This is the walkway to Royal Isabela’s registration desk. It was not lifted from a cookie-cutter template. The castlelike design is a reflection of old Puerto Rico and is by far the most visible structure on the otherwise humble grounds.
Life on the Cliffs
The edge of Royal Isabela‘s property has one of the most beautiful overlooks on Puerto Rico’s northwest coast. Hard to believe this cliff was once used as a local dump. The first mission of the resort’s owners was to hire dozens of workers to make it healthy again. One of their rewards was finding a butterfly thought to be extinct in a discarded water bottle.
There are only 20 casitas (1,500-square-foot houses) at Royal Isabela, so the entire place is quiet. One favorite interior feature was the wall between the living area and the bedroom: The entire wall slides away like a huge pocket door, so we could wake up to first light on the ocean and to what lay outside. …
Each casita has a plunge pool for waking up in the morning (we used them for this) or for cooling off in the afternoon (this too). Trees and shrubs are strategically positioned so every guest has tunnel vision out to the sea, but no peripheral vision next door.
You want to know where dinner comes from? Hit an errant shot on Royal Isabela‘s hole No. 2 and you might wind up in the herb garden. “The key to great food is not ingredients,” says resort chef Jose Carles. “It’s fresh ingredients.” We helped Jose pick cherry tomatoes, watermelon and basil, and then watched him turn them into part of a five-course meal.
The golf etiquette seems to spill over to the saltwater pool. From the spot where this picture was taken, Robert could talk with his daughter on the other side of the pool. Emphasis on talk — no shouting.
Each casita has a bathroom the size of a locker room. Mom could take a bath while her daughter took a shower while dad took care of some business, all in their own sectioned-off areas. The three shower heads (one built into the ceiling) turn hair washing into recreation.
Puerto Rico’s Best Beaches
Down the cliffs from Royal Isabela and just west of the beach town of Isabela are perhaps the best beaches on the northwest coast. Waves crash into the rocks and blow skyward. Feet sink into the soft sand. On this evening, there are four cars in the small parking area.
Most Natural Golf Course
The brothers who dreamed up [Royal Isabela](/Royal Isabela ) (Stanley and Charlie Pasarell) were reluctant to change the landscape. So the remains of a sugar-cane mill sit at the back of one hole. An almond tree blown over by a hurricane 20 years ago still leans across a fairway. Workers collected grass seeds and planted them on the resort’s farm so they can constantly resod the course with indigenous grasses. “Nature is our best architect,” says Stanley.
Making a Difference
The golf pros at Royal Isabela run a program for local kids (and children of guests on request). The organic garden is tended by homeless men who earn paychecks and wear collared Royal Isabela shirts. Employees adopt stray dogs and cats. “How could we be here and not help the community around us?” asks Stanley Pasarell, a partner in the Royal Isabela project.