Isabela, Puerto Rico

Photo: Royal Isabela
Photo: Royal Isabela

Poor, Puerto Rico. The United States territory is often overlooked. Spring breakers usually opt for Jamaica or the Dominican Republic for their inexpensive all-inclusive resorts. Couples seek out the gorgeous beaches on Antigua or the Virgin Islands. While scuba divers head toward Bonaire, the Cayman Islands, or even Belize. You’ve been to Puerto Rico before. You’ve explored San Juan and used its airport to reach smaller islands. This time, you shouldn’t book a connecting flight.

While San Juan is known as a party destination, the rest of the island has a very different vibe. The northwest coast is known for cattle ranching, cock fights, and surf swells. Isabela was first settled by the Spanish at the turn of the 18th century. Though the city grew rapidly, it never achieved the prominence of the capital to the east.

For visitors today, that’s a very good thing. Isabela’s nickname is the Garden of the Northwest for its wildflowers and the butterflies they attract. A tango festival is one of the biggest events each year. The beaches are practically guaranteed to be empty. While hotels are small and intimate.

Photo: Royal Isabela
Photo: Royal Isabela

The resort you selected definitely fits that bill. Royal Isabela oozes Old World charm. It sits on nearly 500 acres east of the city, where the cliffs meet the Atlantic Ocean. The former sugar plantation is surrounded by a world-class golf course, flowering trees, and tangled mangroves. The old stone mill is now part of the main building, where you’ll find a farm-to-table restaurant, a cozy library, and terraces leading to the pools. There are grass tennis courts, cooking classes, and walking trails. While an overgrown path brings you to El Pastillo Beach. Except for hermit crabs and leatherback sea turtles, which nest there this time of year, it’s deserted.

But none of these are the reason you traveled to remote Isabela. There’s one thing that makes this resort truly special. The rustic casitas. There are only 20 of them. Each one feels like a private little hideaway. Little is a relative term, though. Between the living room, the bedroom, and the huge bathroom inside, plus a large terrace and a plunge pool outside, the casitas are larger than most apartments. They feature natural wood, four-poster beds, and bathtubs with ocean views. But back to that private pool.

You can listen to bananaquits chatter when you eat breakfast in the morning. You can feel a sea breeze as you bask in the sun on a lounge chair. Then you can watch the sun set from the privacy of your own pool. The resort is small and intimate, as promised. You just found one of the most romantic spots in the Caribbean on Puerto Rico.

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