Dorado Beach, A Ritz Carlton Reserve Review

I'm back and 30!! Last week Andrew and I went to Puerto Rico for my birthday trip, and we had the absolute best time. I wanted to share some bits about the hotel and answer some questions you guys had. I'll be back tomorrow with dedicated outfit links for everything I wore!

I always had big plans for my 30th birthday. For years it was going to be a big family and friends party at the Kentucky Derby, but COVID put a damper on that (at least for this year). So when Andrew and I started talking about what I wanted to do instead, I really didn't have much of a plan. At first I was thinking some jewelry, or maybe going to Nantucket. We still weren't really sure what life would look like when we first started planning. Neither of us were eligible for vaccines at the time.

Thankfully, Connecticut really sped things up, things started to get better, and we were able to be fully (Andrew) and partially (me) vaccinated by our trip. I think in March I had decided that I wanted to be on a beach somewhere warm. I didn't care where. I just didn't want to do anything. We were toying around with some Caribbean ideas since major travel outside the US (like Europe) was out of the question. But my passport expired at the beginning of 2021 so we were pretty limited.

Our first thoughts were Florida and Nantucket, but I really wanted to go somewhere special that we wouldn't normally go on a regular vacation. So Andrew did some digging and came up with a list of five or six hotels in CA, FL, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico for me to choose from. I went through all their Google images and landed on Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico because it looked nice. Andrew laughed when I told him my choice and said, "of course you would pick the most expensive one." What can I say? I have good taste. 

Andrew and I have been really fortunate to travel to some amazing places, and have been able to go on vacations often, but we haven't been away since our honeymoon and boy did it feel good. I think being cooped up for the past year really made us appreciate the vacation to the fullest. We had a wonderful time, wonderful weather, and a wonderful stay I want to tell you all about. 

Andrew ended up finding this place through our American Express Platinum card. I've talked about it here when we recapped our honeymoon trip, but the Amex site has a "Fine Hotels and Resorts" program that we love to use since the perks are hard to beat. It's how we found this hotel and how we were also able to use some AmEx points for our stay.

We ended up getting an upgraded room with a private plunge pool, which was awesome. Every day we would head back to the room around 4p or 5p and just hang out in the pool as the sun set before dinner. The wall was a big glass door that opened completely to the outside. If you wanted to hear the ocean but not deal with bugs, you could close the shutter doors (with screens) to get a true indoor/outdoor experience. 

The room itself was obviously wonderful. The bathroom was huge and had an indoor and private outdoor shower, and a massive soaking tub. Our room had a queen-size bed with hard sheets and soft pillows (the opposite of what we have at home lol), a desk, a pull-out couch, and tv. I couldn't think of anything that we needed and didn't have. 

My big plan for the trip was to hang by the pool and beach and do nothing else. And that's what I did! We mainly stayed by the pool since that's where the best shade and service were. Every pool in this place was an expansive infinity pool. There were lots of places to sit in the water, and even when it was busiest, the pool still had plenty of space.

The main pool pictured above was the highlight of the resort. Two of the three on-property restaurants surrounded it. Next to this was also the adult-only "tranquility" pool, which was a heated infinity pool with a cold plunge pool next to it. On the other side of the resort was another very big pool that was better suited for kids and families.

One of the beaches was just steps away from the pool and beautiful as well. Again, it had the same service and seating as the pool area but with a lot less shade. The ocean and beach were really clean, never crowded, calm, clear, shallow, and protected from waves by rocks. They also offered free swim gear like paddle boards, which I took advantage of one day.

The food was great and they had just about anything you could want. Breakfast was the highlight meal each day since they had a killer menu. We were able to walk up without reservations each morning and it didn't get busy until closer to 11a. 

For lunch, if we got hungry, we ordered food poolside. The service at the pool and beach was great. We had people constantly walking around waiting on us, getting us more water, helping with umbrellas, towels, you name it. And I was able to order off-menu for things I didn't see. 

The resort had three restaurant options for dinner -- Mediterranean, seafood/sushi, and a steakhouse. All your dinner reservations needed to be booked in advance for your stay, and it was nearly impossible to get in otherwise. I think they made you book due to COVID restrictions, but we didn't really have much of a problem in general. My favorite meal was Coa (the steakhouse), followed by Positivo (the sushi place) and Encanto (Mediterranean).

