Splashing Out at the St. Regis Bahia Beach Puerto Rico

Dec 27, 2016
The Suite Life: When in doubt, upgrade.

I’ll start by saying that my wife and I aren’t 5-star travelers. When we book a hotel, we’re generally looking for a 4-star stay or a nice 3-star stay – somewhere that’s well-located to rest your head and use the Wi-Fi, and if the kids are with us, somewhere with a hotel pool.

But for special occasions, we like to splurge. And our recent trip counts as a special occasion – our 15th wedding anniversary. The last two “big” anniversaries (5 and 10), we returned to Kauai – the island where we went for our honeymoon. But with older kids and their busy schedules, we couldn’t justify the long flight to Hawaii from the East Coast for a few days of island time.

So we were looking for ideas on what to do – but I can honestly say that Puerto Rico wasn’t the first place we were considering.

That changed when the St. Regis Bahia Beach Puerto Rico offer became available. Puerto Rico is super convenient from New York – several direct flights into San Juan each day. It’s an island you can do on a long weekend and not be exhausted. We also loved our St. Regis experience at the Princeville in Kauai.

Oh, and the deal was 70% off regular rates. Yes please.

There were a few room types to choose from, including an upgrade to their best oceanfront suites. (These rooms are regularly $1000 per night.) I decided to splurge a bit as an anniversary surprise – and I’m glad we did.

While I’m sure the other rooms are also very nice, the Oceanfront King Suite was one of the nicest suites we’ve ever stayed in. It was a massive luxury apartment with a lanai looking out at the beach. Marble floors, two bathrooms (one more than we have at home), enough closets that we actually forgot to re-pack stuff we hung up, a deep soaking tub and a massive shower that could’ve fit us and eight of our closest friends.

Bottom line: The upgrade was totally worth the extra few bucks.

The room came with butler service, but having never had a butler we couldn’t come up with excuses to really use it. There was 5-star service across the resort – it was almost as if you turned around with an open hand, they’d stick a drink in it. They left chocolate strawberries and wine in our room to mark our anniversary, which was a nice touch.

We did go during hurricane season – and Hurricane Matthew was close enough during our trip that it was rainy and gray most days – that didn’t dampen our vacation or our St. Regis experience.

Here’s a few tips if you’re considering the same trip:

  • Get the upgrade. The room is amazing, the service is awesome and the Oceanfront King Suites are the closest rooms to the beach, the spa and the main plantation house with the restaurant and bar.
  • Take advantage of the resort amenities. The St. Regis complex is massive – and you could stay on property for a week and probably not do it all. There’s golf, spa, a wide beach – plus kayaking and paddleboarding on the lagoon, nature hikes and bikes for use throughout the property. The deal included a waived $75 per night resort fee, which was a great addition.
  • Get your saber on. There is a nightly Champagne sabering ritual at sunset. Go at least once, it’s a nice way to celebrate the end of the day.
  • Order the French toast at breakfast or brunch. It’s really, really good. Also good? The drinks – both the mojitos and the dark and stormy with Puerto Rican rum. Yum.
  • Think of reasons to use the butler service ahead of time. We didn’t overdo it, but from talking to colleagues they got pizza delivered, the kitchen staff made their daughter rice and beans, they had their shoes shined, clothes pressed, bags packed, etc. While that would’ve been nice, we were content to just be left alone and enjoy the quiet time to ourselves.
  • It’s a very kid-friendly resort. We didn’t bring our boys – but they would’ve had a great time in the pool, on the beach and in the lagoon. It wasn’t snooty 5-star luxury, where sometimes you feel like your kids are ruining everyone else’s trip.
  • Get a rental car. The resort is a 30-minute drive from San Juan, and you can arrange for a shuttle, but having a car let us get off the resort and explore.
  • Ask the concierge for recommendations. The staff was very helpful suggesting activities off the resort. We didn’t do much – hiked El Yunque on one day and got lunch, but if we had stayed longer, we would’ve.
  • Stay the extra day. We went for 3 nights, but a fourth or fifth would’ve been nice. With the shorter trip, we didn’t venture off the resort much – so we didn’t get to do the nearby bioluminescent bay in Fajardo because of the weather. We also didn’t do a spa day, which was next on the list.
  • At a luxury resort, it never hurts to ask. We had a later flight, so we were able to get a late checkout and enjoy most of the final day at the resort. We didn’t feel ushered out.
  • Don’t miss El Yunque. You’re only about 20 minutes from the only rain forest in the U.S. National Forest Service. Allow about a half a day for the full monty: The drive there (it’s a steep, winding road up to the rain forest in the mountains) and an one-mile hike to La Mina Falls. The hike was relatively easy – some of the trail is paved or has steps, but good hiking shoes/sneakers are a good idea in the rain forest. The falls are a popular spot, so don’t expect to get brochure-quality photos without a tourist photobomb. Still, it’s a worthwhile excursion.
  • Make the most of your vacation time. We love Kauai, but it’s so far away. This time, we only had a short window to travel, so it was nice to pick a destination as convenient as Puerto Rico. There were direct flights and we were at the resort about 4 hours after leaving home. Bonus: It’s also one of the cheaper Caribbean islands to fly to.
  • Don’t let the weather rain on your parade. It was hurricane season – we knew that when we booked the trip. It’s part of the reason why the deal was so good. Yes, we got lucky because Hurricane Matthew didn’t directly hit Puerto Rico. But despite the fact that it was rainy in the area, we found plenty of ways to enjoy ourselves – and the amenities at the St. Regis certainly helped in that regard.
I’m glad we upgraded our anniversary trip. You should too.

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