Courtesy of Condado Vanderbilt Hotel
Courtesy of Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve reopened after an extensive refit in 2018.
When you’re ready to travel, these lodgings offer a quintessential island escape.
Whether you’re looking for wabi sabi–inspired concrete modernism or a more traditional upscale resort experience, Puerto Rico has a hotel that’ll fit. Many are built over sprawling grounds, with direct access to beaches and open spaces to facilitate social distancing, and a number reopened after Hurricane Maria with updated and expanded drinking and dining options. When you’re ready to travel to Puerto Rico, any one of these hotels and resorts will offer the relaxing getaway you need.
Note: These hotels are open but following strict health and safety protocols. Travelers should familiarize themselves with the latest individual policies and be aware of island-wide COVID restrictions.
Book now: From $1,399/night, expedia.com
It may be only 22 miles west of San Juan, but Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve feels a world away. The resort has a spectacular location on a three-mile stretch of beach on Puerto Rico’s north shore, where Clara Livingston once ran a sugar plantation—and Amelia Earhart visited before departing for her fateful world tour. In 1958, Livingston sold the property to Laurance S. Rockefeller, who turned it into the first of his legendary Rock Resorts. Known for his green streak, he designed the hotel to respect the local beauty, mandating that buildings could not be taller than the surrounding palm trees.
The Ritz-Carlton—which reopened in October 2018 after a meticulous restoration following Hurricane Maria—pays homage to that original vision. Here, every room is beachfront, with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that disappear into ocean views, plus deep soaking tubs, outdoor showers shaded by gardens, and either spacious balconies or private plunge pools. As part of the property’s renovation, rooms were refreshed with a color palette that amplifies the natural beauty just beyond the doors. Additionally, the grounds showcase 3,000 new plant species, the spa is offering new locally inspired treatments and cuisine, Encanto Beach Club Bar & Grill features a refreshed dinner menu, and the Positivo Sandbar debuted an omakase and ceviche bar directly on the sand. There’s even an entirely reimagined signature restaurant, Coa, which serves farm-to-table fare cooked on the grill. — Ryan Ver Berkmoes
Book now: From $374/night, expedia.com
Built in 1919, the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel is a Spanish revival landmark, perched majestically above the Atlantic Ocean. From its opulent lobby to its luxurious guest rooms, the property fuses its storied past—it’s hosted everyone from European and Hollywood royalty to captains of industry—with distinctly modern amenities, making for one of San Juan’s best stays. Spread over a historic building and two towers, the 212 guest rooms feature stone-topped vanities, French windows, and ocean views, while the 107 suites include separate sitting and dining areas, L-shaped balconies, and 24-hour butler service. At the beach club and four pools, guests can also look forward to cabanas, personal butlers to bring refreshments, and assistance from a tanning and hydration specialist.
When hunger strikes, the Vanderbilt is prepared with three different dining options. Hit Tacos & Tequila for escabeche pork tacos and Patron margaritas; Ola Oceanfront Bistro for Puerto Rican cuisine and water views; or, if you’re in the mood to splurge, 1919 Restaurant for sophisticated fare by Michelin-starred chef Juan Jose Cuevas. Also on-site is VC Lounge for expertly mixed cocktails, Marabar Martini Bar and Lounge for live jazz, Veritas Wine and Cognac Bar for rare vintages, and Avo Lounge for fine cigars. When you need to detox, head to the spa for indoor–outdoor treatments, rain-forest showers, and hammam rituals. —Natalie Beauregard
Book now: From $194/night, expedia.com
The Hotel El Convento was once home to Carmelite nuns living simple lives dictated by their vows of poverty. Today, however, it’s one of Old San Juan’s most beautiful hotels, complete with exposed mahogany beams and louvered doors that let in the Atlantic breezes. Here you’ll enjoy views of the San Juan Bay, where the conquistadors once sailed, as well as the charming streets of Old San Juan. The hotel has long been among San Juan’s plushest accommodations. Rooms are done up in rich colors, lovely tiled floors, and Oriental rugs. — Ryan Ver Berkmoes
Book now: From $250/night, expedia.com
Opened in 2012 in San Juan’s stylish Condado quarter, O:live Boutique Hotel has been touted as one of the best boutique hotels in the Americas. The owners dreamt up the idea for the 15-room property while honeymooning on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, and they’ve created a place that embodies the laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle. Design elements reflect the cultures of Italy, France, Spain, and Morocco. While Condado’s iconic beach is just over the road, the hotel will also arrange for activities like hiking excursions in El Yunque and glass-bottom kayak tours through the bioluminescent bay of Laguna Grande. — Ryan Ver Berkmoes
Book now: From $125/night, expedia.com
Old San Juan is known for its atmospheric and historic hotels, but none matches the Gallery Inn for personality and creativity. Composed of six intertwined town houses, this fascinating hotel beckons guests to wander through its nine interior gardens and patios and seven parlors and porticos. Dating to the mid-1700s, the oldest building, La Cueva Del Indio, is located above Old San Juan’s north walls, meaning the views out to sea are the same ones that captivated the conquistadors.
