These days, it seems like everyone – from crypto traders to entrepreneurs – is moving to Puerto Rico in search of the good life, not to mention attractive tax breaks.
The Rockefellers, visionary as they were, had a clear vision for Puerto Rico, known as Encanto Island, or “island of enchantment”. In 1955, Laurence S. Rockefeller purchased Dorado Beach, then a pristine jungle coastline 30 minutes west of San Juan. He then developed what was then the Caribbean’s first eco-resort set on 50 acres of beachfront property. For the resort’s opening, Rockefeller brought together friends such as Elizabeth Taylor, John F. Kennedy and Mickey Coat.
The appeal of Dorado Beach has stood the test of time, but now it looks a little different. Today, Dorado Beach is a Ritz Carlton Reserve, an elite group of five properties around the world known for their superior service and accommodations. It features a host of upscale restaurants, amenities aplenty, and an elite golf course designed by renowned design masterminds Robert Trent Jones and Robert Trent Jones Jr. The lush tropical gated community is what why the Dorado Beach area is best known among luxury travelers. .
Residences at the Ritz Carlton Dorado Beach, many of which are located along the golf course, start around US$12 million and go up to US$80 million. (Property values have quadrupled in recent years.)
As one owner of one of the houses said, “Everyone wants to be here.” Airbnbs in Dorado in general are also in high demand, as luxury condo resorts and construction cranes are popping up everywhere. But outside of this exclusive enclave, there’s another world not to be missed, one that has the vibe of a largely undiscovered beach and surf town with a growing food and drink scene. and dynamic.
Dorado Beach, A Ritz Carlton Reserve, is considered one of the best resorts in the area. Decades earlier, the Rockefellers had the foresight to turn what looked like a great surf beach into calm, swimmable water by moving large boulders to break up the waves, creating pockets of lagoon along the beachfront. Rooms are larger than many NYC apartments — many have plush outdoor showers, plunge pools, and private paths to the beach.
If you ever wanted to leave the property — or your room, for that matter — you wouldn’t have to because there are about half a dozen dining options. Don’t miss Encanto, a casual beachfront Mediterranean restaurant serving addictive naan (Indian bread), grilled fresh fish and indulgent desserts like churros. Coa, the property’s fine-dining restaurant, is a destination in itself, particularly on Friday nights when it features live jazz, but the cuisine – simple, fine grilled fish and the best Wagyu beef you’ll find less than of a thousand kilometers – is the real draw.
For a more accessible price, a few steps from the Ritz Carlton is the Hyatt Residence Club, where rooms, even in high season, cost around 400 USD a night. The Hyatt has 82 residence-style rooms, including two-bedroom residences with kitchens. The beachfront property has an on-site swimming pool and fitness center.
Arguably one of the best views in Dorado can be experienced at Kikita Beach House. This is the perfect place for a sunset drink. The sweeping, expansive view from a patio on a promontory above the Atlantic is also ideal for watching surfers ride the foamy waves. An added bonus: you’ll get a taste of the local happy hour scene.
Down the street, about a four-minute walk from Kikita Beach House, is Rombo, one of the area’s most inventive cocktail bars. Opened in 2020 by a mixologist from Marmalade, a restaurant in San Juan considered one of the best in Puerto Rico, Rombo, easily the hippest establishment in Dorado, brings a true speakeasy-like experience to the city. The drinks, at extremely reasonable prices, are works of art. Enjoy any cocktail made with mezcal or ginger for a memorable taste experience.
Tabla is another newcomer to the Dorado culinary scene. This tapas-style restaurant has an extensive wine list, serves top-notch inventive cocktails, and so-called small plates that are mostly much larger than appetizer size. Do not miss the octopus and the vegetarian version of the house alcapurrias, a staple of Puerto Rican street food. For a true Dorado institution, try El Ladrillo – “red brick” in Spanish – which has been around for over 45 years. The art filled restaurant does very authentic paella and serves excellent sangria.
Dorado is known for two things: the beaches and the golf courses. There are many courses to choose from, many of which pass through the jungle and coconut groves by the sea. The most prestigious course, which can only be used if you are a Ritz Carlton guest, resident or guest of the guest, is part of the TPC network and has been named the #1 golf course in Puerto Rico. East Course is for players of all skill levels and Sugarcane is the most difficult.
Don’t worry, not everything in Dorado is for members only. Visitors can go to the public beaches known as balnearios, including Cerro Gordo Beach, which is dotted with palm trees and is just as stunning as the beach at the five-star resort. Next door you will find a park, also known as Cerro Gordo, popular for running, walking and mountain biking.
Those staying at the Ritz Carlton can take kitesurfing lessons — a sport for which Dorado has particularly good conditions — with Goodwinds Sports. Owned by former Olympic windsurfer Karla Barrera and her husband, Phil Morstad, Goodwinds offers lessons in kitesurfing, surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking and sailing. It also offers week-long kitesurfing and windsurfing summer camps for teenagers.
The author was a guest of the Ritz Carlton Reserve Dorado Beach.