Nothing books a warm weather getaway faster than some cold weather. Luxury Travel Advisor has scoped out a couple of Caribbean hotels, including a long-awaited reopening, with some insider intel.
Puerto Rico is one of our favorite destinations. It’s a melting pot of cultures — Latin American, Caribbean, American. The island is well on its way to recovering from Hurricane Maria in 2017, putting up record-breaking numbers in 2019. Recently, the island was hit by another natural disaster: A series of earthquakes, with a series of the larger events topping a magnitude of 6.0. The good news? The affected area is strictly in the southeast of the island, with only two tourism sites — Punta Ventana in Guayanilla and the Ruins of the Lighthouse in Guánica — reporting damages; no other natural wonders across the Island have been compromised. Discover Puerto Rico tells us, “Travelers should not be dissuaded by the state of emergency. Governor [Wanda] Vázquez has kept that in place to continue to ensure those in need in the southern region receive adequate government funding and support.” As for the rest of the island, it’s open and operating business as usual.
One resort we can’t recommend enough is The St. Regis Bahia Beach, Puerto Rico. Following Hurricane Maria, the resort closed down and underwent a $60 million refurbishment, which touched upon nearly every aspect of the resort. It reopened in December 2018. While we didn’t have the opportunity to experience the property prior to its renovation, we loved the look post-update.
All of the rooms have a much brighter appearance. Our Deluxe Guestroom offered plenty of space — including a bathroom alone worth traveling for — despite it being the lowest room category. All rooms (starting at 674 square feet) have at least a terrace or patio, a walk-in closet and 55-inch HDTV. And about that bathroom: Beyond the dual vanities, there is a massive, walk-in rain shower and a deep soaking tub that’s the cure for any long day. If you’re looking for additional space or have kids in tow, consider one of the suites: Astor, Luxury or St. Regis. The one-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot Governor Suite is the top accommodation on property.
Luxury travel advisors may contact Julie Miller ([email protected]), director of sales and marketing.
A highlight of the property is the pool lined with cabanas. The multi-tiered pool (or one of its adjacent cabanas) is definitely a worthy spot to spend a full afternoon. Alternately, the beach is just a few feet away, if that’s more your scene. Fun Fact: Turtles come to the beach to lay their eggs from February to May, with hatchings several months later. During our visit, we were lucky to witness baby turtles hatching (although they were all collected for research before being released to the ocean). It was certainly an awesome experience.
If you’re a bit more active, golfers will love the Robert Trent Jones Jr. course, with views of the beach and rainforest from just about every hole. Something unique about The St. Regis Bahia Beach is its three sanctuaries and its in-house “green team” led by a marine biologist. Tip: Be sure to book an on-property kayak experience with a biologist. On our tour, we saw a variety of bird species, as well as turtles and iguanas. It was also very insightful to learn about how Hurricane Maria affected the environment and how the area is recovering.
Good to know: We departed our kayak tour from The Boathouse, which also offers plenty of other equipment for exploring the resort. Here, guests can rent kayaks or stand-up paddle boards of their own, bicycles to explore the numerous nature and bike trails throughout the resort or partake in catch-and-release fishing. There’s even an inflatable water playground that was beckoning to us (but ultimately passed on).
The Iridium Spa is another can’t-miss. Originally scheduled for a deep tissue massage, a light sunburn had us call an audible at the last minute; our masseuse Josefina was very helpful in recommending another treatment, using cooling oils and lotions that had us feeling right as rain afterwards. The spa offers four signature treatments: The Tropical Sanctuary, Caribbean Coffee Legend, Platano Leaf Wrap and Bahia Beach Organic Ritual. In all, there are 10 rooms (four couple’s rooms), a hair and nail salon, cold plunge pool, steam room, sauna and jacuzzi. Be sure to book at least two days in advance.
There are three dining venues on property: Paros, the fine dining option, serving Greek and Mediterranean dishes with a bit of Caribbean flare; Seagrapes, an all-day restaurant serving both local and international dishes; and The St. Regis Bar. Take our advice: Order the Oyster highball cocktail, made with Paros-infused oyster vodka, caper and parsley sea salt and lemon soda. It works. The must-order dish at Paros is the lobster rice.
