Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, is the top rated resort in Puerto Rico — and it’s also one of our favorite resorts in the world (and we’ve checked into over 650 resorts worldwide, so this is a huge statement). The 50-acre retreat within utterly pristine and manicured 1,400-acre sanctuary straddles both rain forest and sea, and the resort feels completely removed from the rest of the world. Guests can expect a crescent-shaped, intimate beach; a photogenic infinity pool; infinity hot tub and cold plunge built into the rocks, a Bill Bensley-designed jungle spa; and plenty of high-end dining options (the omakase experience is truly decadent).
Take a look at our review of Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, just 45 minutes drive from San Juan International Airport.
The Resort’s Background
History runs deep at Dorado Beach. When American heiress Clara Livingstone bought a plantation estate in Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico, she never suspected her 1928 purchase would mark a significant moment in history. After reconstructing the original owner’s hacienda into an elegant beachside home with high ceilings, an open veranda and a spiral staircase leading to the second floor, the hacienda was the most ravishing on the island, and famous friends like Amelia Earhart were overnight guests.
Laurance Rockefeller, a visionary conversationist, bought the estate in 1958, taking great stride in preserving the aesthetics of Clara’s home. As a clubhouse, it became a social center for his private paradise that attracted famous and powerful guests like Elizabeth Taylor, John F. Kennedy and Ava Gardner. Now, under the ownership of Ritz Carlton, the highbrow legacy of Dorado Beach continues with Dorado Beach, A Ritz Carlton Reserve.
As soon as we arrived, we noticed the massive lily pond that’s become one of the most Instagrammed areas of the resort. Honestly, it’s probably the largest man-made lily pond that we’ve ever seen.
The check-in desk is simple, yet the area is gorgeous, and you can see the ocean from here. I love that it’s an al fresco check-in, and I was found of the level of details given to design, like the stone mosaic and tranquility pool inside.
It’s a super safe check-in with staff wearing masks. It was an easy, breeze check-in, one of the fastest we’ve experienced. The staff know how far and long you’ve traveled, and they want to get you to relax right away.
Here’s the view of the ocean from check-in.
Guest room and suite
The standard rooms are spacious, understated with tons of marble and wood, as well as minimalist, nature-centric design that’s appreciated. Every standard room has a balcony looking out into the garden or the beach, and every room has an outdoor shower, as well as separate tub (yes, even standard rooms).
My friend and I were put in a standard room while we waited for our accommodation: a 2-bedroom suite. A 2-bedroom suite is basically a one-bedroom garden room attached to a one-bedroom ground floor suite with plunge pool. The suite is nearly 2,000 square feet (quadruple the size of my NYC apartment) and it’s one of the most luxurious suites I’ve ever stayed in.
Here’s the main entry area. As soon as we entered, we noticed the high ceiling, and all the sliding glass doors that opened up the outdoors into our suite. All rooms come with Ritz Carlton Dorado Beach hats, which are free for guests.
The suite with plunge pool comes equipped with dining table, living area with flat-screen TV, mini-bar and immediate access to the outdoor plunge pool.
The plunge pool is about 30 feet long. It’s definitely more than a “plunge;” I was able to do short laps in it. The pool overlooks the sprawling lawn and the ocean. The sound of the crashing waves was soothing, and it’s rare to be this close to the ocean. One thing that makes Ritz Carlton Reserve Dorado Beach stand out is that all guest rooms are no more than 100 feet away from the ocean, and our suite was easily 50 feet away. There’s very few places in all of the U.S. where guest rooms are this close to the ocean, so you literally feel like you’re on top of the water with the crashing waves.
My bedroom and the living area had sliding glass doors that opened out to the plunge pool area with private terrace and lounge chairs. The sunset was beautiful from here.
Here’s another view of the plunge pool at our suite. Your assigned butler can heat the pool if you desire. Butlers are always within reach. They text you so you have their personal cells handy. This is great because you can avoid the hotel phone, and you can connect with them instantly.
Our suite was on the ground floor of the building. The top floor has its own rooftop pool, and that’s a separate accommodation.
Of course, photos can only do so much to capture the pool in all its glory. Here’s a short video.
