There are beach hotels in Puerto Rico, and then there are beachfront hotels: the resorts and boutique properties that place you right on the sand; not across the road, not a few minutes' walk, but directly on the golden shores of the Caribbean or the Atlantic. As you can imagine for an island with over 270 miles of beaches, there are quite a few hotels that fit this description. So I'm just going to focus on what I consider the best of the bunch.
If you had to pick the perfect beachfront hotel, go with the Horned Dorset. A sunset walk on the beach with my feet dipped in the Caribbean sea that literally laps at the feet of the hotel is enough to justify my choice. It's a breathtaking, panoramic view. The idyllic beach and the elite, luxurious and sedately opulent accommodations at this pristine property combine for a magical getaway.
By law, there's no such thing as a private beach in Puerto Rico, but the gorgeous stretch of golden sand at the W Vieques is about as private as you can get. And when you're done lying on the sand, you have all the amenities and delights of the sleek, chic and modern resort at your disposal, from its fantastic spa to its twin infinity pools overlooking the sea, to its numerous comfy hangouts.
St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort
Tee off at the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. golf course; get pampered at the Remède Spa; dine at the Jean-Georges-inspired Fern; but above all, make your way to the isolated two-mile stretch of sand at the unspoiled Bahia Beach. If you really want to spoil yourself, book a Cabanas, complete with butler service.
Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Reviving the legacy of Laurence Rockefeller, the Reserve is the first property of its kind in the Caribbean, a six-star resort featuring only 115 guest rooms in a spectacular natural setting. Coral reefs, tropical forests, and one mile of beachfront are part of the stunning landscape at Dorado Beach.
The first Hilton hotel outside the U.S., the Caribe Hilton has been part of Puerto Rico's tourist scene for decades. But it's not on this list because it has the best beach on the island; in fact, most of the places here offer better beachfront access. But this is the closest hotel to magnificent Old San Juan to offer guests a taste of the sands of Puerto Rico, and that deserves a spot on my list.
Isla Verde beach is a beautiful crescent of white sand fronting the warm waters of the Atlantic. Not surprisingly, it's ringed with hotels and resorts. Of these, my favorite remains the El San Juan, a Waldorf-Astoria resort and a place that mixes iconic history and old-school charm with modern accommodations and some of the best nightlife on the island. But that beach access is also an undeniable draw.
Technically located in Carolina, the Ritz-Carlton is a large, elegant resort that follows the curve of Isla Verde Beach. While you may be partial to the stone lions spouting jets of water in the pool, you can't argue with those who prefer to relax with a good book under the shade of a coconut palm on the beach.
Marriott Stellaris Resort & Casino
There are many hotels along Condado Beach, the hippest, trendiest neighborhood in San Juan. But it's worth it to put the San Juan Marriott above the rest when it comes to its beach. Steps beyond its lovely pool, the beach gives way to calm, shallow waters. It gets crowded on the weekends, but that's part of its allure.
This spacious bungalow-style resort, home to the Trump International Golf Club and the PGA Puerto Rico Open, is a serene and elegant retreat. Located on a peninsula with near-exclusive access to pristine Coco Beach, it offers plenty of privacy and relaxation just a short drive from the bustle of San Juan.
Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa
The affordable rates, on-site casino, proximity to the magnificent El Yunque rainforest, golf courses and spa all make this Wyndham property a terrific value. But it's that wide, unspoiled mile-long stretch of beachfront that remains the most popular area of the 500 acres that make up the resort.