Puerto Rico :
Island of Enchantment
Puerto Rico Does It Better!
How do you say "gilding the lily" in Spanish..? I asked myself as we boarded a propeller plane on the "enchanted island" of Puerto Rico to fly to another one of her tropical islands—Vieques.
W RETREAT AND SPA, VIEQUES
Fifteen minutes later, we entered the W's private welcome lounge where the "wow" factor immediately kicked in. Sipping rum and coke, I glanced out at the W logo painted in a bright purple circle on the tarmac. Pretty cool. This Starwood group gets everything right! I shook my head in amazement at the wild horses that grazed on the grounds as we pulled up to the entrance. Welcome to the W Retreat & Spa, where each area of the hotel is aptly named. The lobby is tastefully wrapped in reclaimed wood and serves as a portal to the "Living Room", a hip bar and lobby, complete with DJ, pool table and sexy cool furnishings lead out to an oceanfront patio and "Fire Pit". Next door is "Mix" Restaurant; a collaborative from Michelin-starred Chef Alain Ducasse. More “wow…” Walking to our rooms we passed "Wet", set poolside where we swam and lounged in cabanas facing the private beach. "Away"® is the W's signature spa designed with outdoor massage tables for the ultimate relaxation and revitalization experience. You definitely won’t want to leave. There are beach accessories, mountain bikes and Jeeps for rent so go...Get out there and explore this island full of natural wonders. There are 156 stylish guest rooms, all with private patios and balconies and unparalleled views of the glistening Atlantic. Rooms rates start at $400. There is a $60 resort charge per night for amenities.
Transportation to/from Airport
Use of Private W Airport Louunge
Bliss Spa Products/Vieques Tub
Signature W Bathrobes
Kayaks, Paddles and Vest
Tennis Rackets and Balls
SWEAT® Fitness Cente
Daily Yoga Classes
Most of Vieques Island was owned and operated by the US Navy until 2003, when the land became a National Wildlife Refuge. Here, subtropical dry forrests meet mangrove wetlands, lagoons and coral reefs. Can you say, “undiscovered and gorgeous?” Vieques is home to the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. After a bouncy bus ride over dirt roads, we boarded an electrically powered double-pontoon boat and glided into the middle of the lagoon, under a starry sky, watching with wonder as fish below us glowed bright green. Why? Because there are 720,000 single-celled "bioluminescent dinoflagellates" per gallon of water that emit a flash of light. The result is one of the most fascinating living light shows you'll ever see. The tour guides were passionate and knowledgeable about all the plant and animal species living in the bay. You won't want to miss this eco-tour!
Island Adventures Bio Bay Tours
$32 per person
EL YUNQUE NATIONAL FOREST
Back on the main island of Puerto Rico, it became very obvious to me that this Caribbean paradise possesses a tremendous wealth of natural beauty that the people take great pride and strides in preserving. El Yunque rain forest is located in the Luquillo Mountains. We hiked through 1,000 year-old trees; thick vines and lush red blossoms waved in the cool breeze. On the lookout for tropical birds and the elusive Puerto Rican parrot, our trek was punctuated by the two-note chanting of the "Coquî", Puerto Rico's mascot frog and the sound of La Coca Falls in the background. Yokahu Tower provided us with dazzling views of San Juan and the bright blue Caribbean below. High above the city, I imagined that 500 years ago, Spanish explorers were both impressed and humbled by this majestic mountain-top throne. El Yunque is open 7 days a week and admission is free of charge
After sipping from coconuts and shooting photos of iguanas languishing in nearby trees, we checked into the Rio Mar Beach Resort. The Rio Mar is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and El Yunque. The Rio Mar's 600 rooms offer you a choice of these breathtaking views. Having arrived at Christmas time, we gathered in the festively decorated lobby to marvel at the life-sized ginger bread house on display. Ahh—the aroma that filled the air was intoxicating. After a three-course tasting luncheon at Marbella Restaurant, we were invited by Chef Catala into his kitchen for a demonstration on how to make "mofongo." The signature dish of Puerto Rico, mofongo is a combination of fried and mashed green plantains seasoned with savory bacon or pork cracklings and garlic. We sampled it two ways; with chicken Creole style and Ajillo shrimp. It reminded me of our traditional Thanksgiving stuffing and tasted “muy sabrosa!” Delicious. Be sure to leave yourself some time to stroll the mile-long beach or play a round of golf (on one of their two signature courses) to burn off the calories!
Rio Mar Beach Resort
SAN JUAN - GATEWAY TO THE ATLANTIC
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