O:live Boutique Hotel, an Oasis in San Juan
By Josephine Parr
Steps away from the beach and large resorts, and nestled next to the lagoon of Condado Beach, is O:live Boutique Hotel (www.oliveboutiquehotel.com), a charming respite from the busy tourist destination of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The nondescript street gives way to a European influenced oasis. Opened by husband and wife team, Loisse Herger and Fernando Davila, O:live is filled with photographs and treasures from their honeymoon to Italy, which is where they hatched the idea for this hotel that is more private escape than hotel.
Each of the 15 rooms has outdoor space with some form of a water feature. Eight of the rooms also have outdoor showers, furthering O:live’s relaxing atmosphere.
Herger takes pride that each room is a unique space, curated with art, furniture and details from the couple’s travels. She says, “We want our guests to feel like they are at home, in relaxed luxury.” My personal favorite is the antique, metal scuba helmet the couple brought back from Italy which now adorns the coffee table in the lobby.
O:live makes you relax without trying. My flight landed early in the morning and I arrived to the hotel as people were eating breakfast on the rooftop terrace (it can also be served in the rooms). The roof feels as though you’ve stepped into a European villa’s terrace, magically transported to Puerto Rico. Reclaimed wood, wrought iron chandeliers and artfully designed nooks enhance the feeling of a secluded retreat. And then, there is the warm, salt water dipping pool, which I was told is better for the skin. I’m no expert, but it felt lovely.
Once in my room, I suddenly wished I wasn’t on a solo trip, thanks to the sensual vibe. From the all glass shower separating the bathroom from the bedroom to the handpicked furniture and art, a creative touch was used. And then, there was the private terrace. Just walking out onto it made me feel the world was a better place. With a colorful tiled floor and beautiful wood-covered walls, the terrace overlooked the lagoon and included a double-width chaise lounge chair, a wine fridge and a water fountain. Did I mention the outdoor shower? Herger said that many of their guests come to celebrate honeymoons or anniversaries, and I understand why. Everything feels intimate and away from the world.
While the physical charms of the hotel are evident, it’s the staff that wins you over. No request is too much, even serving tea in a coffee growing country. The generous and informed staff help to make their guests’ experiences unique, recommending everything from local restaurants to the best way to see tourist sites.
Should you feel like enjoying Stand Up Paddle boarding or kayaking on the lagoon, Aqua Fitness Puerto Rico, a few doors down the street, will outfit you at a discounted rate because, according to them, you are a “neighbor” when you stay at O:live. Early one morning, I had the lagoon to myself while I communed with the largest iguana I’ve ever seen and a ray that teased me into following it before darting away, twice.
Puerto Rico went through a difficult time with Hurricane Maria, and, after a year of recovery, it is welcoming visitors again. While many of the 5 star hotels were forced to close as they rebuilt from the storm, O:live was able to remain open throughout. The secret is out, so book early. Take heart though, they are opening O:LV Fifty Five, a new hotel just down the lagoon a bit, in early 2019.
Josephine Parr is a freelance writer who is passionate about adventure travel, ethnic food, and a good glass of red wine. She has been published in The New York Times, AFAR magazine, Travel Age West, Town & Country, Runner’s World and other publications. She lives in New York City.