dorado beach ritz carlton deluxe room east beach with balcony

San Juan provides travelers an abundance of culinary delights and engaging activities, and within the historic old quarter, Viejo San Juan, a look at one of the oldest and most charming cities in the Americas (it celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2022). However, sticking strictly to the Puerto Rican capital is doing yourself, and the island, a disservice.

There’s an incredible array of additional destinations to visit, each with a distinctive appeal. As you extend down the coast in either direction, properties are able to spread their wings with larger, more immersive, and often more luxurious, resort experiences. From pristine beaches to famed national forests, to a secluded sister island boasting a wealth of outdoor adventure, Puerto Rico has much else to explore.


Dorado is 45 minutes west of San Juan, and is home to the most glamorous stay on the island: Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. The historic property, developed in the 1950s by Laurence S. Rockefeller, maintains its elegance these many decades later, and fits right in as an exemplar of the standards and service that guests have come to expect from within the small but mighty Ritz-Carlton Reserve portfolio.

ritz carlton dorado beach view from outside the lobby
Courtesy, The Ritz-Carlton

The hotel grounds are spread across a lush property, adjacent to the renowned TPC Dorado Beach golf courses, with guests having access to bicycles to navigate around or on-demand buggy service from the dedicated butler team. Low-slung buildings include spacious rooms with expansive balconies or terraces, many of the latter allowing guests to walk straight down to a private, well-manicured beach, and all showcasing a captivating view of the seas beyond. Rooms have marble floors and natural wood and stone features, with bathrooms including enormous freestanding soaking tubs, rainfall showers, and separate outdoor showers in enclosed, garden-like settings.

aerial view of ritz carlton dorado beach pool area
Courtesy, The Ritz-Carlton

The resort’s main pool and sun deck extends down onto its crescent-shaped beach, while the separate, larger beach club is available for members and hotel guests alike. Elsewhere, guests can take advantage of complimentary inclusions such as nightly Puerto Rican rum tastings, stroll through an 11-mile nature trail, or immerse themselves in the lavish Spa Botanico. The spa is a walled-off compound of its own, its entrance marked by a famed and photo-worthy ficus tree, incorporating a purification garden with hot baths and cold plunges, attendant-serviced relaxation areas with lounge chairs, and treatment villas nestled into the jungle environs.

Cap off a day well spent with a visit to one of the property’s signature restaurants, such as Coa, where Puerto Rican steakhouse fare is fired in a wood-burning oven, and can be paired alongside one of the Caribbean’s largest wine collections.

El Yunque National Forest

Head east from San Juan and a short drive takes you to El Yunque National Forest. It’s the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. national forest system and is prized for its vibrant biodiversity. Hiking, scenic drives, waterfalls and swimming spots, and all types of birdwatching and nature viewing are strong options, and the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Puerto Rico makes for an ideal jumping off point for those wishing to take full advantage.

el yunque national forest waterfall in puerto rico
Courtesy, Canva

The 72-acre property is 15 minutes away from the nearest park entrance, and provides guests with ample opportunity for R&R after an active morning of forest exploration. The resort’s lagoon-style pool is the largest on the island, replete with a swim-up bar and flanked by cabanas, with rows of tiled loungers immersed in its shallow tiers. There’s also a small strip of sand and lounge chairs in front of a quiet stretch of shallow ocean waters, as well as a wide range of aqua-based activities and recreation on tap.

hiking trail in the el yunque national forest
Courtesy, Canva

The Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve includes 11 restaurants and bars in total, everything from a steakhouse to modern Puerto Rican fare, teppanyaki cuisine, and a poolside food truck serving casual bites during the afternoon. When it comes time for either happy hour or a nightcap, imbibing options range from a martini bar to the island’s only Top Golf Swing Suites, a good way to practice up between outings on the property’s course. Of course, few pleasures go hand-in-hand with golf better than beer, so consider a sample session of the hotel’s signature suds, PRadise Bliss Lager, made in conjunction with local F.O.K. Brewing Co.


vieques beach off the coast of puerto rico
Courtesy, Ethan Jameson via Unsplash

Vieques, or Isla de Vieques, is found just eight miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico, and is included as part of its Commonwealth. Land that formerly belonged to the U.S. Navy is now home to the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, and the island is prized for its nature, flora and fauna, and a spectrum of beaches as gorgeous as can be found anywhere in the Caribbean. Its most well-known attraction, though, is Bioluminescent Bay. Swimming isn’t allowed, so plan to sign up for a guided nighttime kayak tour, a magical way to experience the natural phenomenon of the glowing, neon blue lights produced by the phytoplankton Pyrodinium bahamense.

There are short flights to Vieques available from San Juan, or if you’ve already made it to the island’s east coast, there are also ferries available from Ceiba. Once you’ve arrived in Vieques, you’ll find a slower, more relaxed lifestyle, and welcoming accommodations in the form of laid back guest houses and smaller-scale boutique hotels, where it’s not unusual to find regulars returning throughout the year or decamping for extended month-long stays.

The best option here may come down to a friend’s recommendation or be a matter of matching your personal vibe, but a few names to know include the adults-only Blue Horizon; Hix Island House, with a series of casas spread across its 13 acres; and Finca Victoria, specializing in Ayurvedic programs and wellness retreats, with rooms ranging from modern cabins to luxe treehouses.

Featured image courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton

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