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Royal Isabela 4.5

Isabela, Puerto Rico

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This hotel is currently closed for renovations.
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Review Summary

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Pros

  • A intimate and romantic luxury resort — truly a Caribbean standout
  • Stunning casitas with private plunge pools
  • Dramatic cliffside vistas and stunning sunrises
  • Excellent farm-to-table restaurant (and enormous organic farm)
  • Two outdoor pools including a 24-hour saltwater one
  • Bar with indoor and outdoor seating areas
  • Spacious fitness center and spa room
  • Elegant meeting space and a cozy library
  • A challenging 18-hole golf course with more jaw-dropping views
  • Personalized check-in and transportation
  • Tennis courts and other activities
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout

Cons

  • Some of the highest prices on the island (but for a reason)
  • Construction may be noticeable in certain areas (away from the casitas)
  • Spa facilities are limited
  • A (literal) hike or drive to the beach, and some areas are not swimmable
  • Some casitas patios are not as private as others 

Bottom Line

This property was impacted by Hurricane Maria in September 2017 and is currently closed. We will update our review as soon as we have more information. This see-it-to-believe-it romantic retreat is perched on a dramatic cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is spread out over a whopping 426 acres in northwestern Puerto Rico, and there are just 20 casitas, so guests may feel as if they have the land to themselves -- especially in the evenings underneath the bright stars and moon (don't miss a dip in the 24-hour saltwater pool). Guests can start the day with a hike down to the beach at sunrise and then play a challenging round of golf on the best course on the island. There are plenty of other activities on the premises, or guests can simply enjoy the casita's scenic patio and private plunge pool in absolute serenity. The hotel is working on a massive 10-year expansion project (away from the casitas) and construction annoyances will be kept to a minimum. With the outstanding dining program, there's no real reason to leave. Wi-Fi is free.

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Scene

Magical moments are all too common at this chic resort where nature takes center stage.

At this private luxury resort, the unspoiled natural environment does most of the talking. The setting is so untouched that it can be difficult to spot the entrance when arriving from the main road near the town of Isabela; there's no resort signage and minimal lighting, so it is common to drive past more than once on the first attempt. After passing through a security gate, a long drive (near pitch-black at night) leads toward a turnaround driveway lined with parking spots. 

A concierge (who gets a heads-up from security) greets guests at their vehicle for a most personal welcome, and then leads them through the beautiful open-air lobby (it is intended to look historic, and does). A picturesque stone tower houses an elegant office area for the personalized one-on-one check-in. After this process, guests are given a tour of La Casa -- the resort hub that includes the restaurant, bar, terrace, and library -- and then delivered to their casita by the concierge, via golf cart. Some may have trouble containing their excitement when given a tour and brief tutorial of the private freestanding casita, which is as gorgeous as one could hope for. Once left alone, expect to feel alone. Romantics (and solo travelers who live in the city) will feel a sense of privacy that is incredibly rare. At night, the grounds are truly magical; the moon might rise directly in front of the casita's private plunge pool, as if on cue. Lemon and passion fruit trees perfume the air and guests can hear the sounds of the ocean below. The larger saltwater pool is within easy walking distance from all the casitas, and guests can wander over barefoot, in bathrobes, to take a midnight dip. 

Mornings are special in their own right. A bright red sunrise may act as a natural alarm clock, motivating guests to get up, grab the camera, and take the hiking path down to the rugged beach with a series of caves. The rest of the day can be spent golfing (a major draw here), hiking, biking, using the fitness center, or just chilling in La Casa's terrace bar, the restaurant, or the privacy of the casita. Guests can call the concierge to request a golf cart ride to the swimmable beach. 

A major 10-year expansion project is underway, so get here while the peace and quiet is still is a guarantee. 

Location

A ruggedly beautiful and remote location along the northwestern coast

This massive 426-acre property is tucked away on a side road -- out of sight, out of (everyone else's) mind -- along the northwestern coast near the interesting small town of Isabela. This is an area of Puerto Rico known as Porta del Sol, "Doorway to the Sun" -- a popular tourism term to describe the entire west coast of the island. It is a 30-minute drive from Aguadilla, where Puerto Rico's second largest airport, Rafael Hernandez, receives daily flights from the U.S. (mostly from the east coast). Visitors can also fly into San Juan and make the two-hour drive on paved roads. It's worth considering a car rental for access to other attractions in the area. 

