By Cristina Wilson
Posted: Wednesday, Oct. 02, 2013
Direct flights, distinctive fare, and dreamy destinationsfor honeymooners, Puerto Rico can't be beat.
W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Island
Envision walking into a spa: soothing low-key music, modern aesthetics, and a sense of calm. Now take those elements and pair them with contemporary design, a bold color palette, and an unbelievably gorgeous oceanfront view, and youve got the W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Island. A taxi and ferry ride from San Juan (though puddle jumping by plane is recommended), W Vieques feels like a world apart, tucked away on the far side of the island. Upon arrival, curl up in one of the rainbow, cocoon-style loungers with your new hubby and take in the view, or go ahead and take a dip. A jutting cliff splits the private beach; one half is topless-optional for the more European inclined.
Though its tempting to lounge by the pool all dayin a semi-submerged lounge chair, no lessmuster up the energy to take the resorts kayaks exploring or plan to tour the rest of the island. Though many of the locals seem to travel by horse, which is quite a sight in itself, you can rent a jeep or car to take advantage of Puerto Ricos most incredible beaches. A few local favorites are Playa Negrita (a self-explanatory black sand beach), Cofi Beach (with bold red rocks and a gorgeous view of Isabel Segunda, the main town of the island), and Media Luna Beach (shallow, crystal clear, and perfect for a honeymooners stroll).
Puerto Rican classics get a modern twist at Sorcé, Ws on-site restaurant. Start with a beef empanadatraditional, but executed to perfectionand save room for the Vieques Style Mofongo (a plantain-based dish with chicken, skirt steak, and shrimp). With a team of mixologists creating playful daily specials, you wont want to miss a single days libation, like the Passion Painkiller: local rum, coconut milk, passion fruit, and pineapple.
The resort is excited to announce the launch of an exclusive partnership with LGBT specialized wedding planner, Bernadette Coveney Smith. The customized packages for same-sex couples include a legal marriage ceremony in New York or Boston, off-site planning, and a pre-wedding tasting and planning session on the island with Coveney Smith leading up to the big day.
W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Island
The Gallery Inn
Enter a world of your own at Gallery Inn, tucked at the top of the hill in Old San Juan, and youll never want to leave. Owner and artist Jan DEsopo purchased a 300-year-old townhouse in Old San Juan when her sculpture commissions started to take off 50 years ago, and as her art gained momentum, she purchased the neighboring houses and connected them via al fresco passageways and stone staircases. Its easy to get lost for your first day or two, but you wont mindevery corner offers a sofa or nook for relaxing, and every wall is covered in original pieces of DEsopos art. Just dont be surprised when a tropical feathered friend stops by to say hello.
You dont need to leave the hotel to get a taste of the sea; just take a dip in the saltwater Sculpture Pool, a winding creation that lets you get up close and personal with the art. A full sensory experience, the pool is central to the main courtyard and garden, so the tropical plants and exotic birds all add to the adventure. When you do want to hit the beach, though, the property owns its own Beach House with private access for guests. And just a few blocks down the boardwalk is the San Felipe del Morro fort, one of the iconic sites of Puerto Rican history.
First things first. Head up to the Wine Deck, the highest point in Old San Juan and perhaps the best way to take in the historic city and gorgeous water views all at once as you sip your beverage of choice. An eclectic menu sets the Gallery Inns cuisine apart from the traditional Puerto Rican fare that dots the surrounding blocks. White Bean Soup with Black Truffle Oil and Kurobuta Pork Shank, for example, pair modern and on-trend ingredients with local produce and meats, all served by candlelight in an open air dining room just off the main courtyard and gardens.
Look familiar? The Gallery Inn was one of the sites used as the Costa Rican setting of the film "Runner Runner," starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake. In theaters now, the film offers several glimpses of Old San Juan and this hidden gem.
The Gallery Inn
The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan
The name Ritz-Carlton conjures images of luxury, sophistication, and a flair for celebration. San Juans interpretation doesnt disappoint, with an oasis-like pool and private beach access, plus a bustling casino and restaurants that cater to the metropolitan crowd. If you want to relax and play tourist during the day (you can easily cab over to Old San Juan for an afternoon of sightseeing), but keep the party going all night, look no further than this world-class destination.
You already felt like the luckiest girl in the world on your wedding day, right? So keep the luck rolling at The Ritz-Carlton, San Juans 24-hour casino, one of the largest in Puerto Rico. But if your idea of play is a soak or a Swedish, slip over to the 11-room spa and indulge in the Café con Leche Body Exfoliation or the Drift to Sleep treatmentthis two-hour experience begins with an aromatherapy milk bath, continues with a peaceful body massage, and finishes with 30 minutes of rest on the warmed duvet. Good morning, beautiful.
Charlotteans are no stranger to the cut above at BLT Steak, but the propertys other standout restaurant, Il Mulino, also sets the mood with its old world Italian cuisine and romantic atmosphere. Request the best seat in the house with your reservation: a two-person table hidden away in the dark wood wine cellar. A portion of Parmesan sliced individually tableside sets the tone for attention to detail throughout the experience (similarly, every meal is topped off with a taste of Grappa, an Italian brandy, distilled in house). The flair for showmanship continues as each dish is finished at a central chefs station. Although all of the meats are of the highest caliber and the menu is thoughtfully crafted, a few of the standouts are the simplest, like the house-made fettuccine or gnocchi.
The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan
Taste of the Island
The dining scene in Puerto Rico has never been hotter, and a balance of traditional fare with trendier cuisine is always recommended. Youre just as likely to find the most incredible roasted pork youve ever tasted roadside and on paper dishes as you are to find a flavorful French-inspired dish on white china.
Wine buffs must plan a stop to Bodegas Compostela, a wine and tapas spot that lets you select your bottle directly from their impressive cellar. The seafood shines as well, as in the Octopus Carpaccio. Another stop for those who favor a tapas-style menu is Marmalade, which focuses on sustainable and non-modified foods. Though the seafood and meat dishes are all top-notch, this is the perfect destination for vegetarians, with an entire vegetarian a la carte menu as well as a group tasting menu, including dishes like Hand-Rolled Black Truffle Tagliatelle Pasta with spinach and marsala butter.
For those seeking an unforgettable meal prepared by one of the worlds top chefs, reserve a table at 1919, the flagship restaurant of the newly openedand gloriously luxeCondado Vanderbilt Hotel. At the helm, Chef Juan Jose Cuevas (the only chef to receive a Michelin star in Puerto Rico), delights with perfect execution and innovative interpretation of key Puerto Rican proteins. The Black Cod with local corn, onions, shellfish, and chives, is just one example, as is the Hamachi-Fluke Crudo with olives, avocado, and pineapple. Dont schedule much else that daythis is one meal you will want to sit and savor.
When youre craving authenticity, plan a lunch at Kasalta, one of Puerto Ricos oldest diner-style spots. A local favorite for decades, the café enjoyed the limelight when President Obama stopped in for the Medianoche (a Cuban sandwich served on sweet egg bread). Thats certainly a specialty, but if you have room be sure to get the Caldo Gallego, a hearty Spanish soup, and squeeze in an authentic Puerto Rican Mallorca pastry and café con leche for dessert.
And finally, for a true taste of Old San Juan, pop in Café Puerto Rico for knockout seafood, steak, roast pork, and Mofongoand perhaps the best sopa de pollo on the island. The name is simple, and so is the menu, but both the food and its namesake shouldnt be missed.