I’m recapping our recent stay and sharing highlights and travel tips based on our vacation at the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort on Puerto Rico. I’m sharing lots of pictures from around the resort (many taken with my phone).
The resort is GORGEOUS!!! We traveled late January/early February and the resort wasn’t nearly full so there were plenty of lounge chairs by the pool and no reservations were needed for dinner. San Juan airport is about a 35 minute drive and happens to be a direct flight from our local airport in Connecticut. We actually were not planning to vacation this Winter because of cost but we found flights for $200 each, round trip, direct from our closest airport. My youngest is 19 months so he flew for free as a “lap infant”.
The reason we chose Puerto Rico over Mexico or another Caribbean island was because:
- it was a last minute trip – we wouldn’t have to get a passport for the baby
- direct flight for us
- they use the US dollar
- the time change was 1 hour ahead which works out better for our kids’ schedule
- no waiting in long lines at customs on arrival
The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is a pricier hotel but we were lucky to have hotel points to cover the cost of lodging. The ground and staff make you feel like it is money well spent. We stayed on the resort grounds the duration of our stay (Saturday to Friday). On the second to last day someone mentioned renting a car from the hotel to travel to San Juan. We would love to see more local culture and explore but we didn’t plan for it this trip. I would recommend speaking to the concierge for what to do and see in San Juan (and old San Juan) if you have an extended stay. My youngest would probably not do well with sightseeing.
So here are some tips that can loosely be used for most travel but some are more particular to the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort (pictures are at the bottom of the post).
- Bring alcohol. I envied the people who stopped at the Costco in San Juan on their way to the resort. As with most resorts they make a lot of money off of booze. Margaritas were $16 each and not particularly strong. At night I really wanted a glass of wine but I didn’t dare break open the $30 mini bottles in the room’s fridge.
- Bring bathing suits in your carry on. We arrived around 1 pm on Saturday and our room was not ready until almost 4 pm. I had not thought to pack our bathing suits in my carry on luggage so I ended up having to ask the bellman to retrieve our luggage and then sift through it in the lobby to find my family’s swimwear. In case your next hotel room isn’t ready on arrival – bring what you may need immediately in your carry on bag where you can easily access it.
- Use the nanny service or kids club. My youngest is not potty trained so he was not eligible for the Iguana Club – a play place where kids 4-12 can be dropped off from 10am-5pm. The Iguana Club hosts various scheduled events during the day (organized games and crafts) and has rooms for art, board and table games, and a TV room for the kids. The hotel does have a third party nanny service they work with. There is a 4 hour minimum for the nanny service and I wanted a 1-2 hour break so we didn’t end up using this – but I regretted not doing it.
- Bring bug spray. The resort offers OFF bug spray but I’m leery of all those chemicals so I didn’t use it. The bugs in Puerto Rico were not like what I am used to. You couldn’t even see them but they sure did leave an itchy bite. The bugs come out mostly in the evening if there is no breeze and my husband wasn’t even sure if the bug spray was helping deter them.
- Men bring pants and shoes. The main dinner restaurant is more formal attire than my husband packed for so we were limited for dinner spots on the resort property. Long pants and closed toe shoes are required for men to eat at The Fern restaurant.
- The buffet breakfast is delicious but overkill. They have a lot of offerings but I’d recommend a smaller (more affordable) breakfast and using the money you save for poolside snacks laters in the day. I don’t know about you but I don’t need start the day with a $32 all you can eat meal.
- Happy hour is 4-6 at the pool bar, the downside is it’s only a 2:1 deal on a daily chosen cocktail.
- Attend the champagne tasting at 6 pm every night. FREE CHAMPAGNE!! During the 6 pm champagne ceremony the kids can also feed the koi fish outside the lobby. My kids LOVED feeding the fish and it was a great way to connect with other family with young children who were staying on the resort.
- Rent bikes at the boat house. We rented bikes and used the attached trailer to take the kids along for a ride across the resort to another pond where you could feed ducks, turtles, and fish with food the resort provides. This was a good way to break up the morning with something other than playing in the pool or the ocean. My 1 year old did not like the water so we tried to orient some activities away from water play (though he did like the hot tub). This was also a good break from the sun, because as much as we needed Vitamin D we didn’t need sunburns.
- Iguanas – and lots of them! I have vacationed in Puerto Rico before so I knew to expect this. There are lot of iguanas on the property. They are harmless and run away if you come near them but they sure did startle me several times. The iguanas even lounge on the side of the pool and occasionally dive in for a swim if no one is near.
- Smores: on Wednesday and Saturday evenings at 5:30 pm they have a complimentary smores cookout at a fire pit adjacent to the pool.
- There is a secret pool! There is one large pool for the hotel that has a walk in area more suitable for younger children. While we were there the resort was not anywhere near capacity so it was easy to get lounge chairs. On the same property as the resort is a golf club which has its own pool that most guests don’t know about. The St. Regis Bahia Beach Hotel will shuttle you in a golf cart or it’s about a 5-10 minute walk up the beach to get to the other pool. It’s a change of scenery and an even quieter pool. There is an area marked off as an “Adult’s Only” pool if that interests you.
- The humidity is tough on your hair! My hair is low maintenance so I didn’t pack much in the way of hair tools figuring I would let it air dry. The air was so humid I would shower 3 hours before bed, go to bed with wet hair, and wake up with damp hair. I was wishing I brought my hot air brush.
- Bring a steamer. At home I’m pulling crumpled clothes from my laundry basket and on vacation I’m pulling them from my suitcase. This mini clothes steamer is something I use all the time and this one (the exact one I used) is a mini so it’s even easier for travel.
Feeding the fish was one of my kids’ favorite activities. The hotel does this every evening at 6 pm during the champagne ritual (below) and you can also ride bikes (or walk) to the tennis club during the daytime to feed fish, turtles, and ducks in their pond.
I get a little aggressive with the sunscreen :). My husband said my kids looked like they’d be celebrating “El Dia De Los Muertos” because they wouldn’t allow my to rub in the sunscreen on their faces. The sun is strong and the weather is perfect in Puerto Rico so be prepared.
You can rent beach cabanas or they have chairs and towels you can use down at the beach. The beach was very breezy (which felt good) and quite. The water was rough, not many people were swimming besides my husband and son.
The champagne ritual is outside the main building every evening at 6 pm. The hotel manager slices the top of the champagne bottle off with a sword and all the guests congregate on the lawn and enjoy a complimentary glass of champagne.
Bike rental is free from the boathouse and this trailer and helmets are available as well.
This pool is much quieter – not a lot of guests seem to catch on to the pool at the hotel’s golf club. There is also a restaurant there with more limited hours.
Free smores roast at 5:30 pm on Wednesday and Saturday evenings.
Overall we loved the resort and definitely plan to return – most likely this same time next year. If you have any questions about the vacation, travel, or this resort please feel free to email me. Be sure to check out more travel posts before you go.