72-Hours in Puerto Rico

We are kicking off our new “72 Hours in” series with one of our favorite places visit, Puerto Rico. Fresh off taking the top spot in the New York Times’, “Best Places to Go in 2019,” it’s clear that Puerto Rico back and better than ever. Travel Curator recently spent some time in Puerto Rico, and we cannot wait to share our favorite spots with you…

STAY

Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

More spectacular than ever, this is one of the most exclusive resorts in the Caribbean. Whether you want to wind down and relax or adventure in Puerto Rico, Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve has you covered. The resort is a 30 minute drive from San Juan International Airport and worth every minute of it.

While you’re staying at this fabulous beach front resort, you’ll wake up to your own infinity-edge pool gleaming through floor-to-ceiling sliding doors. Once you’ve had your morning coffee, book a relaxing massage at Spa Botánico, or take a regional cooking class at La Cocina Gourmet Culinary Center. If adventure is more up your alley, explore the natural wonders of Puerto Rico with the Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program, which encourages guests to discover the beauty of the land and sea through a variety of activities such as snorkeling and hiking.

As a pioneer for environmental sustainability, the resort’s founder, Laurance Rockefeller, insisted, “No building taller than the palm trees,” so you can truly feel transported to paradise during your stay. Also featured at the resort are numerous ways to keep up that New Year’s fitness goal; with five tennis courts, an 11-mile paved trail for walking and biking, and a Fitness & Wellness Center, you may not want to lounge around at the rooftop pool all day (although we couldn’t blame you if you did). If you’re itching to dust off those clubs, hit the links at the Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve golf course. The course has previously hosted numerous world leaders, celebrities, and a PGA golf tournament. On top of the endless amenities offered, Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve’s property has some of the top dining options in Puerto Rico. We’ll take you through some of our favorite places to dine during your stay.

Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

EAT

Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve 

COA at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve 

Positivo Sandbar: Now, your feet don’t even have to leave the sand for you to enjoy a delicious meal. Positivo Sandbar at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve is known for its “barefoot elegant atmosphere,” stunning views of the ocean, and fantastic Asian cuisine. Choose from dishes at the sushi and ceviche bar, or experience one of the many mouthwatering plates at their Omakase Bar. For a refresh on a hot beach day, order one of Positivo’s signature cocktails which are made with fresh, local ingredients.

Encanto Beach Club, Bar and Grill: Encanto is your go-to spot for great vibes and tasty bites. The Mediterranean Coastal Cuisine concept was created by acclaimed chef, Jose Miguel de la Puente. This laid-back restaurant is also fun for socializing, people watching (Neil Patrick Harris, is that you?), and soaking up the sun.

COA: Also located on the Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve’s property is COA, a guest favorite featuring a tapas style menu with something for everyone. The word “coa” comes from Puerto Rico’s indigenous Caribbean people and is representative of an agricultural tool used for harvesting. Keeping that in mind, the restaurant is farm-to-table style and uses local, seasonal ingredients. In addition to admirable roots, COA includes a custom-made “Mi Brasa” wood burning oven and “La Cava” a wine room which has over 650 prestigious wine labels (making it one of the largest wine lists in the Caribbean).

DORADO, PUERTO RICO

Mofongo at La Villa Dorada De Alberto via @peterjfrank

La Villa Dorada De Alberto:  If you’re looking for great seafood and a casual environment, head over to La Villa Dorada De Alberto, a quick 15-minute drive from the Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve.  Adjacent to the beach, this restaurant provides service that makes you feel like you’re right at home and fresh seafood that even the locals can’t pass up. Be sure to try the Mahi Mahi or fried plantains (mofongo), and if you’re looking to unwind head over to their billiards room and pick up a game of pool.  Address:  Costa De Oro, Dorado 00646, Puerto Rico  Telephone:  +1787.278.1715

 

SAN JUAN

Santaella

La Lanterna: Nestled in Old San Juan’s exquisite interior courtyards, La Lanterna by Franco Seccarelli, pays homage to Ciccarelli’s home by blending Italian in a Caribbean setting. With a stunning colonial patio, lush vegetation, and a flowing fountain, the intimate restaurant has an elegant feel that brings a sense of home. While you’re there, you have to try the homemade ravioli with a glass of wine, which comes from the most prestigious regions of Italy.  Address:  202 Calle del Cristo, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico.  Telephone: +1787.340.8188

La Factoria: GraBbing a spot on The World’s 50 Best Bars List, La Factoria is where you want to be for great service, great dancing, but most notably, great drinks. Located in Old San Juan, this bar gives us speakeasy vibes with its dim lighting and friendly atmosphere. If you want a drink with amazing flavor and local ingredients, try the Spiced Old Fashioned or Lavender Mule. Address:  148 Calle San Sebastián, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico  Telephone: +1787.412.4251

Gallo Negro: Now this place has some incredible dishes with an exorbitant amount of flavor. The must-have item on their menu is the brussel sprouts, perfectly crisp and served with balsamic vinaigrette, this side dish makes healthy eating actually enjoyable. Address:  1107 Avenida Juan Ponce de León, San Juan, 00907, Puerto Rico  Telephone: +1787.554.5445

Santaella: With experience as an international chef, restaurant owner, and cookbook author, Chef Jose Santaella, created Santaella as a way to give travelers a taste of authentic “comida criolla.” This elegant eatery is the perfect place to go if you are celebrating a special occasion or are just looking for an upscale dining experience.  While it’s a fact that you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, we recommend the croquetas of the day or the braised pork shank lacon, which can be found on the gluten-free menu. View the menu here!

