Just Back From…a long weekend in Puerto Rico with the social set.
Flight Plan: Puerto Rico is an easy journey from New York, plenty of direct flights to San Juan and just 4 hours in the air. Not so bad, and actually a welcome relaxing few hours in flight after work. I was met at the airport around midnight by the suited chauffeur from my hotel, which was an easy 40 minute drive from the airport.
Where I Stayed: Dorado Beach, a Ritz Carlton Reserve. It’s one of their top notch best, so I knew this would be no high-rise touristy beach hotel. “In the world as it is today, we need places of quiet beauty where people can get away, unwind, restore their spirits and energies,” said Laurance S. Rockefeller. He founded the Dorado Beach Resort in 1958 and given the state of the world today, his words are more profound than ever.
The entire 14000-acre property is largely recognized as the first eco-luxury resort in the Caribbean, and it has that air of easy elegance paired with modernist design. It nestles effortlessly into the nature of the surrounding geography and honors the land’s natural beauty and sweeping coastline. The property also comes with a powerful history; so many iconic names have stayed there–from Amelia Earhart to President Eisenhower, Ava Gardner, JFK and Joan Crawford. Even now, superstars and powerful figures regularly visit, and feel assured they’ll be undisturbed and be able to vacation in privacy.
My recent stay made it easy to understand why and how this property lures a certain kind of guest. It’s a ‘pampering to the max’ kind of place–but not so much that it feels stuffy and old school. There is too much fun to be had with a slew of mouthwatering cocktails and the heaven of having a wide selection of fine places to eat–from a sweet drop-in, cafe-style store with gourmet eats, to high-end, chic dining spots and a couple of eclectic cuisine experiences in between. Your every dining whim is satisfied here; if you have a longer stay, try them all.
Tour Group: My weekend was, in essence, a celebration of Dorado–but also a social gathering. The group was made up of friends of Ariana Rockefeller, the descendant grand-niece of the property’s founder. She had gathered her friends to celebrate the unveiling of her latest design collaboration, a line of signature designed accessories exclusively for Dorado Beach. The group included Coco Rocha, Malin Ackerman, Jack Donelly, Alex Lundqvist, Genevieve Gorder, Daniel Benedict, Andrew Saffir, Sophie Summer and Rob Thomas to name a few.
Best Daytime Activity: “Sea, sand, sun and serenity” was Laurence Rockefeller’s vision for Dorado Beach–which brings me to the spa. I have been lucky in my career to experience a variety of different hotel spa moments, but but this one, in all honesty, ranks very highly.
The Dorado’s spa is housed in an old working Hacienda, which is nearly 100 years old. Outside the main building is a 90-year old El Cupey tree, which looms outside like a beautiful but strange living prop from a Harry Potter movie. Walking past its immense curling branches, you walk through gigantic old Spanish doors and are swept into the entryway to the spa. Upon entry, you’ll walk through the most incredible apothecary entrance with sky-high rafters piled high with fragrant herbs and dried plants.
Your first glimpse beyond the exquisitely styled entryway is of a serene infinity pool, and you immediately sense the calm as you take in the fragrant essences in the air. Spa Botanico is an award-winning, 5-acre sanctuary built on an old fruit plantation that blends Puerto Rican ingredients and soothing, indigenous traditions from the original inhabitants of the island, the Taino people. The whole spa experience is designed to impart a holistic sense of well being, and I for one can testify that it certainly does.
After being personally greeted by my therapist, Meri Anne, I was led through a spectacular field of miniature pineapples to one of their beautifully designed pavilions–you can choose an indoor or outdoor experience or even a treetop location.
I had a wonderful deep tissue massage called the ‘Mano Santas,’ using local oils and herbs. The preparation oils are all made by the therapists themselves at the spa, using local plants. Everything is prepared on-site, and it’s quite special to experience the integration of nature in the treatments which take place entirely outdoors within a lush, tropical and very private setting. There are actually two dedicated garden settings–one for men and another for women.
Post massage, I headed for a dip in the ladies-only plunge pool area. I took a super hot bubbling spa pool, followed by an ice pool plunge and felt fully invigorated. Surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and birdsong, I could happily have stayed in that inner sanctum all day. But there was too much fun to be had with the fun group who were there with me for the weekend.
Best Thing I Ate: We spent our first evening dining on the sand toasting Ariana at a beautifully twinkling long candlelit table. Good conversation and lots of stories and secrets were shared. The whole escape culminated with a gourmet extravaganza at Dorado’s signature restaurant, Mi Casa, which is run by famed chef Jose Andres. With a number of chic restaurants in the U.S., he is a big name in culinary circles, renowned for introducing Americans to both avant-garde and traditional Spanish cooking. After local rum and many, many courses of what is possibly the best food I have ever eaten in the Caribbean, I retired to my glorious room to dream of another Dorado visit. Such a magical, special place…
Island Style: Ariana’s collection is made up of beautiful totes and clutches, the perfect accessories for vacation travel and beyond. The line is inspired by her beloved equestrian endeavors, with horse-bit details cleverly designed in waxed canvas, and pieces featuring a luxe gold Python trim. It’s a look which fits perfectly with the new season, where gold is high on the color charts. The bags will all be available exclusively at Dorado, and are a rather fitting homage to her great uncle’s vision for the property’s beauty and nature.
Why Puerto Rico? I love the Caribbean and over the years have travelled to most of the Islands. Yet one of the closet to the U.S. coastline had escaped my travels. I had never experienced the beauty and hospitality of Puerto Rico. After a month of Fashion Shows and Awards Season, when the opportunity comes along to head to the sun for R&R and celebrations it took no time to agree to head down to Puerto Rico to one of its most prestigious and historic hotels for celebrations and social fun with good friends.