Escape to the Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort in Puerto Rico
are at least two different ways to travel for leisure. One is to arrive and hope
for the best. Another is to head straight for a resort and relax.
first time I went to Puerto Rico, my husband-to-be and I landed in San Juan and
ad libbed. We wanted to kick back on the beach, but we wound up in the part of
San Juan that is just like Brooklyn. We were trying to keep the cost down so we
stayed at some flea-infested hotel near the city. There were some lovely resorts
nearby, but we could only gaze at them longingly. After that first night, we went
to an island off the East Coast, called Culebra, where the beaches were empty,
wild horses ran free, and chickens had the right-of-way. Perfect. But it was a
next time I went to Puerto Rico, I tried another tactic. I bee-lined straight
for the Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort and Country Club. This time I didn't mess around
trying to find a cheap hotel on some random beach, this time I got off the plane
and stepped into a car that took me -- us, actually, my mom came, too -- straight
to the resort. What a difference! Instant relaxation instead of New York style
We rode about 30 minutes, passing a few goats along the way, through the gates
to the lush grounds of the resort, which used to be a grapefruit and coconut plantation.
As soon as we pulled into the driveway, we were surrounded by 1,000 acres of palm
trees and a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. designed golf course -- not that either of
us planned on golfing, but it was beautiful and lush. Exotic birds flew from tree
to tree and hopped around on the grass. Nope, not like Brooklyn at all.
we got out of the car to go check in, we were greeted by a Macaw (she didn't actually
say anything, but stood majestically atop her cage), as the ocean beckoned in
the background. We got our keys and rode a golf cart to our rooms. Wow. There
are ocean view, beachfront, or golf view rooms and suites to fit any needs. All
rooms have air conditioning, terracotta tire flooring, coffee makers, telephones,
Since we were sans family, we both got beach front rooms instead of a cottage or suite. Each of our rooms had a balcony, king-size bed, a giant TV, a couch (that folded into a sleeper), and a luxurious bathroom dotted with fresh flowers. I could've stayed in my room for days and been happy as a clam. But I could hear the waves and I had to get down there.
I met my mom on the beach, where in the late afternoon we had it almost to ourselves, and I wasted no time in diving right in. The water was warm and clear. A reef just off shore blocked the big waves and kept out all the man-eating sea beasts. The calm water was perfect for lolling away an afternoon. Snorkelers paddled around out by the reef. I brought goggles but I didn't want to know who else was lurking in the water besides the little inquisitive silver fish bumping up against my shins.
As soon as the sun set, we went to get dinner at the Ocean Terrace, where we were soon holding giant coconut drinks, the house specialty. That was one for the books -- my 65-year-old mom holding a drink the size of her head.
Another night we went to Su Casa, a Spanish and Caribbean restaurant that is in the former home of Clara Livingston. The plantation that used to be here was her father's, but she took over when she was 22. She went on to be an aviator -- the 11th female pilot in the world, and the third female helicopter pilot. Ms. Livingston's good friend Amelia Earhart stayed at her house (now the Su Casa restaurant) before Earhart's fateful last journey.
There are enough restaurants at the resort that we were able to enjoy a wide variety of food -- from the local mofungo, to steak, to fresh seafood -- without venturing out. That's a perk of staying at a resort -- you can walk everywhere. You don't have to research and call a cab every time you want to eat. We enjoyed every meal we had here. The food was always carefully prepared, and the staff was very sweet and accommodating.
Of course we could've spent all day swimming in the ocean or pool, but there were all kinds of other activities to enjoy. My mom wanted to play tennis but it was too rainy. That was a relief -- I haven't picked up a racket in years while she plays every day.
It wasn't too rainy for me to take a windsurfing lesson. Lisa Penfield's Watersports is right on the beach, where you can rent ocean kayaks, or take a windsurfing lesson from Lisa Penfield herself, a worldwide windsurfing champion. The day I took a lesson there was hardly any wind, which was probably a good thing lest I had taken flight and sailed out to sea.
This calm wind prompted a good story out of Lisa, who told us about how in the '88 Olympics, she was favored to win, but she was a high-wind specialist. Lo and behold, the day of the race the wind was barely a puff -- it took them four hours to go a course that should've taken 45 minutes. A woman who'd never beaten any of the other windsurfers, but who was really good at the slow wind, went away with the gold.
Using the rain as an excuse, one afternoon my mom and I indulged in massages at the Spa del Sol. The spa is next to the small fitness room. It's not an orange-slices-in-water, hang-out-in-your-robe kind of spa, because it's literally next to the treadmill, with no waiting room. But once you get inside the massage room, it's just like any other massage room, albeit spartan. I got a Swedish massage with Orin. I usually prefer female massage therapists, but I felt very comfortable, so much so that I think I liquefied on the massage table. I slithered to dinner afterwards. There's a beauty center that I didn't check out, but if you want to get your nails or hair done, you can do that, too.
One day we took a half-hour shuttle to Old San Juan, where we walked around the old forts and ate lunch. Definitely worth an afternoon's excursion. If we were going to be there for longer, we could've gone a little farther to check out El Yunque, the rain forest or even my favorite little island, Culebra. But alas, we only had a few days.
There's a lot to check out in Puerto Rico, from the Brooklyn-esque vibe of San Juan, historical Old San Juan, to surfing in Rincon, or hiking in El Yunque. There are all kinds of different vacations you can have here. Going the resort route is by far the easiest because, you don't have to think about much beyond "soup or salad," but of course that means it's a little more expensive. If you go that route, the Hyatt Dorado Beach is a good choice.
By the way, my mom had a good time, too.