There are beach hotels in Puerto Rico, and then there are beach hotels—the resorts and boutique properties that are not across the road, not a few minutes' walk, but directly on the golden sands that line the Caribbean or the Atlantic. As Puerto Rico has more than 270 miles of beaches across its islands, there are quite a few hotels that fit this description, but only a select few truly stand out.
Though this hotel is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Rincon, it feels a world apart. The 39-room luxury hotel is intimate, opulent, and idyllic, featuring Spanish Colonial architecture with Moroccan details. The accommodations are sophisticated, though there's a touch of over-the-top flair with vaulted ceilings, marble surfaces, and clawfoot soaking tubs. In terms of beach activities, the hotel provides loungers, umbrellas, kayaks, and snorkeling equipment free of charge.
The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort underwent a $60 million renovation in 2018, following damage from Hurricane Maria, that added even more luxury to an already luxe property. Tee off at the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. golf course; get pampered at the Iridium Spa; dine at the Greek-inspired Paros Restaurant; but above all, make your way to the isolated two-mile stretch of sand at the unspoiled Bahia Beach. If you really want to treat yourself, book a cabana complete with butler service.
Laurence Rockefeller, the son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., bought this coastal property to build Dorado Beach, a luxury hotel and a nature sanctuary. It was transformed into a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in 2012. The 114 rooms on the property—all of which have ocean views—sit on 1,400 acres of stunning nature. You'll find coral reefs, tropical forests, and one mile of beachfront here, plus amenities and activities like a spa, tennis courts, a golf course, oasis-like pools, and 11 miles of walking trails throughout the grounds.
The first Hilton hotel outside the U.S., the Caribe Hilton has been part of Puerto Rico's tourist scene for decades. It's the closest hotel to magnificent Old San Juan to offer guests beach access, meaning it's great for those who want to blend a city vacation with sun and surf. The hotel suffered damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017 and officially reopened in May 2019 following a $100 million renovation.
Isla Verde Beach is a beautiful crescent of white sand fronting the of the Atlantic. Not surprisingly, it's ringed with hotels and resorts. Of these, the best is El San Juan, a Hilton-owned resort and a place that mixes history and old-school charm (it opened in 1958) with contemporary accommodations (after a $65 million post-Maria renovation) and some of the best nightlife on the island. But the direct beach access is the most undeniable draw to the hotel.
Technically located in Carolina, just outside of San Juan, the Ritz-Carlton is an elegant resort that follows the curve of Isla Verde Beach. While you may be partial to the gorgeous pool where stone lions spout jets of water, you can't argue with those who prefer to relax with a good book under the shade of a coconut palm on the beach. The property closed after Hurricane Mari but is expected to reopen after renovations sometime in late 2019.
There are many hotels along Condado Beach, the 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, drawing in plenty of swimmers. The resort is a massive property with tons of entertainment, from the casino to five restaurants to a pool with a swim-up bar.
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 the wide mile-long stretch of beachfront that remains the most popular area of the 500 acres that make up the resort.