by Amy Sedeño
St. Barth meets Puerto Rico in one of the island’s most exclusive zip codes, the Condado neighborhood. Serafina Beach Hotel, which opened last March, was a breath of fresh air for the island as the first hotel debuting in the heels Hurricane Maria. Today, a little over a year after, Puerto Rico is kicking it with its usual festive style and it’s safe to say the island’s tourism recovery was anything but despacito. Despite the struggles that came with the natural disaster, Maria also paved the way for a quicker renovation of properties that needed a face lift, new roads and facilities, and was the engine behind the creation of Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s new private destination marketing organization focusing on the resurgence of Puerto Rico’s popularity amongst travelers.
While its “new kid on the block” status remains intact, Serafina is part of an exclusive enclave of luxury properties and shops including the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, O:live boutique hotel, which will debut sister property O:LV 55 in December, the iconic, La Concha Resort, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, and Ferragamo.
While Old San Juan continues to captivate tourists with its charms, it is this “new” San Juan, just over the bridge, that attracts a mix of solo travelers, young couples, families and corporate travelers looking for eclectic dining, nightlife and a variety of unique experiences. Housed within O:live boutique hotel, Mario Pagan, locally recognized as one of the island’s best Chefs, offers intimate dining at Sage Stake Loft and aMare, a new concept at the Serafina boutique hotel, serves Mediterranean inspired dishes with a tropical twist. At Perla in La Concha, guests are treated to a design-driven atmosphere and ocean views while indulging in an elegant menu that complements its breathtaking surroundings. Another neighborhood favorite is Kasalta, one of Puerto Rico’s most talked about panaderías (bakeries) since President Obama’s visit in 2011. According to Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s hotel room inventory will reach pre-Maria numbers by mid-2019. Walking the streets of Condado, its restaurants filled with chatter and beaches lined with sunburnt tourists, it is evident that the island is back on its feet, gleaming and fully operational.