Dorado Beach Reborn with Ritz-Carlton Reserve
By Ian Keown
My introduction to Caribbean resorts, ‘way back in the Sixties, was Dorado Beach Hotel on Puerto Rico, and for someone who grew up in moist, misty Scotland, as I did, this was like arriving at the gates of paradise. That long estate-like driveway through massed coconut palms! Those gleaming fairways! That art-filled lobby and the breezeway leading to the beach and that oh-so-inviting sea!
In those days, the 100-room Dorado Beach was the showcase of that unique trio of Caribbean getaways crafted by Laurance Rockefeller’s RockResorts, designed to blend low-key, understated luxury with a serenely natural setting — 1,500 acres of a coconut and citrus plantation – a combination that promised the kind of exclusivity that appealed to Sixties’ jetsetters. More recently, years of drifting from operator to operator have taken the gilt off Dorado, but the current owners have called in the savvy pros at Ritz-Carlton to upgrade and manage what will be, in effect, a whole new resort. While retaining more or less the footprint and many of the acclaimed features of the original it will introduce new levels of luxury, many of which might have startled Mr. Laurance – like rooftop swimming pools, pool cabanas with TVs and i-Pod docks and a spa that’s measured in acres rather than square feet.
When it opens in December next year, the new “Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve,” to use its formal title, will consist of 100 guest rooms and 14 one-bedroom suites plus 13 one- and two-bedroom condominium residences in two four-story buildings that top out above the palm trees (a no-no in Laurance Rockefeller’s era). The most newsworthy holdover from the earlier resort will be Dorado’s four legendary championship golf courses (guests will be competing for tee times with 1,200 local members, many of whom be available to make up foursomes with visitors who like to team up with players who know their way around the courses). New features enhancing the nature-oriented setting with its three miles of beach and man-made lagoons will a water park, six tennis courts, 11 miles of hiking and biking track and a Jean-Michel Cousteau Wind and Waves eco-adventure center (which has proved so popular with both adults and children at other Ritz-Carlton resorts). And then there’s that mammoth spa — 24 treatment rooms (including two “tree-house” suites) and an 8,000-square-foot fitness center with dramatic soaring architecture deployed over five acres of gardens awash in tropical blossoms and greenery. It may not be my paradise of yore but it looks like Ritz-Carlton Reserve is set to vault Dorado Beach once again into the elite of Caribbean resorts. (For information: www.doradobeach.com.)
Ian Keown is currently a contributing writer for Caribbean Travel & Life. Over the past 30-odd years his byline has appeared in Travel & Leisure (as a contributing editor), Gourmet (as contributing editor), Diversion (as contributing columnist), Departures, ForbesFYI, San Francisco Examiner, Worth and Opera. His guidebooks include his own series of lovers’ guides: Guide to France for Loving Couples, Very Special Places: A Lover’s Guide to America, European Hideaways and Caribbean Hideaways (which the Miami Herald called “the bible.”). He is the recipient of the first Marcia Vickery Award for Travel Writing and the first Anguilla 40 Award for in Recognition of Outstanding Contributions to Anguilla Tourism.