If you want to get off-property, Castillo Tours has a variety of activities and excursions. Since we can’t get enough kayaking, we opted for the “Glowing Bay Adventure,” which takes you to the northeast of the island into Laguna Grande. Note: Plan this for a very cloudy night or one with a new moon — the darker the better. Since it wasn’t very dark our night, our tour guide game planned a bit, throwing a tarp over the kayaks to help see the glowing “dinoflagellates” in the water. Tip: For an off-property dinner, either to or returning from the Glowing Bay Adventure, head to La Estación, which blends American barbecue with Caribbean flavors and spices. Another option, in Luquillo, are the Kioskos (kiosks). Set along the beach, the Kioskos are a strip of bars, restaurants and shops where you will find mostly locals. One of the more popular options is La Parrilla (Kiosko No. 2).
To us, there’s hardly any better way to get to know a destination than through its cuisine — which is why we also booked a Sunset Walk & Taste Tour in Old San Juan. The tour took us to eight different restaurants and bars to sample what the locals are eating. It was definitely a fantastic way to sample some very impressive food and drink, but we also learned plenty about the history of Puerto Rico and San Juan from our guide, Pablo Garcia Smith. Highlights include: Chocobar Cortés (in operation since 1929), Deaverdura (try the maví juice!) and La Factoría (named one of The World’s 50 Best Bars in 2019).
Another option, which is becoming more of a year-round destination, is Bermuda. During our recent visit, we stayed at The Loren at Pink Beach; it is set on an absolutely stunning stretch of sandy and rocky beach. (Don’t worry, there’s a plenty long-enough stretch of sand to enjoy the water.)
Our favorite spot on property was the pool, which affords views of the rocky coast to the left of the property’s semi-private beach on the right. Guests can reserve one of four cabanas, which can be done the day of but the earlier the better. There’s also a jacuzzi and a station with snorkel equipment and Sea Scooters that guests are allowed to use at their leisure. (Pink Beach is home to colorful parrotfish that can be seen feeding on the reefs.)
Adjacent to the pool is The Pink Beach Club, the hotel’s all-day dining restaurant. All seating is semi-outdoors and if the weather’s nice (as it most often is), we recommend requesting a table along the exterior of the venue, closest to the water. For a quick lunch, we really enjoyed the Fish & Chips; for something a bit lighter, we also liked the Maine Lobster Roll. Perhaps our favorite dish, though, was Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, available for Sunday brunch. Marée Lounge is the other option. This is a more relaxed bar and lounge, with a pool table and large HDTV. To embrace the elevated sports bar feel, order the buffalo chicken lollipops (but you can’t go wrong with anything on the “light bites” menu). Good to know: For special events, Marée has a private dining room with seating for 10 and its own dedicated servers. The culinary team is led by chef Tim Sullivan, who, as often as possible, uses local fruits and vegetables from small-scale farmers and works with local fishermen.
There are only 45 rooms at The Loren, and none really offer bad views (although the second floor would be our recommendation). We stayed in an Ocean King, which has a large bathroom and furnished terrace with two lounge chairs, couch and table (a total of 600 square feet). For larger parties or families, The Loren has two- and three-bedroom suites, ranging from 1,600 to 2,200 square feet. All bathrooms have double vanities, separate bathtubs, rain showers and Malin+Goetz products.
The Loren has three 3,600-square-foot, three-bedroom Villas. Each has a private plunge pool, a furnished pool deck and a grill area.
Good to know: The Loren also has three villas and The Residence. Each of the three-bedroom villas measure 3,600 square feet and has its own plunge pool. The Residence sits on five acres adjacent to the resort; it has a private beach, tennis court, gym, pool, outdoor and chef’s kitchen, media room and more.
Reach out to Anna Gaffney ([email protected]), director of sales and marketing.
