Palm tree shadows on the sand shelter you from the sultry Caribbean sun as you sit and listen to nature. There’s no one else on the beach, and you meditate on the contrasts around you—to one side there’s the expanse of sea, and to the other, a vast tropical forest. Jungle creatures and crashing waves sing you a lullaby. You’ve arrived.
Carved amid enchanting environments, the following highly intimate hotels (arguably some of the best hotels in Puerto Rico) make you feel they are your own. But be warned: staying here leads to interludes of intense escapism.
The waiter brings a ginger vodka and lobster croquettes—you take a sip, then a bite, and close your eyes to savor the pungent island flavors. A fragrant marlin with eggplant follows, and then you finish with the guava budin, a mouthwatering bread pudding showered with guava sauce. You’re at El Blok, a secluded inn on the utopian island of Vieques. And thanks to Chef Jose Enrique, the local trailblazer behind the restaurant’s illustrious cuisine, Vieques is now a place you can see as well as taste.
The sun rises as you walk past plantain trees by the Guajataca River, but with the ocean’s scent in the air you decide to follow a trail to the shore. Blustery seaside cliffs then appear, framing the sparkling golf course you’re now walking on. The day is getting warmer, and the butterflies and wildflowers lead the way back to your casita, where a refreshing private pool awaits. Royal Isabela, a sustainably minded resort on the west coast of Puerto Rico, feels like the home of your dreams. And for now, it is.
A Manos Santas (natural healer) gives you a gentle massage in the treehouse while an herb and oil guru prepares an ancient recipe for the session. You’re surrounded by the sweet smell of tropical flora and the chirping of local birds. Down below lies a lush pineapple garden and a lovely lily pond. It all makes you feel weightless and at ease, as if floating, in the exotic luxury of Spa Botánico, the five-acre sanctuary inside Dorado Beach.
Andalusian tiles at the grand entrance lead you inside this former Carmelite convent, built in 1651. This atmospheric bit of history is one of the best hotels in Puerto Rico. You marvel at the antique Spanish furniture and warm mahogany beams, just like Hemingway and Hayworth once did. Hidden inside, you find a leafy open terrace, where courtesy drinks and canapés await. Here, you allow yourself to devour several fish empanadas, right under a 300-year-old nispero tree, where renowned Spanish cellist Pablo Casals once played.