Have we forgotten about Puerto Rico? Maybe I just did, but I'm not sure why. It's our local Caribbean paradise made simple since no passport is required. I hadn't been in decades, and I was ready to explore the islands as an adult—and with a bit more style. Sometimes you just need a little luxury in life, and that's exactly what this trip was going to provide. The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort and the W Retreat & Spa Vieques Island would play backdrop to my indulgences over the course of four nights.
When it comes to getting to Puerto Rico, flying from the east coast is obviously much easier, but despite my NYC zip code I went for the more adventurous route and flew over from Los Angeles. Two flights and some inflight cocktails made the travel time more tolerable. After entering baggage claim, I was greeted by my personal driver arranged by The St. Regis, obviously, as the brand is known for arranging anything their guests may possibly need. (I wasn't kidding about indulging, and if I was going to do it up, it was going to be grandeur.)
Arriving through the private security gates of the almost 500-acre compound, the beauty of El Yunque, the only rainforest in the U.S. national park system, located at the foot of the property, reminded me why I chose to find myself in this tropical paradise. The St. Regis was all anyone could ever dream of. The standard rooms were the size of what most would consider a suite. The massive bathroom had a television in the mirror…for those times when one needs to watch television while in the bathroom? Ok, I admit I was very keen on the bathroom TVs, as catching up on my celebrity gossip while brushing my teeth was pretty great. The shower could easily accommodate 12 people—not that I tried—but I did find myself mentally placing bodies…for accuracy. And within the shower is the grand tub, fit for two.
The resort offers all sorts of water activities on property as well as educational nature tours and talks with seasoned professionals. We were even fortunate enough to witness the birth of leatherback sea turtles and actually watched them waddle off into the ocean. We tried not to think of the survival rate of the turtles, as it’s extremely low, and instead wished them well on their journey.
Bahia Beach is only about 30 minutes from downtown Old San Juan, so we opted to spend a day visiting the old forts and navigating our way through the cobblestone streets. The city is beautiful and vibrant with color, but the most amazing thing we witnessed was a gay couple, openly holding hands and strolling down the sidewalk. Puerto Rico is still in a transitional place when it comes to LGBT rights, but apparently it has evolved since later that day we witnessed another same-sex couple displaying their affection in public with no one nearby batting an eye.
After a couple of days in Bahia Beach, the next stop was Vieques Island, just a quick 15-minute flight and couple hundred bucks or less round-trip. After landing in Vieques (still considered part of Puerto Rico, so again, no passport required for U.S. citizens), I was escorted to the small, private W airport lounge where drinks were already flowing. The lounge is a nice place to settle prior to spending time at the resort or before heading home.
The W Retreat and Spa in Vieques is one of only four W Retreat signature properties in the world, and the only resort-style spot on Vieques, as the remainder of options are mostly small B&Bs. The moment you walk in the lobby, you know it’s a W, but with a much more chill atmosphere (i.e., a lack of consistent DJ-dropping beats like it’s midnight in Manhattan). Plus, the property sits right on the beach, providing a killer view. Being a bit more affordable than the previous property, it made for a fabulous balance of over the top luxury mixed with sexy and sophisticated style.
The plan for the time at the W was mostly cabana, pool, beach and repeat. The pools are open 24 hours and even play music underwater for those who just can’t handle a moment of silence. The standard rooms were once again large and came with the funky décor the W brand is known for. There’s no butler service like the St. Regis, but their Whatever/Whenever service is basically the same thing but with a cooler name.
I took an afternoon away from the cabana to enjoy the spa at the W. When I read about the coffee and coconut scrub, I was intrigued. Don’t let the name of the scrub fool you, they literally rub coffee and coconut all over your body—and the smell of the combination was delicious! I couldn’t help but buy the lotion with the similar scent, which apparently can be eaten, but that has yet to be confirmed…
Vieques is a small island, but one that offers some of the most pristine beaches in Puerto Rico. They are mostly untouched, for now, so enjoying them before they become saturated is well advised. Our last day was spent on a small beach with kayaks, coconuts and relaxation. (Ok, there was booze, too.) It’s an otherwise sleepy little island, but would you really want anything else when on a Caribbean getaway?
As quickly as it all began, our four-night escape ended, and before I knew it I was on my three and a half hour flight home to New York. Puerto Rico left me feeling a bit upset. Upset with myself for waiting so long to go and visit. It’s nearby, reasonably affordable, and, as you can see from the shots throughout this piece, will absolutely leave your friends with Instagram envy.