yet. More on that in a bit.
A $270 million reno was done on the grand dame hotel built in 1919 by Frederick William Vanderbilt, kin to one of America's wealthiest families. The property was designed by the architectural firm responsible for The New York Biltmore and Grand Central Station. It closed in 1997 under the name Condado Beach Hotel after a few changes of hands, names, and in a state of disarray. Now it's being restored to its former grandeur that once attracted the likes of Errol Flynn, Bob Hope, and FDR.
We mentioned in June that the Ritz-Carlton’s first Reserve property in the Americas, the Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico would open in December. We weren’t sure if that would happen, but the company has just announced they’re now accepting reservations for its 12-12-12 debut. Given that it’s turned a mite chilly outside, we think this news is just in time for those looking to make winter getaway plans.
High season rates at the Ritz-Carlton Dorado start at $1,600 per night (down from the $1900 quoted in June), which is pretty hefty for Puerto Rico (although you do a beachfront room, a private plunge pool, and butler service). Plus, you’re paying for whatever it cost to get José Andrés to put his restaurant there.
Hopefully we’ll get to see what this resort looks like in person, but if the photos are any indication, this is going to be one caliente spot.