Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Puerto Rico

On Puerto Rico’s north shore, just west of San Juan, lies Dorado Beach, a coastal stretch of rolling palm groves and white-sand beaches that is a thriving scene of resorts, golf courses and residential communities. Among the more touted, the Ritz-Carlton Reserve is a hideaway destination with a history for excellence and distinction in the Caribbean.

In 1905, a Jamestown, New York physician, Alfred T. Livingston, visited Dorado and was so taken with the area that he took up residence, purchasing 1,700 acres to cultivate coconuts and grapefruits for export, and called it Finca La Sardiniera. Dr. Livingston passed on his prosperous export business to his daughter, Clara, in 1923. Just 22-years-old when her father died, Clara managed the property for over two decades and completed two significant construction projects, her residence, Su Casa, and her private airport. Su Casa was built in 1928 after a hurricane destroyed the original wood house, and is still on the premises today as a four bedroom villa for rent. An avid aviatrix, Clara built a runway on the property to give flying lessons. Amelia Earhart was a close friend of Clara’s and visited the island, staying at Su Casa, where copies of the original photographs from those visits are on display.

In 1955, Conservationist Laurence Rockefeller purchased La Sardiniera from Clara, introducing the world to the first Caribbean luxury eco-resort on December 1st, 1958, and hosting a collection of A-list celebrity friends, such as Joe DiMaggio, Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner, Gerald Ford, Dwight Eisenhower, Henry Kissinger, John F. Kennedy, to name just a few. This latest addition to his famous Rockresorts chain was named Dorado Beach for the golden color of the beaches, and the hotel’s logo was an old alchemist’s sign for gold.  Over the years, tennis courts and two golf courses designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. were added, and Clara’s private airstrip was used to shuttle guests on the short hop between San Juan and Dorado Beach.

The resort was a victim of the financial turmoil of the 1980’s, but in 2012, after a $342 million renovation, Dorado Beach made its grand return as the first Ritz-Carlton Reserve hotel and residences in the Americas (and only the second in the world). With a beachfront restaurant by chef José Andrés, a five-acre spa reminiscent of something you would see in Thailand, a $12 million water park and lazy river fashioned after a traditional Puerto Rican sugar mill, Dorado Beach has been transformed into a vacation destination for families and honeymooners alike.

The list of things to do is endless. Upon check-in, we received our local transportation, a creaky (but charming) beach cruiser bike, that we rode on Rockefeller Trail, a three-mile loop that took us alongside the beach, then inland to the tennis and volleyball courts for the residences of Dorado Beach East.  Circling back toward the beach, past more tennis courts and a fitness center for residents and resort guests (where we attended zumba classes in the mornings, aka Latin dance parties), we passed the former airstrip. Closed in 1996, the former airstrip was transformed by the Ritz into Livingston Park, an aviation-themed children’s playground in honor of Clara Livingston’s love of flying. It includes play airplanes, a runway plaza and a hangar housing some of her memorabilia. During out weeklong stay, we spent most of our time bouncing between the beach and the Watermill, with a few detours to the spa, which is not to be missed. Every detail in the resort is exquisite, and you will be hard pressed to find a reason to leave.


The minimalist, white-stone entry pavilion of the Ritz-Carlton Dorado Beach Resort.


The grounds were impeccably landscaped.


My preferred mode of transportation around the resort.


Our oceanfront room with private plunge pool.



Each room is decorated in cream-colored fabrics with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Exploring the grounds on the first day.

Exploring the grounds on the first day we found a former plantation building that has been turned into recreation center for residents of Dorado Beach East, a residential community.


The alchemist’s symbol for gold.


Livingston Park, an aviation-themed children’s playground in honor of Clara Livingston’s love of flying.

The Watermill water park.

The Watermill water park where we spent many an afternoon with the kiddos.


There are two 30-foot waterslides and a lazy river.



Positivo Sand Bar, a favorite of ours (more about the food in the next post).


A pretty sublime spot to enjoy rosé all day.


View of the Su Casa pool, photo cred going to my brother-in-law.


Another beautiful day in Puerto Rico.


The courtyard pool at Su Casa which I loved for the beautiful encaustic (cement) tiles.


Bedrooms at Su Casa are appointed with four poster beds.


A few furnishings in Su Casa remain from the Livingston era, my favorite being these incredible chandeliers.


A massive ficus tree greets you at the Spa Botánico.


The Apothecary Portal in the entryway to the spa, with local lemongrass, lavender and marigold.


The interior courtyard of the spa.


Eat your heart out Tree House Masters.  There are two of these types of treatment rooms made of Ipe wood.


A tree house treatment room prepared for a massage.


Outdoor hot tub in the ladies lounge area.


Outdoor showers.


The shell stone that is found at the resort is said to come from the interior of the island.



A field of wild pineapple growing in front of the spa.

For foodies and travel junkies, don’t miss out on the second annual Dorado Beach Culinary Getaway at Dorado Beach, from November 3-6, 2016, where José Andrés, Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain, and Tim Love team up with local chefs to bring cooking demonstrations and interactive events to the resort. You know how much I adore Tim Love!  We actually saw Eric Ripert while we were there…maybe he was doing some advance work.  If you attend, let me know how it goes…I may put it on my list for my next visit to PR!  xoM

Dorado Beach, a Ritz Carlton Reserve

100 Dorado Beach Dr.

Dorado, 00646-2000, Puerto Rico


Liked it? Please share:

Leave a Reply