October 1, 2003
Buenas Vistas And Other Good Things
As I lay in a dimly lit room surrounded by the warm scent of pineapple, the sounds of an Oriental composition resonate in my head. My soul and my spirit are calmed. The firm hands that massage a hot mix of salt and oil over all my nerve centers make me ask myself why I don’t do this more often. The masseuse asks the same question as she works over tense terrain on my neck and back.
The Golden Door Spa is in several U.S. and Caribbean locations. Here on the North Coast of Puerto Rico, the 26,000-square-foot, five-year-old spa is the largest in the Caribbean. It offers 140 body and fitness services and is equipped to service multi-ethnic hair.
Spa services are only one of the amenities enjoyed at the Wyndham El Conquistador Resort, an expansive setting offering over 918 rooms, more than 10 restaurants and varied recreational water and sport activities. There are seven tennis courts, and the Arthur Hills 18-hole championship course overlooks the water at a 200-foot elevation. Beaching, jet-skiing, and horseback riding are accommodated on the resort’s Palomino Island a 15-minute ferry ride away.
Upon arrival at El Conquistador (an hour ride from San Juan’s Luis Mu~noz Marin International Airport), my bags are taken to the private enclave atop a 300-foot bluff called Las Casitas Village, a colorful collection of two-story townhouses with private balconies fashioned in the architectural style of Old San Juan. A popular hideaway for company CEO’s as well as celebrities, pre-arranged conveniences could include butler service and a grocery-stocked kitchen. One and three-bedroom townhouses start at $1,200 and $2,800 per day, respectively.
At night, against the backdrop of a star-studded sky and the high-pitched mating chorus of what sounds like hundreds of los coquis (tree frogs), Las Casitas guests can enjoy a variety of international fare, including French restaurant Le Bistro and Blossoms, which dishes up Chinese and Japanese cuisine. There’s also dancing, gambling, and sophisticated mingling at Drake’s Cigar Bar.
There are a number of off-site attractions as well, such as El Yunque Rainforest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. My two-hour, low-impact hike was spotted by mist, drizzle, and short-lived downpours. However, it was highlighted by the history and tales about the various species of flora and fauna.
My favorite outing was the adventurous, moonlit journey to the bioluminescent lagoon at Las Cabezas de San Juan nature reserve. As I navigated in a kayak through the mile-long mangrove that pours into the lagoon, my oar stirred up millions of luminous microorganisms that literally glow in the dark. For more information on all that Las Casitas has to offer, visit their Website at www.wyndham.com/hotels/SJUGB/main.wnt.