With hundreds of flights a day arriving from mainland U.S. gateways and no passport required for entry, Puerto Rico is the most hassle-free Caribbean destination for mainland citizens. The destination is also a class act: Among its diverse lodging facilities are upscale resort hotels that offer a generous dose of pampering along with sun, sand and hospitality. You can tour caves, sail on a bioluminescent bay, dive, ride the waves, go deep-sea fishing or museum-hop in this culture and activity-rich U.S. territory. During the summer, you can also lodge affordably, even in the most luxurious places.
Hilton Worldwide has 11 Puerto Rican properties, each enticing in an entirely different way. In the heart of the city's happening Isla Verde district, El San Juan Hotel & Casino, The Waldorf Astoria Collection is a chic urban getaway. Its refreshingly renovated guest rooms glimmer with the whites, yellows and oranges of summer. Its bars are gathering spots for martini-mad stylistas. Its candlelit retro lounge The Rose sizzles with burlesque-style floor shows. And its pool and beach area, named the Encanto Beach Club, is a sensational scene: Cabanas, day beds, pulsing music and pool-side meal service make a day in the sun no ordinary day at the beach. Eight restaurants cater to many tastes and budgets. 888-579-2635, elsanjuanhotel.com
For an entirely different San Juan experience, escape to the Caribe Hilton, San Juan. A long-established colonial-style Puerto Rico luxury hotel with contemporary decor that spreads across 17 acres over an exclusive peninsula, the Caribe Hilton is the city's largest hotel and offers a wealth of experiences under its roof. In addition to a secluded beach and an array of oceanfront swimming pools, discerning travelers will have their choice of charms. Lush gardens and the fullservice Olas Spa are timeless temptations, and add to that eight restaurants and bars, including Morton’s The Steakhouse for USDA Prime beef and Rotisserie II Giardino for northern Italian cuisine. There’s always the swim-up bar — be sure to order a piña colada here, as the Caribe Hilton is the fruity beverage’s birthplace. 877-GO-HILTON, hiltoncaribbean.com/sanjuan
They call it an urban resort, and indeed the Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza melds the best of city and nature. Perfectly perched where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Condado Lagoon, this modern mecca offers not only crisp, metropolitan, brightly hued guest rooms but also a beautiful beach, one saltwater swimming pool and two freshwater ones, tennis courts, an alfresco massage area and a 24-hour casino. After a long rest in a waterfront hammock for two, indulge in Chef Wilo Benet’s Nuevo Latino fare at Pikayo or unwind over barbecue at the same chef’s Varita Woodburning Rotisserie. Cap off the evening with a cocktail at the new Moon Bar, which opens every day at noon and offers daily drink specials. 888-722-1276, condadoplaza.com
If a spell in the country is more your vacation style, book a room or suite at El Conquistador Resort, The Waldorf Astoria Collection or a villa at Las Casitas Resort, The Waldorf Astoria Collection. The pair share a massive 500-acre property and an extraordinary array of services yet offer different lodging options. Las Casitas also offers butler service. Located on the eastern end of mainland Puerto Rico where the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet, these co-resorts wow visitors with their list of amenities. Coqui Water Park is an onsite aquatic center loaded with slides, pools, a rope bridge and a lazy river. For a more traditional recreational experience, Palomino Island has a beach, water sports, horseback riding and scuba diving. An 18-hole Arthur Hills golf course, a Golden Door® Spa, seven pools, a private marina and a casino are other diversions. Dining outlets include an outpost of New York’s renowned Strip House steakhouse. 888- 557-6370, elconresort.com, lascasitasvillage.com
Travel to Puerto Rico’s southern coast and discover the Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort. This secluded resort hotel is built around a meandering lagoon-shaped swimming pool and a prime stretch of beach. The kids can indulge themselves in the many activities the hotel has to offer, such as a dedicated playground including mini golf, basketball, ping pong, etc. The Costa Caribe Golf & Country Club caters to those enjoying the 27-hole PGA championship golf course. Tennis courts, spa treatments and a casino are also on the premises. 877-GO-HILTON, hiltoncaribbean.com/ponce
The above Hilton Worldwide Puerto Rico properties have enticing offers, such as Summer Getaways. Check the "specials & packages" section of each website to see your options.
World-class luxury will soon debut on Puerto Rico. In October 2010, The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort will bring to the Caribbean a cadre of butlers and Pratesi linens, champagne spa treatments and celebrity-chef dinners.
