Flying through San Juan? There are new luxe reasons to stop and stay
It’s time you started treating San Juan like Reykjavik. Don’t just fly over — stop and stay awhile.
All winter long, loaded travelers stream into St. Barts by charter puddle jumpers that depart from St. Maarten or San Juan. Most travelers never leave the airport when they transfer. But they should.
San Juan is the perfect two- or three-night stopover stay. It’s colorful, lively and increasingly trendy Old Town is one of the best in the Americas.
But St. Barts-minded sophisticates needn’t slum it there. The city also boasts one of the best resorts anywhere: the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort — a perfect aperitif for those headed on to more exclusive isles.
The St. Regis lies a quick 30-minute drive along the coast from the airport through scarcely developed oceanfront farmland, where it sprawls over 483 acres of palm-filled, iguana-rich estate land.
A former plantation — whose historic house is now the central lobby, restaurant, bar and champagne-sabering destination for the resort — today the resort is all about play, not work.
The hotel’s pool is massive and broken up by footpaths and miniature waterfalls, a creative layout that gives everyone their space. Rooms are set apart in small clusters along jungle-like paths. Service is St. Regis gold standard.
But high-rolling families looking to supplement their island joys with some peaceful nights before or after yacht-party revelry on St. Barts will want to book the resorts newest product: the Casa Estancias.
Opened in November, the unique beachfront estate with room for 10 guests has five bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a large kitchen, a dining room, a movie room, an outdoor terrace with a saltwater lap pool, summer kitchen, lounge area and an expansive grass lawn that leads directly onto a private 2-mile beach.
With a room that large, a full-time butler, daily housekeeping, and full access to the resort’s amenities (including the ocean-front golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., the Iridium Spa and gym, the tennis club, the boathouse with water sports) is de rigueur.
It will set you back a cool $30,000 per night — which is (try not to gasp) probably a lot cheaper than your St. Barts villa rental.
Culture junkies will appreciate another artsy addition to the resort: four large-scale bronze sculptures by renowned Latin American artist Fernando Botero.
“Donna su Cavallo,” one of the artist’s most famous sculptures, now welcomes guests at the entrance to the Bahia Beach grounds. Again at the rotunda just down the long entrance road, “The Rape of Europa,” awaits (time to brush up on your mythology).
Next, take a tip from “Reclining Woman with Fruit.” which greets guests upon arrival at the Casa Grande lobby, and get into the mood. Presiding over the porte cochere is “Leda and the Swan” — no need to explain this one to the kids.
If Botero tempts you to cheat on your diet, the resort also has a permanent art collection of Spanish art, composed of a mix of new and established artists. including Héctor Méndez Caratini, Rafael Ferrer, Jorge Zeno, Luis Torruella and more.
Newest of all the resort is helping mind meet body with elementally themed experiences.
Launch in February, guests will be able to experience “water”-inspired actives that include poolside soirees, art installations and watersports. In March, the theme is “fire” — think fiery cocktails, romantic fireside a la brasa dinners and firepit festivities). It will be followed by “earth” and “air” months.
After all, everyone needs a breather between flights.