The Loren’s spa is run by Sisley. There are three single rooms and one couple’s room, as well as a hair and nail salon, manicure and pedicure lounge, and men’s and women’s steam rooms. Popular options include the Bermuda Pink and Deep Blue Massages. The former is a “classic style” massage, while the latter is geared toward relieving muscle tension, increasing flexibility and improving overall muscle function. Sisley’s exclusive facial for The Loren is the Phyto-Aromatic Repluming Youth Facial With Rose. Aisha Spencer ([email protected]) is the spa director and owner.
To enhance your wellness stay, consider morning yoga with Todd Crews. Guests can pick from the rooftop patio (as we did) or on the beach. Should you prefer something a little more invigorating to start your day, opt for a morning beach workout. The hotel’s certified trainer will lead you through a fun and challenging cardio-based workout, which can be tailored for any level of fitness.
If you’re looking to get off property, Bermuda is home to several underground caves that are certainly worth a visit (although all a bit “touristy”); however, tours take about 30 minutes, so squeezing one into a packed itinerary is still pretty feasible. One way to get in your workout while seeing more of the island is a bike tour, an activity we opted for. The Loren arranged our trip with Social Cycles Bermuda, where we were accompanied by two of their cyclists. Good to know: They offer both manual and electric-assist bikes. With Social Cycles, we traversed up and down the Railway Trail, which offers brilliant views of the coast (note that much of this trail is off-road).
To get better acquainted with Bermuda’s natural beauty, you’ll want to take a nature tour through Tom Moore’s Jungle. You will come upon hidden caves (not as spectacular as the “touristy” options, but you’ll skip the crowds), beaches and crystal-clear lagoons. (Tip: Bring a bathing suit and dive in!) The Loren can also arrange for you to be met by a private chef, who can prepare a picnic lunch.
Golf enthusiasts will be happy to hear the nearby Mid Ocean Golf Club has an 18-hole course with impressive ocean views. History and art buffs should visit the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, located in the Bermuda Botanical Gardens.
To get around the island on your own, there’s no better way than via Twizy, a two-seat electric car, which can be rented through The Loren’s concierge. Tarryn Clark ([email protected]) is the hotel manager and oversees the concierge team. Guest Experience Curator Anais Vasconcelos ([email protected]) can also handle off-property requests.
For a formal night out, Tom Moore’s Tavern is the oldest restaurant in Bermuda (the building dates to 1652 and has been a tavern for over 200 years). Be sure to make reservations in advance. Menu items include Rack of Lamb, Duck Breast and Salmon Filet, among others; meals are served by servers in “formal” Bermuda wear (think shirt and jacket with pastel shorts and tall socks). A more casual option is The Swizzle Inn, where Bermuda’s popular rum punch (the Rum Swizzle) was invented. We recommend the fish chowder (which was more like a seafood chili — it was very good); be sure to wash it down with a Rum Swizzle. And, right across the street, is Bailey’s Bay Ice Cream Parlour if you’re looking for dessert.
In Hamilton, Bermuda’s capital, head to Yours Truly. It’s a hidden cocktail bar that makes you feel like a local — even just for finding it. Located up an alley off Front Street (Hamilton’s main road), the bar doesn’t have any signage and is sometimes even locked from the outside, meaning you have to ring the doorbell to gain access. But the cocktails are worth it.
Good to know: The Loren is just 10 minutes from Bermuda Airport, which will be opening a new terminal this summer. Sebastien Maingourd ([email protected]) is the general manager.
British Virgin Islands
A third property that you need to know about is Rosewood Little Dix Bay, which just reopened in January following a four-year renovation. Originally founded in 1964, the resort, located on Virgin Gorda, has been “completely reimagined to cater to today’s ultra-luxury traveler.” What can guests expect?
Five-star service begins before guests ever step foot on property. Prior to arrival, devoted butlers will contact guests to collect guests’ personal preferences (and other pertinent details). The butlers are available for any need (whether unpacking and packing or arranging dining reservations and daily activities) throughout the guest’s stay. Another neat feature? A “soap butler” will greet travelers when they arrive, offering a selection of local artisanal soaps from EC Soap Co. to enjoy throughout their stay. But even before this, guests arriving by plane in Tortola will be whisked away to one of the resort’s new luxury catamarans for the 20-minute transfer to Virgin Gorda. (Get the vacation started early by enjoying a Painkiller of Pelican Smash onboard.)
