The morning dawned dark and ominous. Our first day in paradise did not look promising. My sister, Nancy, niece, Meaghan, and I had arrived at The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort the previous afternoon, looking forward to a girls’ getaway punctuated by morning walks on the beach, languid days soaking in the sun, cool drinks on warm evenings and giggles, lots of giggles.
So, in a twist on the old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” we decided: When it rains in paradise, make a beeline for the spa.
Opened in November 2010 on the north coast of Puerto Rico, The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is a rambling, 483-acre beachfront property tucked between the El Yunque rainforest and the meandering Espiritu Santo River. While the stunning two-mile beach is front and center, the resort’s proximity to El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System, gives it a Swiss Family Robinson vibe. An expansive network of elevated wooden walkways connecting guestrooms and common areas winds through lush vegetation, reinforcing the fanciful ambience.
The escapist in me loved strolling the walkways after dark, listening to the gentle peeps of unseen tree frogs. On a stormy day, the overhead canopy of palm fronds shielded us from raindrops, making us feel safe and cocooned. The almost magical atmosphere is a byproduct of good intentions. The resort, built on the site of a former coconut plantation, was developed with an eye toward protecting indigenous plants and wildlife.
There’s a private bird sanctuary on site and a “green team” comprised of an ecologist, two agronomists and a landscape architect who cultivate the natural vegetation that protects the resort’s lowland coastal and forest areas. A 2.4-acre plant nursery and hydroponic garden supplies plants and trees for landscaping and reforestation as well as fresh produce and herbs for the spa and dining venues.
Remède Spa at The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort offers Spa Without Walls, an interesting concept that allows guests to choose where they’d like to indulge in their treatments. Given the lush environment, the possibilities are almost limitless — a hidden nook on the beach, under shade of a coconut tree, in the privacy of a guestroom terrace.
Due to the inclement weather, we opted for poolside massages in well-equipped cabanas. The expansive pool deck was nearly empty, but once inside, I realized my cabana backed up to an occupied guestroom. I initially felt a bit self-conscious with nothing but billowing curtains separating me from a couple sipping coffee on their terrace; but as I relaxed, my worries faded into oblivion. That said, I’m not sure I’d make the same choice on a sunny day when the pool deck would likely be filled with couples, families and children. I’m also not sure the alfresco option is worth the $70 upcharge, especially in light of the actual spa and its almost transformational setting.
Light rain continued post-treatment as we made our way from the poolside cabanas back to the spa. In robes and slippers, we padded along the “floating” walkway lined on both sides by tranquil pools of water, flower-covered arbors and individual treatment villas. With childhood memories of swimming in the rain dancing in our heads, we made a quick change and plunged into the garden whirlpool tub, where we soaked and chatted until our fingers began to wrinkle.
Still not ready to leave our personal Garden of Eden, we wrapped ourselves in plush robes and curled up in the adjacent — and also alfresco — lounge. Soft lighting and flowing curtains enhanced the cozy atmosphere. We had the entire place to ourselves. Perhaps the rain kept other guests inside. They had no idea what they were missing.
When it rains in paradise, head for the spa. Sip herbal tea. And giggle.
The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort
State Road 187 Kilometer 4.2
Rio Grande, PR 00745
tel 787 809 8000
I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
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