The most recent, non-important, non-urgent vacation realization to dawn on me did so on an evening walk back to my room from the Plantation House at the Bahia Beach St Regis in Puerto Rico.
Replete from off-duty amounts of tenderly braised octopus and truckloads of mofongo at the resort’s flagship restaurant Fern, the warm winds carrying the sound of distant wave crash amidst the hypnotic roar of the Puerto Rican tree frog — the coqui — almost put me to sleep on my feet when it dawned on me. Ohhhhhh, this is why they drive guests around in golf carts.
What today comprises the vast and opulent St. Regis path around the world began when the first St. Regis was opened between Madison and Fifth Avenues in New York in 1904, commissioned by businessman, inventor and writer John Jacob Astor IV. Famous guests like Salvador Dali and John Lennon have memorialized the brand. Lily St. Regis claimed to be named after the hotel in Broadway’s 1977 “Annie,” to which Miss Hannigan replied, “Which floor?” The discerning traveler may now rent, own, share, stay, lease, or develop property all over the globe as a St. Regis member or guest. Whether just visiting or at home, the services offered at the Bahia Beach St. Regis are second to none.
Simply known as “Act 22” among Puerto Rican residents, the Puerto Rican Incentive Law allows new residents exemptions from taxation on interest, dividends, and capital gains realized after becoming bona fide residents of the U.S. territory. This strategy to attract high-net-worth individuals may have been what attracted billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson to the island. In 2013, Paulson purchased a stake in the 483-acre Bahia Beach property, predicting an economic turnaround that will leave Puerto Rico situated as “the Singapore of the Caribbean.”
A picturesque Robert Trent Jones, Jr. golf layout winds its way through the Caribbean’s only gold-certified Audubon signature sanctuary. My wife and I enjoyed a magnificent self-loathing bath of sporting humility through circumstances not available during the winter in Washington, D.C. The state in which my wife was delivered back to our room after the full body massage at Remede Spa on site can only be described as that of a florally wrenched out washcloth with the smile of a drowsy wet noodle.
With seven culinary venues on site, including poolside and oceanside, a nature center, activity lagoon, tennis and wellness center, an Iguana Children’s Club, s’mores and champagne-sabering ritual every night at six, you really do not need to leave the property — but you should. You should go to Old San Juan for an afternoon walking tour and evening dinner. You should spend some hours hiking the trails and swimming in the pools of nearby El Yunque, the rainforest overlooking Bahia Beach. After these two activities, you should hurry back inside the gates of the St. Regis and resume rock star iguana watching and wave observation.
The staff at the St. Regis is exceptional. We wanted for almost nothing. In fact, had we wanted for anything, St. Regis is the only luxury hotel brand in the world to have every one of its locations trained in the English tradition of butler service. In a very passing comment made to hotel staff, my wife complained that she had forgotten the speaker for her blue tooth music collection. That evening’s bedside turn down included a state of the art speaker for her music, a gift from the staff.
Luxurious stays at far away Crescent Moon Beach kinds of places would not be complete without the little discoveries that you find there.
Mine was the breakfast acai bowl. The wellness center had them at their smoothie stand, and I had one (two) for breakfast first thing every morning. The honey was made on site and delicious. We met a couple from Atlanta with the same addiction, and the ensuing conversation about exactly what kitchenware to buy to replicate the recipe is directly responsible for the new Vitamix on our counter. Based on their research with the many variations of the Vitamix, we avoided the costly pitfall of purchasing the one that just sends the last of the acai bar bouncing around the blender forever, shattering the perfect consistency of this Bahia Beach delicacy.
Long, specific conversations like these re-charge batteries faster than anything else. Finding the top-secret duck feeding area and the decadently spicy nut mix at cocktail hour were other worthwhile finds. I spent the plane ride home playing YouTube clips of tree frogs and wondering whether geckos grow into lizards that grow into iguanas.