Each of the 80 accommodations (42 rooms, 35 suites, two beach houses and one hillside villa) offer unobstructed ocean views. If you’re looking for a beachside room, go for the One-Bedroom Suite (complete with a double patio and outdoor shower); if space is what you’re after, pick the One-Bedroom Pool Suite (with views overlooking the bay). Good to know: The Ocean View Junior Suites can connect to One- and Two-Bedroom Suites, which makes for a great option for larger parties.
Located on the island’s Dover Hill, the resort’s luxury villa offers additional space, privacy and the best views of Little Dix Bay and the nearby islands. The four-bedroom Villa Joy is the pick for larger families and groups of friends, with a living room and dining room, private pool, outdoor dining pavilion and barbecue area. The property’s original two-bedroom Columbus House and three-bedroom Laurance House both have large living spaces, a full kitchen, oversized terrace, private pool and direct access to the beach.
Guests have access to complimentary bikes and chauffeured golf cart transportation around the resort. Contact Emily Minor ([email protected]), sales manager.
Rosewood Little Dix Bay’s 1,075-square-foot One Bedroom Pool Suite has a separate living room and a private patio with a plunge pool overlooking the bay.
Rosewood Little Dix Bay also debuted four new dining concepts when it reopened. With a menu that rotates daily, the signature restaurant Reef House offers al fresco “farm-to-fork” dining, with provisions and ingredients sourced from the hotel’s on-site garden and local purveyors. Tip: Order the dry-aged, slow-grilled tomahawk steak. Additionally, Sugar Mill serves tapas-style dishes in an open-air stone mill; Pavilion offers international dishes served from an outdoor show kitchen; and Rum Room is stocked with 107 different labels of aged and rare rums.
With views over Sir Francis Drake Channel, Sense, A Rosewood Spa has eight treatment rooms and one couple’s Cliff Spa Suite. Off each treatment room is a private terrace providing ocean views to enjoy during or post-treatment. The signature treatment is the Afri-Cure, which comprises a traditional body wrap made of jumbie tree leaves to relieve fatigue, tamarind tree leaves to relieve pain and lemongrass to reduce inflammation, accompanied by a papaya mousse applied to the face to clean and moisturize your skin; the wrap and facial are followed by a warm body exfoliation using turmeric, honey, activated charcoal and harvested Salt Island sea salt.
The spa menu also includes experiential treatments that bring guests off property. For instance, The Baths Journey begins with a tour of and swim in the British Virgin Islands’ Baths National Park, followed by warm body scrub made of fig and bergamot, rose and ground apricot stone, which offers gentle exfoliation with hot stones to polish your skin. This is followed by an application of calming gel hydration mask made of aloe vera from the resort’s gardens, mixed with a pure plant mask to restore skin cells. While your body is cocooned, your hair and scalp will be pampered with a grapefruit and lemongrass hair mask to bring back its natural glow and moisture.
The spa is also home to a two-tiered infinity pool and yoga pavilion. A selection of indoor and outdoor activities is also available. Two hiking trails offer views of the island (be sure to go with a Hiking Butler who can assist by providing necessary gear, guides and tips) and the fitness center is outfitted with boxing and kickboxing equipment, strength and cardio machines and free weights, as well as a juice and smoothie bar. Further, Rosewood Little Dix Bay has six new tennis courts spanning cement and artificial grass surfaces, as well as two pickle ball courts (a resident tennis instructor is available for private lessons).
Advisors can reach out Ana Magno ([email protected]), spa director. Reserve your treatment and time three to four weeks prior to arrival.
A wide range of watersports are offered on property, including kayaking, paddle boarding and surfing. Guests can also arrange curated beach drops to Virgin Gorda’s seven secluded beaches complete with picnics and all essentials for a day on the sand. And, on property, the resort’s main pool has food and beverage service from Pavilion.
For guests looking to explore the British Virgin Islands, popular activities (in addition to visiting the Virgin Gorda’s beaches or Baths National Park) include boat rentals, yacht charters and deep-sea fishing excursions.
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