El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the US—and it’s still recovering from the recent storms, but don’t let that deter you. On the 29,000 acres, there is still a plethora of hiking trails through an exotic landscape of flora and fauna begging for your attention. You might want to hire a guide to help you take it all in. Pack a light lunch for the end of the forty-five minute trail that takes you straight to the awe-inspiring La Coca waterfall.
El Blok Hotel
158 Calle Flamboyan, Vieques
Inspired by the coral reefs surrounding Vieques, El Blok’s unusual Brutalist architecture comes courtesy of Puerto Rican architect Nataniel Fuster. Natural light and fresh air flit through the round cutouts of the concrete walls, creating shadows to mimic the feeling of being underwater. The four-story building curves around an oval atrium, meaning there are no hard angles to be found in the twenty-two spacious one-bedroom suites. Minimalist in nature, each room is a playfully designed mixture of texture and light, featuring sleek furnishings and lightweight cotton linens. Upstairs, El Blok’s swanky rooftop bar and infinity pool draw live bands, DJs, and a crowd of local hipsters. Skip across the street to the Vieques beach, where you may be able to catch sight of some of the wild horses that roam the island.
Calle Caribe 58, San Juan
Chef and owner Martin Louzao recently moved Cocina Abierta to the trendy streets of Condado, where the cool-kid atmosphere of the eclectic kitchen fits right into the fashionable neighborhood of boutique stores. The menu is composed of five acts, with each unit working to form the full dining experience: appetizer, vegetable, seafood, poultry and pasta, and finally, red meat. Select one dish from each act to create a custom tasting menu, so your final play-by-play might be fresh ceviche, roasted cabbage with onion jam, seafood green curry, goat cheese ravioli, and lamb Wellington. Even the wine parings have a creative edge: Sommelier Arturo Campos suggests multiple wines for every dish—a classic if you want to play it safe and a wild card if you have a taste for adventure.
1055 Ashford Ave., San Juan
The bar for fine dining is set inside the walls of the historic Condado Vanderbilt hotel. Here, executive chef Juan Jose Cuevas crafts his menu in collaboration with local farmers. The aftermath of Hurricane Maria has been a lesson for Cuevas in what plants best survive devastation. The menu explores the whimsy of Cuevas’s mind: tuna in arugula-almond pesto, salmon confit, eggplant for dessert. More than a meal, 1919 is a conversation with the land of Puerto Rico that can connect you to the spirit of the country.
317 Fortaleza St., San Juan
Iowa native Peter Schintler has attracted culinary praise in restaurants across the globe, from New York City to Singapore. But over the past decade he has put down roots in Puerto Rico, where his restaurant Marmalade checks every box of the perfect dining experience. The service is informative but unobtrusive, the atmosphere offers a balance of romance and comfort, and the innovative farm-to-table menu features paella sushi, shrimp tossed with popcorn and avocado salsa, and a lobster risotto that melts in your mouth. Do not underestimate the tiny white bean soup, Marmalade’s signature, topped with black truffles and guaranteed to have you singing Schintler’s praises before you reach the entrée. And although water damage from Hurricane Maria forced Marmalade to temporarily close its doors, its liquid gold—an impeccably curated wine collection—was thankfully preserved.
The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort
State Rd., Rio Grande
Despite the name, the tropical rainforest this resort is set inside is the bigger draw. This is a place to come if you’re into guided tours through the forest led by local marine biologists, a bird sanctuary, bike paths, etc. Kids can hang out in the Iguana Club if they don't want to trek. It has all the upscale amenities you’d expect from a St. Regis property, including their signature butler service (they unpack your bags), a Remède Spa, an oceanfront golf course, and good food.
Ann Wigmore Natural Wellness Institute
Carretera 115, Calle Moret, Barrio Guayabo Aguada
The entire team of wellness specialists at Ann Wigmore’s eponymous Natural Health Institute in Puerto Rico is well-trained in her revolutionary approach, which lauds the use of wheatgrass and “living foods” (strictly organic, raw, plant-based, and nutrient-rich foods) for nourishing and ultimately healing the body. While the accommodations are comfortably minimal, the beachside grounds make for an idyllic setting for the one-week intensive and two-week immersive programs—all of which are supplemented by customizable treatment plans of colonics, lymphatic massages, and more. You’re likely to feel an instant transformation but the institute’s goal is long-term education, effectively preparing graduates of the program to maintain the lifestyle back at home.
Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
100 Dorado Beach Dr., Dorado
Laurance S. Rockefeller’s dream to create a resort and natural sanctuary in Puerto Rico became a reality in 1958, when he opened his resort at Dorado Beach. Environmental conservation remains a priority at this 1,400-acre property, and outdoor activities range from an eleven-mile hiking trail to two golf courses with views of the surrounding mountains and sea. Rooms come with floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors, deep soaking tubs, and outdoor showers, and some have private plunge pools or rooftop terraces. The spa has steam pavilions, warm and cool pools, and a tree house for massages.
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