Owner Jan D’Esopo is a well-known sculptor and her works dot the hotel’s meandering interior, which has enough comforts and homey character to avoid feeling like a museum. Equally unique are the 25 rooms, decorated with everything from silk screens and watercolors to sculptures and paintings. Some feature elegant four-poster beds and balconies with views of the ocean. Just don’t expect to watch TV—one, there are no TVs, and two, the views out over the old fortress walls are better than anything on Netflix. — Ryan Ver Berkmoes
Book now: From $319/night, expedia.com
A landmark property perched between the city and the ocean, the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel blends Old World elegance with tropical vibes. The famed hotel reopened in December 2018, after a full restoration following Hurricane Maria and now features updated guest rooms, public spaces, and landscaping. Thankfully, the original feel was left intact, and details like the iconic chandelier and hand-carved mahogany ceiling in the lobby remain. Guests can still sip champagne under sparkling crystals at the Chandelier Bar or party the night away at Brava, but now they can also sample Puerto Rico’s national spirit at rum bar 1958, grab a glass of vino at Wine Bar, or refuel with locally roasted Alto Grande coffee at El Cafecito. Also new to the property is Caña, a locally minded restaurant from Puerto Rican chef Juliana Gonzales, and Chico Cabaret, a hot spot off the lobby featuring live entertainment.
The 388 rooms all feature floor-to-ceiling windows with city, ocean, or pool views, as well as modern conveniences like sensor-activated air-conditioning, large HDTVs, and complimentary Wi-Fi. When not lounging on their Lovell Plush mattresses made exclusively for the hotel, guests can take a dip in one of four pools, sunbathe on the two-mile-long Isla Verde Beach, or visit the tri-level Well & Being center for balancing spa treatments and fitness classes on the open-air rooftop. — Natalie Beauregard
Book now: From $985/night, expedia.com
In the shadow of El Yunque, the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is situated on 483 acres of former coconut plantation and native maritime forest. There are still plenty of palms here, but now the flora also includes all manner of tropical flowers and trees, positioned around numerous trails for walking, running, and biking. Families love the resort for its many amenities, from four tennis courts and a Robert Trent Jones Jr.–branded golf course to a luxurious spa and state-of-the-art fitness center.
Part of a $60 million renovation following Hurricane Maria, the hotel now features a design by celebrated Puerto Rican designer Nono Maldonado and San Francisco–based firm Hirsch Bedner Associates. The plantation-style dark woods and warm browns have been swapped out for more modern, sea-inspired colors, and the 139 rooms have a chic, residential feel, with sprawling bathrooms, private terraces, and glass bar cabinets that can be stocked to your personal tastes by a 24-hour butler. — Ryan Ver Berkmoes
Book now: From $165/night, expedia.com
El Blok’s strikingly modern aesthetic, pared-down vibe, and uncompromising comfort make it a surprising Caribbean find. Located in the small coastal town of Esperanza on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, the 22-room hotel opened its doors in 2014. San Juan–based architecture firm Fuster + Partners is behind the cool, contemporary design, with concrete wrapping the exterior, a central light well illuminating the interior, and a rooftop pool drawing guests from the beach just across the street. The furniture was carved from locally sourced driftwood and hardwoods, and works by Puerto Rican artists Javier and Jaime Suarez decorate the common areas. Distinctive touches such as an after-hours vending machine, Aesop amenities, and an obsession with local coffee contribute to an alternative yet luxe vibe. Should you ever want to leave the property, the El Bike program enables guests to explore Vieques without renting a car. — Ryan Ver Berkmoes
Book now: From $194/night, expedia.com
Hix Island House on Vieques Island caters to guests who know that going green and living luxuriously are not mutually exclusive. Rooms come with See Design bedding as well as Frette robes and towels. Solar panels provide power, and wastewater from each room supplies the lush gardens. Canadian architect John Hix is responsible for the hotel’s striking concrete exterior, which stands in stark contrast to the surrounding hills, yet provides guests with both privacy and sweeping views out to sea. — Ryan Ver Berkmoes
>> Next: AFAR’s Puerto Rico Travel Guide
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