I recently traveled to Puerto Rico to meet my dad and a camera crew to shoot promotional videos on behalf of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Card from American Express, an advertising partner.
I’ve been a SPG Amex card member for quite some time, which is one of the reasons they invited me to be part of their SPG Amex Stars program back in 2012. My job as an Amex Star is to help communicate the benefits of the SPG Amex card to travelers. Part of the deal is they invite me (and a guest) to some really cool places and exclusive cardmembers-only, behind-the-scenes events like the Tribeca Film Festival and the past two U.S. Opens, and meet-and-greets with the likes of tennis legends Monica Seles and Lindsay Davenport. I even got to go to Hawaii last New Year’s for their holiday challenge.
This trip to Puerto Rico was for one of their summer signature experiences. The best part? They’re giving me 30,000 SPG Starpoints to use in a Twitter giveaway sometime in the next few weeks (another reason to follow me!). For the summer signature experience I could’ve gone to any Starwood property in the United States. I was going to go to the Royal Hawaiian or Sheraton Moana Surfrider in Hawaii but decided to go somewhere else since my SPG Star colleague Lee Abbamonte was doing his videos there. I figured the next most exotic place in the U.S. is Puerto Rico and since Starwood has one of their swanky St. Regis Hotels there, that’s what I chose.
Although I wasn’t paying for the plane tickets, the fares were cheap—even from Los Angeles. At the time of booking (and often other times) you could fly to Puerto Rico for $350 roundtrip from either CA or NY. Now that’s a bargain! Below are my four SPG videos and 10 reasons why you want to stay at the St. Regis Bahia Beach, Puerto Rico!
The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico, is located on the northeastern corridor of the island of Puerto Rico, at the foot of the El Yunque National Forest (16 miles away/25-minute drive). The resort is bordered by the 5,000 acre Espíritu Santo River State Preserve, and is a 30-minute drive from Old San Juan and San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport. Good to know: A taxi from the airport to the hotel is about $80, so you might want to rent a car if you plan on sightseeing.
The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico, is located on 483 acres of pristine coconut palms and a magnificent two-mile crescent of sandy beach. The main section of the beach (in front of the pool) features chairs and umbrellas set up as well as private cabanas for rent. But if you want privacy, you can just stroll down either side of the beach and you won’t see anyone at all. You might even find one of their several hammocks hanging between palm trees.
The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico, has 139 rooms with all the luxuries you’d expect from a resort of this caliber: plush beds with 300-thread-count sheets, walk-in-closet, oversized desk, mini refrigerator, private balconies, 40″ LCD television, Bose surround-sound system, iPod docking station, DVD/CD player, marble bath with an oversized tub, separate shower, and double vanity with a mirror featuring an embedded LCD television.
4. World-class golf
The jewel of Bahia Beach is its 18-hole golf course. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr, it’s a challenging course at 7,000 yards from the championship tees, and it’s hosted qualifying rounds for the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rican Open. In addition to saltwater lagoons throughout, it boasts a final two holes that border the Atlantic ocean with spectacular views of both the sea and El Yunque Rainforest. Fees vary seasonally and depending on time of day and number of people.
But golf isn’t the only thing to do here. The resort also has a private lagoon with a picturesque boat house, a kids club and several opportunities to try new things like sailing lessons, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, fishing, biking on their three miles of trails, or tennis on one of their four Deco Turf hard courts (two are lighted for evening play). Here’s their activities page and my activities video.
6. Wildlife sanctuary
Bahia Beach is actually a Gold-certified wildlife sanctuary by Audubon International, and it’s no wonder why. With wildlife ranging from 56 kinds of birds to giant iguanas to leatherback sea turtles, a guided nature tour here is like no other—and they offer it for free daily. I was surprised to learn that the resort is a popular turtle nesting site and this season alone has seen 22 turtle nests, with one turtle coming back and nesting five times. The front desk will even wake you up in the middle of the night if they spot any turtles nesting if you request it.
The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico, offers three dining options including Fern, which is by celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. There’s also Seagrapes by the pool which offers an eclectic menu of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. But my favorite, across the property overlooking the golf course and the sea, is Molasses.
The menu here is filled with local flavors including mofongo, which is one of the classic Puerto Rican dishes. With its origins in African cooking, the foundation of any mofongo is mashed and fried plantains. Then, you add in some sautéed peppers and onions, local spices, and your choice of chicken, shrimp, or my personal favorite: ropa vieja, the beef! Check out my food video from the resort.
The Remède Spa (here’s my video) has seven treatment rooms surrounding a beautiful garden with shady benches, burbling fountains, cold plunge pools, and a jacuzzi. Indoors there are saunas and steam rooms, a nail salon and hair salon, and separate men’s and women’s areas with luxury showers, lockers and teas, fruits, and cookies available. Body treatments offered:
- The Remède Customized Wrap
- After-Sun Reprieve
- The Remède Customized Body Polish
- Bahia Reflexology
- Queen Loiza’s Royal Treatment
- Taino Warm Native Stone Ritual
- The Bahia Beach Organic Ritual
- Encanto Rum Massage
- Borinquen Coffee Polish
The sea in Puerto Rico is warm but the water is unpredictable—with rip currents and jellyfish—so most guests hang out by the huge cascading pool with cabanas and ocean views. There are plenty of lounge chairs so you don’t have to fight for one and they do have private cabanas available for rent. The best part about the pool, besides it being really warm, is that it’s open 24 hours.
Every night at the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico, they have a champagne sabering! The bartender cuts the top off of the champagne bottle with a saber. Here’s my YouTube video of it.
As you can see the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico, is beautiful, but you should know about some of the things I didn’t like as well. For one, they charge a mandatory $60-a-night resort fee, which is crazy in my opinion. I hate resort fees as they’re just a way for hotels to deceive guests and the government as they don’t get taxed on them. However, I spoke to a number of guests and they didn’t have a problem with this one because it included Wi-Fi, beach chairs/umbrellas and many of the activities.
I also didn’t like that the water temperature in the shower would constantly fluctuate, and one time the TV in my room went on in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. I also couldn’t get the volume of the TV to go down—just up. The food is also expensive and you’re pretty much required to eat on-property since you’re pretty much out in the middle of nowhere (luckily, the food is good).
Overall, I really enjoyed my stay, as did all of the other guests that I met. I even overheard two teenagers on the way to the front desk say, “I don’t want to go home.”
Room rates begin at $458 or SPG Free Nights for 25,714 Starpoints.
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