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At Home in Puerto Rico

Dorado Beach: Beautiful Inside and Out

When Bill Bensley designed the lush Spa Botánico at the Dorado Beach – A Ritz-Carlton Reserve in bright, shiny Puerto Rico, he visualized the engaging space with his team, then spent months at Dorado Beach, breathing life into the walls and using his hands and ingenuity to create a spa that looks and feels like Mother Nature herself was the designer.

The Spa rates as one of his 10 personal favorites among his infamous design projects worldwide, as does the hotel.

The results are realized immediately when you step through the stone archway of the Spa Botánico, five Zen acres of lush gardens, pineapple orchards, his-and-her pools set into the shady garden tiers, roomy private outdoor shower pavilions and oh yes, a menu of soothing holistic treatments that will make even the most stressed traveler unwind into a pool of bliss.

While Spa Botánico is a destination in itself, the entire property at the Ritz-Carlton Reserve is breathtaking and thoughtfully designed to provide an elevated, yet grounding experience. A cadre of ladies and gentlemen (that’s how the Ritz refers to staff here) greeted me in the shady Arrival Pavilion with genuine smiles, helping hands and a cool coconut popsicle when I pulled up. My butler (at least for the duration of my stay) ushered me into a stunning oceanside room, with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors leading to a balcony with eye-level views of the Atlantic. The warmth and elegance of the room’s interior was rivaled only by the palm-fringed beach view and warm breeze.

The bright bathroom was equally as awe-inspiring, with a soaking tub, shower, separate loo, double vanity and a wall of windows to a very private outdoor shower. Full-size Spa Botánico products, a chunky loofa sponge and a mountain of fluffy white towels were waiting for me. A softly lit butler’s counter with a tea drawer, mini fridge, bowl of fruit and snacks and Nespresso maker was nestled into the hall outside the amply lit closet complete with a gorgeous robe and branded flip-flops. This room goes down as one of my all-time favorites. 

Every lady and gentleman I met at the Dorado Beach was bursting with pride for both their work home and the island of Puerto Rico. They all wanted you to know that they and their neighbors await visitors with open arms.  Some remnant damage of Hurricane Maria remains in the island’s interior communities and though it’s not forgotten, the ferocity of the  2017 storm that ravaged the island has given away to renovations and a renewed spirit of hope and celebration.

Meals in the restaurants, Encanto Beach Club Bar and Grill and Positivo Sand Bar and to-go provisions from La Cocina Gourmet were memorable with artful plates of local produce and fish and  Asian dishes all under the watchful eye of Chef Jose Miguel de la Puente. The kitchens are full of love and passion for food and in fact, the Ritz kitchen was home base for renown chef and activist José Andrés during Hurricane Maria when his World Central Kitchen made millions of meals for people in all of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities. 

This love for the land and its people shines through the many diverse experiences offered at Dorado Beach. Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment introduces guests (young and young at heart) to the natural wonders and rich cultural traditions of Puerto Rico from groovy beachside classrooms. Also featured in the program is the historic Rockefeller Trail originally conceived by Laurance Rockefeller in the 1950s to create a walkable, open-air sanctuary through the resort's surroundings.

Dorado Beach Reserve is beautiful, inside and out, with the warmth of its ladies and gentlemen a beacon for guests who will want to return again and again.