This splendid new resort will be part of the exclusive Bahia Beach Resort Community, a 483-acre sanctuary designed to fit into its natural environment and boasting a challenging Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed golf course. Designed and inspired by nature, the resort has been named a Certified Gold Audubon International Signature Sanctuary — the Caribbean’s first development to earn this prestigious ranking. The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort itself will be intimate, with 139 inspiring accommodations — each a junior suite or one-bedroom resort residential accommodation. The decors will be stylish with rich textures and thoughtful lighting. For amenities, expect high-tech: flat-screen LCD televisions, DVD/CD players, iPod docking stations and BOSE sound systems along with custom furnishings and top-shelf sundries. You will be catered to throughout your stay. From the moment guests arrive, a St. Regis Butler will ensure all of their needs and desires are tended to, from welcoming them to their rooms and unpacking their suitcases to delivering morning coffee and arranging for island tours Located along a two-mile beach between the scenic Espiritu Santo and Herrera rivers, the St. Regis is lovingly landscaped with coconut and almond trees. Guests may spend their days lounging around the sprawling freeform swimming pool or boating, snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing, fishing or water skiing. When it’s time to dine, guests may treat their palates enjoying meals in Fern Restaurant, by renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, or at Molasses, a stylish casual restaurant in the plantation-style golf club. Take casual meals at the Pool and Beach Grill. Reflecting the resort’s sensibilities, the Remède Spa will be indulgent. Guests will be welcomed with a glass of bubbly, truffles by chocolatier Jacques Torres and soft Kashwere throws. Each of the treatment rooms will have its own private outdoor terrace.
The golf course makes the most of the natural environment and will be managed by Troon Golf. Much of the course overlooks the azure ocean, other parts the lakes, and gentle breezes are almost guaranteed. The stone-and-wood golf club will have a beachfront swimming pool and a pro shop. 877-ST-REGIS or 877-787-3447, stregis.com/bahiabeach
One would never know it from the serene ambiance within the Rincon Beach Resort, but this boutique beachfront hotel in the Porta del Sol is being expanded. A third restaurant and a 3,550-square-foot state-of-the-art convention center are under construction here (you can’t hear even a hammer inside the hotel), expanding a property that consistently earns AAA's coveted four-diamond rating year after year.
Eager to keep vacationers visiting during the transition, the resort is offering a Stress Me Less promotion. For only $199 per room per night, you'll receive a welcome beverage (request the Jolly @ the Beach, which is Bacardi Big Apple rum and Passoa — a passionfruit liqueur - with sweet-andsour mix and cranberry juice); lodging in a Superior room, which is a spacious 350 square feet and decorated with fine wood furniture and rich fabrics; a full American breakfast daily; a "stress reliever" kit that consists of an eye mask and ear plugs; and government taxes and resort fees, which means you'll discover no surprise charges.
Set along Alimarante Beach, Rincon Beach Resort offers an intimate, nurturing getaway at an approachable price. Those staying in its 112 rooms and suites gather around the infinity-edge freeform swimming pool with swim-up bar that overlooks the ocean, dip into the whirlpool tub and try water sports in the warm sea. A playground, a giant chessboard and a mini putting green are also on the premises. Fine dining meals are offered in Brasas Restaurant, with a tapas menu served on the terrace, and casual lunches and dinners are served at the poolside Pelican Bar & Grill. 866-589-0009, rinconbeach.com
A postmodern architectural signature on the popular Isla Verde beach, The InterContinental San Juan Resort & Casino is a beautiful urban resort dotted with daybeds and waterfalls, lounging adults and frolicking children Although the beach beckons for sunbathing and water sports, some would argue that the pool area is the heart of this resort. Newly remodeled, this outdoor playground features a brick-lined lagoon-style pool with a swim-up bar, lush landscaping and white-and-blue cloth cabanas ideal for open-air shade. Throughout the day, you'll be invited to participate in any number of activities. Take a Zumba class or a massage workshop, play bingo or learn blackjack. Watch a chef demonstrate Italian cooking or try your hand at coconut bowling. When you’re ready for luxury, head to your guest room, tastefully appointed in crisp neutrals and sea blues. At the spa, receive pampering indoors or out in the form of Caribbean wraps and Sun Pampering Massages. For dinner, look to an array of tempting restaurants: Alfredo specializes in Italian fare, Momoyama Japanese cuisine, Ciao Mediterranean and Splash American-style salads and sandwiches. Cap off your evening with the excitement of the on-site casino.
Your kids will adore Planet Trekkers, a children's club that combines fun activities like mini beach Olympics and salsa dancing classes with lessons on ecology. 800-443-2009, icsanjuanresort.com
As you can see, Puerto Rico has a bounty of lodging options - enough to match its array of activities. Take advantage of summer prices.