Isabela (named after the Queen Isabela of Spain in 1819) is smaller than Aguadilla, but closer, with a town center and grocery store for essentials to stock the Casita fridges. However, romantics may find it hard to leave the grounds for anything, and the concierge is just a call away to help arrange deliveries. With so much space to explore, one can make countless discoveries without stepping foot off the property; for instance, a walking path that leads through an old railroad track.  

Rooms

Spacious freestanding casitas with extra-romantic bathrooms and plunge pools 

It is hard believe that there are only 20 one-bedroom casitas on such a large property. There are no "room types" to choose from; rather, each Spanish-style casita is a freestanding house boasting 1,500 square feet. Pretty low-lit pathways lead to the main door as well as to the separate gate, which opens to the private (and enclosed) patio area. Inside, the classic and sophisticated decor is a cause to jump up and down. The spacious layout includes a living room with floor-to-ceiling windows and French doors to the patio. Elegant but modern furnishings, shiny mahogany wood floors, and Persian rugs contribute to the elegant feel. A few steps lead up to the bedroom area with either a plush king bed or two queen beds (families are allowed here, but couples are more common). Each unit has a large built-in closet and a large work desk. There are two large flat-screen TVs -- one in each room. 

The bathroom is enormous with vanity sinks, a large jetted tub, and two-person glass shower with multiple showerheads. There is a third entrance to the patio straight from the shower leading out to the private four-foot plunge pool. Bathrobes and beach towels are provided and linens are luxurious. Gilchrist & Soames toiletries are offered in generous quantities. 

Minibars can be found tucked away in the living room with a sink/glass area and a mini-fridge with free bottles of Pellegrino, Pepsi, water, and local beer. Nightly turndown service is offered, and a sweet treat is left behind. 

The casitas are very private, but it may be possible to hear voices from the patio, though neighbors will be out of sight. A few casitas are less private than the rest -- such as the one that is directly above the saltwater pool

Features

A number of activities, including the best golf on the island

The resort's one restaurant, La Casa, has indoor and outdoor seating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The indoor section has a more sophisticated ambiance with dark woods and a large Persian rug, while outside, guests will be able to take in the sea views beyond. A talented chef creates daily menus incorporating the fruits and vegetables taken that day from the on-site organic farm (worth a visit), as well as the local catch of the day. Breakfast has an assortment of fruits, cheeses and meats, as well as hard-boiled eggs, and a variety of breads and bagels. The kitchen has a wood-fire grill for pizzas, and in-room dining is available for all three meals. Outside, overlooking the golf course and sea, is a circular bar area, simply knows as "The Bar," for cocktails, beer, wine, and small plates. Drinks can be enjoyed in several areas outside, or in the cozy library. 

The beach that sits below the property is just barely in sight from some of the casitas, but it is down there -- waves can often be heard in the distance. All casitas are within easy reach of the main hiking path that leads down to the spectacular setting. This opens at dawn.  There is a cave under the cliffs with crashing waves, and it is not uncommon to have the entire beach and hiking path to oneself -- especially at sunrise. While the on-site beach is more spectacular to look at (and easier to get to), another massive beach area that is more swimmable can be accessed by car in about 10 minutes. Rides are provided at no charge from one of the staff members at any time.  

The resort has two separate pools: an adult-only lap pool with three lanes and cushioned lounge chairs, and another saltwater pool that is in the center of the Casita area with several spots to hang out in the sun or shade. This is open 24 hours and is especially worth the visit after dark, under the stars.

The fitness center is divided into separate areas for cardio, weights, and yoga stretching, and there are very few run-ins with other guests. There is a single spa room, and spa treatments can also be arranged in the casitas for more privacy and space.  A hard tennis court is in this area, and there is a grass court at La Casa. 

Hiking and biking trails are plentiful around the property. Parking is free, as is Wi-Fi throughout. Green efforts include non-toxic cleaning products, recycling programs, and avoidance of air conditioners (rooms do have air-conditioning, but ceiling fans reduce the need for it).

Golf

The best golfing on Puerto Rico

The private 18-hole golf club is a major part of the property. The brothers who own it designed the course with an architect and preserved as much nature as possible, including native grasses and sand dunes. Holes were designed with the brothers' favorite holes around the world in mind, and there is a distinct whiff of Scotland, especially when the wind whips up. One special hole requires a cliff-to-cliff shot. Even if golf is not on the itinerary, it is worth taking a tour, which a staff member will provide. 

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Things You Should Know About Royal Isabela

Address

396 Ave Noel Estrada, Isabela 00662-3279, Caribbean

Also Known As

  • Royal Isabela Golf Resort

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