Hello Fellow Travelers:
This was a much anticipated trip (and celebratory), but mostly #50 on my Bucket List. Enjoy the read.
Day 1: Arrive in not so sunny San Juan. Smooth flight on the NO FRILLS Jet Blue early bird special...my husband's least favorite time to fly! Picked up our bagged within 10 minutes and waited only 5 more minutes for our Thrifty Car Rental shuttle to whisk us over to our car. No wait in the rental line but very slow and not so knowledgable rental agents. Guess it's the "price" you pay for $9.95 a day!!! You heard me...$9.95 a day to rent a Kia. One catch though: they don't tell you when you reserve on line or via telephone that some type of insurance is mandatory for you to take (besides your own state side).However, that being said, the car (with gas fill up on the return) cost us $90 for 4 days.
First stop upon leaving the car rental was to the local market in Isle Verde to pick up some essentials. It was literally on the other side side of the airport when you exit. You can't miss it. They sell everything from liquor, to cigarettes, to typical sun items plus groceries. Prices were very reasonable. We navigated well on our own so no need for the extra $45 to rent a navigation system. From there we charted the map to our hotel.
Since this was our first trip travelling without children, we decided to take our time and explore and therefore opted for the longer more scenic route to our hotel which was approximately 50 minutes EAST via the scenic Rt 187 (or 25 minutes away via the more modern road of Rte 66). Taking this road was the best idea for the day!!! Although it was curvy and without lights and stops signs, it was as beautiful as a post card. We stopped along the ride at Vacia Talega Beach to have a picnic lunch and a swim in the ocean!!! It was magical, peaceful and almost desolite. My bonus was making friends with the local vendors who have these kiosks along the side of the road. Made for great shopping.
After two hours of play, we forged on. The roads seemed to get more curvy the futher east we went. But sadly, I have to say the most fascinating part of our driving in Puerto Rico was that every where, and we mean EVERYWHERE you looked, there were bars on the windows. (except for car windows!!)
By 2PM, we arrived at our destination for the next four days: the spectacular St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Rio Grande. To begin with, the turn off the main road leading to the road that actually takes you to the resort can easily be missed. Is this deliberate? I have to wonder...As you descend upon this narrow two way path with nothing but marsh on one side and a cow farm on the other, you almost have to ask yourself....IS THIS REALLY A 5 STAR RESORT???? That's how back woods it feels to get there!!! Architecturally, maybe not the best concept. And funny enough, I came to learn through the very talented concierge that the developer of this particular St. Regis property was a Harvard graduate student who did his thesis on the land development of THIS property!
OK, back to our arrival.
Low and behold, some 2 miles later, we ascend upon the iron gate where there is a lovely security agent making certain that only guests and employees enter this tropical paradise. Not 1/2 mile later we drive up this lovely limestone circular driveway and to the main entrance of the hotel. We had at least 5 attendants helping us from the minute we arrived. Our bellhop Edwin will go down in the history book of bellhops as the friendliest, most knowledgable and charasmatic bell hop we EVER met!! And when the door man opened the door to the main reception area, I nearly lost my breath from the view. Dead center of the lobby was a tastefully decorated 12 foot christmas tree whose back drop was the bluest Atlantic Ocean! To your left of the tree was the check in area. And not your typical check in area. It looked more like the office of a Fortune 500 CEO. Tastefully decorated in Brazillian walnut and muted toned fabrics. We perched ourselves in beautiful wing back chairs and Antonio checked us in. To be honest, I was not impressed by Antonio at all. I tried very hard to find some positive about this young man who could not have been more than 24 years old. He lacked alot of knowledge for this type of job and seemed very unsure of himself to boot. Naturally. we arrived to early of normal check in time so they suggested we have lunch and Antonio assured me he would contact me via my cellphone in 30 minutes with an update. Well, we had a lovely lunch at Seagrapes by the pool, a stroll around the pool area and another dip in the ocean and still no phone call from Antonio. Finally , I made my way back to reception at around 4:30 and he told me own room was finally ready. Edwin was at the main door waiting to escort us to our room with our baggage. We were in room 823. Second floor of Building #8. I can't even begin to tell you how massive of a property the St. Regis is as a whole. So much so that you really need to utilize the golf cart service they provide free of charge just to get around the property.