The master bedroom was huge and cozy, with a ceiling fan and easy-to-use A/C, as well as all the high-tech amenities you’d expect. I loved the sliding wooden doors that opened to the ocean. I left the door open a crack because you’re so close to the ocean, you can hear it roar as you go to bed. It’s the real thing here. Again, Dorado Beach is one of few hotels in all of America where rooms are less than 100 feet from the ocean due to strict zoning laws across the U.S. I also loved that you can hook up your own devices to the TV, and that the TV comes out at an angle if you’re watching from bed.
The bathroom is incredibly spacious, equipped with double vanity, organic bath products, a TV and egg-shaped bathtub. There’s also an indoor shower and outdoor shower.
The outdoor shower is insane. It’s a great way to connect with the surrounding area without leaving your accommodations.
Dorado Beach has two main pools. One for adults in the main resort area, and one pool on the other side primarily for families. You want to be at the adult pool. It’s an infinity pool built into the landscape. It’s one of the largest infinity pools in Puerto Rico, and there are cabanas and pool chairs surrounding it.
The main infinity pool is quite huge and overlooks the beach.
There’s also a separate, oversized hot tub and cold plunge built right into the cliff looking over the beach. This is a great way to have a min-spa treatment without going to Spa Botanico, the signature spa of the resort.
The pool is perfect: perfectly located, perfectly quiet and perfectly temperatured.
The resort provides both beach cruisers and mountain bikes should you want to stroll around the massive property’s hiking trails.
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There’s also fast and free WIFI, snorkeling gear, non-motorized water sports, gold course driving range and fitness center included in the resort fee.
Naturally, we were a magnet to the beach. There’s reefs built far out into the sea, making the waves calm.
Dorado Beach is a pet-friendly resort. I brought Jetsetruby, and I was surprised to see 2 other dogs during my stay. In fact, this is the first time I’ve traveled to a resort where I saw another dog. The resort is truly pet friendly and bends over backwards for travelers and their pets, so you’ll be in good hands if you bring Fido. All rooms are equipped with all the dog friendly essentials (water bowl, snacks, etc), and the resort was perfect for dogs to play in.
Plenty of beach chairs are provided throughout the sprawling beach, as well as a more clustered area near the resort’s pool.
There is another beach on the east side of the resort, but it’s not swimmable really. The good thing is that it’s super private. I saw a lot of families with toddlers playing on this side.
No matter what side of the beach you’re on, you’re sure to see rainbows.
Food and beverage
There are several food and beverage options here, and they’re all al fresco. We loved the local inspired breakfast menu at El Encanto (COA, the main breakfast place, was closed during our visit for repairs).
To be honest, we ordered at the pool most of the days. I had a huge craving for comfort food and went straight for chicken fingers, but there’s tons of great options, from sushi and shrimp to Korean-inspired dishes.
Here’s Positivo, the main restaurant for lunch right next to the pools serving salads, Asian-inspired food, and comfort foods.
The spa is designed by Bill Bensley. Not a lot of people may know who he is, but he’s a designer who has given us the amazing aesthetics and interiors of top five-star resorts in Asia. Here, he didn’t hold back at the Dorado Beach spa.
Even the locker room / changing areas felt like the set of a movie and have been given a lot of thoughtful attention.
Both men and women have their separate outdoor water healing journeys that include hot tub, steam room, cold plunge and buckets of water you can pour on you. It’s super hydrating and detoxifying — but can we talk about the design?? Best outdoor jungle spa ever?
I booked a massage in an outdoor treehouse. It’s built directly in the trees, where you’re engulfed by the sounds of nature during your massage.
My massage therapist was a young man with big strong hands and got all the tight knots out of my upper and lower back, exactly what I needed after a long travel day.
Be sure to check out the huge 100-year old tree outside the spa. It was a hit with tons of guests who took photos near it.
Take a look at the outdoor treatment area.
Dorado Beach, a Ritz Carlton Reserve, is expensive, but it’s worth the splurge, especially if you’re looking for backbending service, incredible food, a pampering spa and arguably the best beach this side of the island.
This resort is all about privacy and privilege, so expect to be treated like royalty.
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