All were open-air/outside sit-down restaurants and had their own levels of fanciness. I never felt overdressed there and I loved it. Resort chic to the max!

We also both got massages at the on-property Spa Botanico. It's a five-star spa set on five acres of nature sanctuary. It was the best spa experience we have ever had. The grounds are lush, beautifully maintained, serene, and totally relaxing. As you can imagine, treatments are not cheap, but we agreed it was totally worthwhile.


What were the COVID restrictions and testing protocol (and did you feel comfortable)?
Puerto Rico does require you to provide a negative PCR test result upon arrival, even if you are fully vaccinated. You also need to fill out a traveler form. However, because it is a US territory, you do not need to provide any test results on your return back to the mainland. And yes, I felt totally comfortable. Everyone was wearing masks, they provided a lot of PPE whenever you needed it, and it helped that it was mainly all open-air/outdoors so I felt totally safe.

What was your flight itinerary?
We flew from JFK - Miami - San Juan (SJU) on the way down and San Juan - JFK nonstop on the way back.

Do you need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico?
No! US citizens do not need a passport to travel to/from Puerto Rico. It was actually one of the reasons we chose to go there as my passport expired not too long ago. 

How/why did you choose this particular resort (and did you consider any others)?
Andrew found this hotel through the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts program. For my birthday, I wanted to be on a beach somewhere warm and he sent me a list of about six places to pick from. I picked this one because I wanted to go somewhere new, somewhere outside the mainland, and somewhere where we normally wouldn't go on a regular vacation.

What type of room did you have?
I believe there were are two types of rooms at the hotel, one with a balcony and one with a pool. We booked the balcony room but with our American Express card, we automatically get upgraded for free if there is any availability. That's how we ended up with a private pool in our room.

Was it all-inclusive? Adults only?
It was not all-inclusive. With our AmEx we got free daily breakfast and a $150 resort credit. The hotel gave us a bottle of rum and rosé, bikes, provided all the free bottled water at the pool, and a guaranteed late checkout. That was about it for any extra perks! And kids are allowed there.

What capacity was the resort at? Did it feel empty?
We got there on a Wednesday, and it progressively got busier leading into the weekend. I think since it was Mother's Day it was pretty busy on Sunday. There were always chairs and places to sit by the pool but you had to book dinner in advance of your stay or else you weren't getting seated.

What was the food like at the resort and what was your favorite meal you had?
The food was good. I would say some of the restaurants were better than others but overall very good. My favorite meal was our dinner at Coa where we had a watermelon salad, Wagyu filet, and mac and cheese.

How much did the resort cost (and was it comped)?
Prices are on the website and no it was not comped. This was my 30th birthday present from Andrew. 

RC Reserve doesn't allow points use, is it worth it if you're a Marriott member?
I can't really speak to being a hotel member anywhere/if it's worth it (only you can decide that!), but Andrew mentioned that we were able to use our Amex points to book a few nights. Editor's (Andrew's) note: The short answer is no. You can not use nor earn Bonvoy points here. You can still give them your member number at check out to receive some perks like early check-in or late check-out, but we didn't need to since we booked with our AmEx Platinum.

What kind of activities did the resort offer both on and off property?
Non-motorized water sports (snorkeling, paddleboarding) were complimentary. You could book tours. But outside of that, I don't know much. I really didn't look into it or care to look into it. Editor's (Andrew's) note: Yes the resort offered several off-property excursions, and I'm sure would be more than happy to set up anything you wanted to do on the island. Their service is great, but be aware everything is expensive.

How was the beach? What was the quality of the ocean water? Rocky? Clear? Wavy?
It was great. They have a ton of beach options, we mainly stayed by the pool and smaller beach/cove by our room. The water was super warm, clear, and pretty clam. They had a bunch of rocks outlining a small perimeter where we went to the beach so it was really nice. 

Would you recommend the hotel?
Yes! We had a wonderful time. 

Did you leave the resort property and if so, what did you do?
No. I really wanted to not do anything so we stayed at the hotel the entire time. I didn't really feel the want or need to travel outside the resort.

What would you skip next time if you could?
Any mixed drinks. They were very light on the alcohol but not on the price. 

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