PLAY 

Spa Botánico  

Spa Botánico at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve 

Not asking you to do any math here (this is about vacation after all), but you + Spa Botánico = ultimate relaxation. Without having to leave Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, enjoy services that honor Puerto Rico’s botanical healing traditions and embrace the role that nature’s miracle plays in the various spa treatments that Spa Botánico has to offer. To restore and detox, find yourself in a fragrant pineapple garden and lush natural landscape, enjoying unimaginable services like slimming and detoxifying wraps (hello beach bod!) and oxygen boosting facials. This full sensory experience utilizes indigenous traditions so that you can experience pure bliss.

 

SHOP

Olé, Old San Juan  

Olivia Boutique: If you’re on the hunt for an exclusive outfit sure to turn heads, look no further than Olivia Boutique. The shop caters to the fashion-conscious female shopper on the hunt for unique and undiscovered designer pieces. With buyers that actively curate the very best in international design from dozens of global markets, you may need an extra suitcase to bring home all the new additions to your closet.  Shop now- Olivia Boutique

Olé: Did you really go to Puerto Rico if you didn’t visit Olé?  Featured in the New York Times, Yahoo, and countless travel blogs, this old-fashioned emporium sells authentic Panama hats rocked by plenty of celebrities like Mick Jagger and even the Prince of Morocco. The best thing about these hats, other than the fact that they last a lifetime, is that they are customizable, so not only is it tailored to fit your head perfectly, but you can also choose from a variety of ribbons to add to your hat and shop hand painted options. Shop now-  Olé 

Luca: Luca, a boutique founded by Laura Lugo, is the place to shop if you’re looking for one-of-a-kind pieces. The shop is full of emerging and mid-career designers from her native island Puerto Rico and other countries like Japan, Spain, Israel, and Italy. In addition to the timeless and elegant clothing, you’ll have a hard time saying no to their gorgeous selection of jewelry. Shop now- Luca 

Playero: For all your beachy needs, head over to family-owned and operated Playero. With roots that run deep in surf culture, this shop specializes in high-quality beachwear and accessories to wear after a long day at the beach. Pick up one of their classic Playero designs or some of the world’s top surfboard designers and innovators such as Eric Arakawa, Maurice Cole, and Malcom Cambell. Shop now- Playero

DO

Chef Jose Enrique at World Central Kitchen Farm

World Central Kitchen Farm: Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, restaurant owner, Jose Enrique, knew he had to use his talents to bring hope to the citizens of Puerto Rico. So, he powered the kitchen of his restaurant with a generator and committed to making meals for the community with whatever ingredients he had. Along with the assistance of José Andrés, his mission grew to serve over 20,000 meals a day, wildly outgrowing the tiny hot pink cottage. Andrés moved to a larger space, and Enrique prepared to reopen his restaurant. Today, Enrique’s restaurant is thriving; he attracts crowds from all around the world and serves the freshest food in the area. Don’t expect to look at a menu online beforehand…Enrique curates his menu differently every morning. He gets calls from local fishermen telling him how much red snapper or lobster they have and visits his local market to search for other flavorful ingredients. Once he has that information, constructs his menu around those finds. Our tip to you is to go in-between lunchtime and dinnertime, around 4 pm, so that you won’t have to wait in line, and so that the best dishes written on the whiteboard menu haven’t already crossed out. Not only is it some of the food the best in San Juan, but the story behind Enrique’s selfless work is all the more reason that this restaurant is worth traveling for.  Learn more about World Central Kitchen Farm 

Old San Juan: Vibrant culture meets rich history – and just a quick 30 min ride from Dorado Beach! Here, cobblestone streets, antique shops, and museums sit over picturesque landscapes and music from plazas dance through pastel-colored buildings. Reminiscent of Seville, Cuba, and Naples, Old San Juan is the perfect vacation to blend together a relaxing beach, breezy weather, and architectural sights with plenty of history. One of the main attractions to visit while in Old San Juan is the El Morro fort. Built in 1539, the military structure was representative of Puerto Rico’s status as the Guardian of the New World. You’ll need to wear comfortable shoes to climb up to the top of the fortress, and once there the spectacular ocean views and architecture to explore will keep you busy for hours. San Juan’s oldest fort, Castillo de San Cristobal, occupies most of the northeast edge of Old San Juan. Take a tour of the multi-layered castle, witness locals flying kites on the fort’s grounds, and even hold one of the bayonets in the soldier’s barracks. Before leaving Old San Juan, stop by the cultural gem that is La Casa Blanca.  Home to one of the most famous explorers Juan Ponce de León, this building is one of the oldest in Puerto Rico. Upon walking through the home, learn about Puerto Rico’s founding family and life during the 16th and 17th centuries. If you are looking to stay in the heart of San Juan, The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico or the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan are 100% TC approved! Learn more about San Juan