Rockefellers, Rainforests and Rainbows

A Visit to Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

It’s often the little things that differentiate one resort from another. Of course the grounds, the beach, and the food are all important and Dorado Beach excels in all of these categories. But what it really comes down to is how the people that bring the Dorado to life make you feel when you're there. 

At our first lunch, the servers provided crayons and activity sheets for our children. Our little girl drew a rainbow and, on a whim, gifted it to our kind and attentive waiter. At our last meal, the management had gone out of their way to frame the rainbow painting our daughter had made and hang it on the wall of the restaurant near our table. They even hung a small plaque citing her as the artist. On top of that the same waiter created a beautiful rainbow painting of his own, inspired by our daughter, which he gifted to her. That is one example among many of the warmth and kindness of the staff that, together with the stunning beauty of the resort, make the Dorado such a special place to visit. 


Dorado Beach is a reserve, first developed in 1905 as a pineapple plantation by Alfred Livingston. His daughter, Clara Livingston, was one of the first licensed female pilots. As such, she became friends with Amelia Earhart who visited using the landing strip on the grounds that is still there today. In 1955, Laurence Rockefeller worked with Clara to create one of the first environmentally conscious resorts in the world. 


On arrival we passed one of the gorgeous 18-hole courses and paused to let a few of the permanent residents of the property roll by in their charming, personalized golf carts. Pulling up to the hotel itself, a team of smiling bellman greeted us by name and offered us a sampling of tropical fruit flavored popsicles. Behind them was a lily pond, home to turtles, ducks, and a few graceful white herons. Modern luxury meets tasteful rustic charm with wooden walkways connecting the lobby to the shops, library and restaurants. Everywhere you’re surrounded by lush greenery that opens to sweeping views of the ocean. 


We sped to our room through the vibrant jungle on one of the many hotel golf carts. (Outside, our neighbors had parked some of the bicycles the hotel makes available to guests.) A wide, spacious common room with dining area opens onto a beautiful outside patio. The enormous bathroom has a modern tub and huge shower. A glass door leads to a private outdoor shower so you can rinse off under the canopy of native trees and plants. The bedroom alone was much larger than my first NYC apartment. Both the main room and the common room have floor to ceiling glass sliding doors that seamlessly connect the room with the outdoors. There is a second set of dark wooden louvered and screened doors for those who want the breeze without the bugs. The room also has a wide back patio with a private heated pool. Beyond the pool is a path to a bright green lawn where our children flew kites, gifts of the hotel. Beyond that lies the breathtaking beach. 


When the Rockefeller family took control of the property, they dropped a line of rocks as a breakwater from tip to tip of the half moon bay. The waves from the Atlantic break on these rocks sending dramatic explosions of white sea spray into the air. This breakwater creates a calmer shoreline, ideal for swimming, paddle-boarding, and snorkeling. It also provides the constant soothing sound of crashing and rolling waves. 

The sand is powdery and clean, ideal for building sandcastles. Up early with young kids, when we reached the beach the chairs already had fresh towels laid out. Settle in with a book and an attendant appears with bottled water in a bucket of ice, ready to take your order for a snack or a drink. I’ll never forget that beach, the near daily rainbows and the pride in my son’s face after riding his first wave.  

Adjoining the beach is the Positivo pool which I can safely say is the most stunning and well-designed pool I’ve ever seen. The pool’s tile is rich, dark blue which contrasts with the bright Caribbean Sea. The waving palm trees and infinity edges weave the pool into the surrounding rocks, sand, and beach. At the tip of the resort is a massive hot spa and, for the adventurous, a refreshing plunge pool kept icy cold. 

Our daughter had never been snorkeling, but had stared in amazement at her grandfather’s tropical fish tank back home. One of the hotel staff heard us discussing her fear of the snorkel mask and brought us a full-face version. Her absolute delight upon seeing her first fish is something I’ll cherish forever. “Do the fishies really live here daddy?” she asked. I’ll always be grateful for the thoughtfulness of the person who went out of their way to give my daughter that moment. 


There are three main restaurant options, along with impressively fast in room dining. Coa has special options like Wagyu beef and an expansive wine list. There is a broad bar and lounge area with live music nearly every night. Asian-influenced Positivo offers an Omakase option, tasting menus, and premium sake. The sand floors combine with the sea air to make the outdoor dining experience lovely. Encanto also provides open-air dining and a varied menu. I personally recommend the Churrasco: expertly grilled steak with traditional Puerto Rican mamposteao. It goes very well with the local dark rum, Barrilito. Be sure to ask for “Tres Estrellas” they will know exactly what you mean. 


An enormous ancient Ficus tree sits outside the entrance of Spa Botanico, which itself resembles a hidden temple. The reflecting pool echoes the feel of a sacred space dedicated to relaxation. There is a male and female side, with clothing optional, and a wide menu of treatments. Lush greenery is everywhere in the private areas, and it seems the spa was carved out of the wilderness. 


As if the surf, sand, and sun weren't enough, there is also a waterpark on the property with waterslides, a lazy river, and electric bumper boats. The Rockefeller trail is 11 miles through the forests. You can also enjoy kite surfing, sailing, windsurfing, or trips into nearby old San Juan. They offer daily coordinated activities for the kids and an interesting and informative rum tasting. 


The thing tying all this beauty and indulgence together is still the way you are treated by the people of Dorado Beach. The location is pure magic, the rooms are opulent and comfortable, and the food is delectable. All of these things stand head and shoulders above other resorts. What makes the place special is the way the staff makes everything seem so effortless, allowing guests to relax and enjoy themselves. The resort is a memory factory. There were too many perfect moments to count. 


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