It’s Only Natural: A verdant preserve. The perfect beach. Spa indulgences en plein air. At St. Regis Bahia Beach, relaxation is guaranteed; the personal reboot is a bonus.
When night starts to fall on Puerto Rico’s verdant countryside, a symphony of coquí cries—mating calls, really—assaults the senses from all directions. It’s close encounters of the rainforest kind, a reminder that, in this deliciously secluded land, the only entertainment you need is nature’s lullaby.
Top: The nature preserve surrounding St. Regis Bahia Beach invites walking, kayaking, and cycling. The boathouse (bottom left) houses a nature center. The Remède Spa (bottom right) is arranged around a garden courtyard.
Listening to the constant chirp of the tiny frogs seems incongruous with the St. Regis experience, but at the Bahia Beach Resort, 30 minutes from San Juan in northeastern Puerto Rico, it works. Here’s why: The resort is located at the foot of El Yunque National Rainforest and bordered by the 5,000-acre Espíritu Santo River State Preserve. Nestled in green, the 483-acre resort is designated a Gold Signature Sanctuary by Audubon International—the first and only Caribbean resort to make that claim.
Within this lush realm, it’s easy to forget the outside world and melt into a new pace that shifts the focus to being rather than doing. You feel it from the moment you enter the resort complex and drive through a mile of nature preserve and past a traditional boathouse before arriving at the Plantation House, the oceanfront heart of the St. Regis. From there, you walk along a plank path through foliage to your suite, noticing several opportunities to get lost in the thicket.
|Top: The Plantation House, the hub of the property, encompasses Fern, the St. Regis Bar, and the hotel lobby. Bottom left: Beaches for miles. Bottom right: A bedroom in the 2,500-square-foot Governor’s Suite.|
The preserve offers a number of walking and cycling trails leading to secret coves by the river, wooden footbridges, and mangrove forests. The experience is best in the morning, when the canopy teems with birds and curious creatures dart about, and can be even more rewarding in the company of the resident naturalist, who can interpret the native flora and fauna.
Perhaps the best way to enjoy the natural surroundings is the St. Regis’ new Spa Without Walls program. This is exactly what the name suggests: an opportunity to be pampered in the open air, be it beachside, beneath the shade of a flamboyán tree, or a private terrace. The beachside experience, in particular, is an absolute must. There is nothing like a customized massage, using oil infused with local botanicals, at a cabana perched on the sand. The relaxing treatment, combined with the surf crashing a few feet away and the warm breeze on your skin, is the epitome of bliss.
|A treatment room at the Remede Spa.|
Not that the spa itself is not a gem. Though it measures 10,000 square feet, the Remède facility’s low-rise design—no building at the St. Regis complex is higher than the treetops—makes it quite intimate. Arranged around a garden space with a reflecting pool, the treatment rooms are luxuriously appointed with a nod to local materials and textures. At the end of a treatment, attendants offer Champagne and truffles—a welcome indulgence.
Continue to page 2 to read about the resort’s restaurants and the 5 “Must-Do’s” at the beach.
To bring the nature concept full circle, spa therapists often incorporate herbs grown at the property’s hydroponic garden. Vegetables from the same garden are used in the restaurants—including the haute-cuisine Fern by Jean-Georges Vongerichten—to reiterate the commitment to the land.
|Top: The entrance to Fern, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant. Bottom: Molasses Restaurant offers traditional Puerto Rican fare with an ocean view.|
All that, and a five-diamond experience too. The St. Regis Bahia Beach is Puerto Rico’s only Five Diamond property, and it’s hard to argue with the wisdom of the AAA reviewers. Everything, from the impeccable service to the authentically luxurious facilities, is exactly as it should be. When it all comes together so gloriously, it’s like hitting the “reset” button—on your own program.
Order the chef’s tasting menu at Fern. It’s not a quick meal, but the six courses—one better than the next—are worth the time commitment.
Hamachi Sashimi at Fern.
- Stop in at the St. Regis Bar around 5:30 for the nightly Champagne sabering, a St. Regis tradition with an island twist.
St. Regis Bar.
- Head to the El Yunque rainforest, less than half an hour from the resort, for an unforgettable zip-lining experience.
- After sunset, stroll along the plank walkways leading to the guest rooms and listen for the call of the coquí. These tiny frogs, endemic to Puerto Rico, chirp in unison between dusk and dawn, and the aural experience is magical.
- At night, visit the nearby Las Croabas bioluminescent bay. Touch your hand to the water and marvel at the myriad lights flickering like stars.
The entrance to the Plantation House. The bowls (foreground) become impressive fire features after dark