So Edwin escorts us into our room. A ROOM???? Honestly, and my math skills are not the greatest, I'm going to venture a guess and say that the room was approximately 1,200 square feet. Note: this was not a suite. This was a standard Superior room. We had a beautiful Lanai with lovely rattan furnishings. We had a tumbled stone and marble bath that beats the record books of standard hotel rooms:. A walk in shower that could fit 75 people comfortable, plush bathrobes, A soaking tub that we could have swam in, and a vanity mirror with a built in television. My husband started doing the happy dance!!!! A luxurious pillow top King Size bed, a wet bar, flat screen t.v., wireless internet, spectacular turn down service, fully stocked bar, free bottled water, a lovely writing desk and lounge chair, and best of all, the St. Regis Butler service!!!! They even sent me a birthday card with a lovely chocolate mousse cake for my birthday!!!
Edwin proceeded to make sure we knew of every nuance of our room! He even went and got us our first bucket of ice because it was located in another building! Funny enough, when he asked if there was anything else, as I was about to say "NO" i realized there was no coffee machine in the room! Imagine, they gave us everything else, but the darn coffeemaker. Edwin quickly called the St. Regis Butler and he assured me that while he was getting the amenities, they would bring the coffee pot. So we began to unpack and about 30 minutes later receivd a phone call from Butler Service verifying that we requested a coffee pot, "yes, we most certainly did!" Ok, we will send it right over. But another 30 minutes later, we received yet another phone call asking to verify our need for a coffeemaker, and another 30 minutes and another 30 minutes later, AND another 30 minutes later. And still NO coffeemaker. So at this point, I called the Butler service and asked for a manager. She assured me I would have the coffeepot, but we gave up waiting and left the room. We made our way to dinner and then to the gift shop. As we strolled back to our room we ran into that wonderful man Edwin again. He gently asked if we received our coffee pot. Well, I wish I could have photographed the genuine surprise on his face when I told him we gave up waiting for it,. Not 10 minutes after returning to our room he had the manager of housekeeping behind our door with a butler and a coffee pot. We said our thank you's and good nights. That Edwin earned his keep our first day!!!
The turn down service at the St. Regis is second to none. I rang the butler once we arrived back to our room and within 5 minutes the butler was there.
After a glorious nights sleep, we woke up to a beautiful sunny 85 degree day. I made my coffee and we sat on our lanai listening to the waves and the frogs. After a light breakfast, we headed to the beach. To be honest, for a luxury resort, I thought the beach could have been a little cleaner. I loved the fact that we were totally isolated and surrounded by nothing, but sadly the beach was red flagged our entire stay. I counted only 4 people on the beach that day!!! At moments, when the tide looked like it was changing, we would venture further down the beach and go for a swim. The undertow was definitely rough and something to keep in mind if you're travelling with small children. Mid way through the day the St, Regis does a Iced Tea sampling for their guests. Basically, they come up with some iced tea variations and the guests are the guniea pigs to try them. I can honestly say I didn't drink an iced tea I didn't like. All of the staff by the pool were wonderful but the resort lacks beach staff. Not one waiter came to us on the beach AT ALL!!!
This afternoon we had lunch at Molasses further down the beach and I recommend the Shrimp Aijillo. Lovely restaurant and attentive wait staff.
We spent the remainder of the day at the pool and then ventured for an early happy hour/dinner to soak up some local sights and flavor as suggested by our trusty amigo - Edwin. We headed further east to the town of Luquillo, some 25 minutes from the St. Regis. Thankfully, it's off a main road so the driving is a straight run. Only draw back is the road of 188 which has no lights whatsoever! when you return in the dark, the cow's sometimes like to escape past the security fence and venture right onto the road. Be extremely careful.
The town on Luquillo is very simple but friendly. It is loved by the local's so venturing around here during the weekdays is always best. Locals flood the place on the weekends.
I found some lovely shops for souvenirs and the vendors will happily bargain with you. The local beers were only $1.50 some spots and as high as $3 in others. Nonetheless, it tasted like a Budwiser!!!
For dinner, we went with our friendly suggestion of La Parilla. Typically local puerto rican cusine and fairly inexpensive. Get a table by the ocean and dine in paradise!!! Our waiter was fantastic and really went out of his way to make sure we were pleased. I opted for a lobster dinner and the waiter took me to the tank to pick my own! HEAVEN!!!! 4 beers, 2 fish entrees and 1 desert later, the bill was $60 with tip. I highly recommend this place for local flavor.
We sampled some more cervesas along the road from some of the other kiosks and had not one bad experience. Thankfully our ride home was uneventful but we did pay close attention on Rt 188. And in case your'e wondering, NO, we don't drink and drive. One of us is always designated.
Upon arriving back to our room we found lovely choclates waiting for me for my birthday along with a very appologetic note card from the manager of housekeeping.! And then the Butler came for turn down service! HOLLAR!!!!
tomorrow I will do DAYS 3 & 4
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Hello Fellow Travelers: