The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort’s Chef Concierge Jossell Velazquez shares some of the most breathtaking and beloved spots that Puerto Rico has to offer this fall.
By Hannah Ostrow
Puerto Rico is remarkably full of exciting and memorable things to do and see during your autumn stay. Chef Concierge Jossell Velazquez, the only Les Clefs d’Or-certified concierge on the island, recommends the best places to explore, dine and shop in and around the resort.
Velazquez recommends a wide variety of opportunities to indulge in Puerto Rico’s natural splendor; the simplest of which is exploring all that THE ST. REGIS Bahia Beach Resort GROUNDS has to offer. Visit the bird sanctuary, or take a walk on the nature trails with the resort’s resident naturalist. “Go for a swim or kayak along the property’s two miles of sandy coastline and pristine waters,” Velazquez says. (787-809-8000; stregisbahiabeach.com/nature)
For thrill-seekers, the TORO VERDE NATURE ADVENTURE PARK boasts suspension bridges, rappelling cables and eight zip lines, including “La Bestia” (The Beast), which is one of the world’s longest single-run zip lines. Velazquez calls Toro Verde an ecological system in which the manmade outdoor activities blend in perfect harmony with nature itself, promising exceptional views and adventures. (787-867-7020; toroverdepr.com)
Puerto Rico’s charmed bioluminescent bays are not to be missed; the closest of the three, LAGUNA GRANDE, is located outside of Fajardo, less than 40 minutes from the resort. It’s a sight best seen after dark. “You will be guided in the stillness of the evening through mangroves on board kayaks and arrive at Laguna Grande where microscopic plankton known as dinoflagellates will provide you a magical live light water show,” Velazquez explains. Moonlit tours through the Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve begin Thursday through Saturday nights at 7 p.m. (787-722-5882; fideicomiso.org)
Make culinary memories by the ocean with a beachside cabana, a roaring bonfire and a gourmet dinner for two tailored to your individual palate—a bespoke experience only possible thanks to the St. Regis’ extraordinary culinary team. “Let the soothing sound of the waves serve as your backdrop,” Velazquez says. From flower arrangements to live music, creating an exclusive evening of romance has never been easier. (787-809-8004; stregisbahiabeach.com/dining)
Take a drive into San Juan for a evening bursting with flavor at PAMELA’S CARIBBEAN CUISINE in the Ocean Park district, a Caribbean-European-Asian-African fusion restaurant with an emphasis on using the freshest ingredients available, particularly its seafood. Pamela’s is located inside a waterfront guesthouse hotel, with lavish indoor and outdoor seating. (1 Calle Santa Ana, San Juan; 787-726-5010; numero1guesthouse.com)
For a decadent meal outside the resort, try PIKAYO in San Juan’s Condado district: “Allow Master Chef Wilo Benet to tantalize your palate with his Caribbean premier menus while indulging in a most exquisite location overlooking the Atlantic Ocean,” Velazquez says. The restaurant’s tasting menu reinvents culinary classics like foie gras, for example, offering it with ripe plantains and black truffle honey. (999 Avenida Ashford, San Juan; 787-721-6194; wilobenet.com/pikayo)
Bring home a taste of The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort with Fern restaurant’s exclusive JGV pique, a Puerto Rican-style hot sauce made with a variety of fresh peppers. The ingredients are combined and seasoned with Champagne vinegar, elderflower cordial and salt to form a vibrantly colored pique to brighten travelers’ tables.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a favorite of locals and tourists alike, Old San Juan is full of architectural, historical and cultural gems. PUERTO RICAN ARTS & CRAFTS, located in a restored Spanish colonial building in the heart of the Old San Juan district, sells a wide variety of cultural artifacts and works of art. (204 Calle Fortaleza, San Juan; 787-725-5596; puertoricanart-crafts.com)
SPICY CARIBBEE offers authentic local spices, coffee beans, hot sauces, preserves and condiments that will hold their own in kitchens back home. “As you return home, you will be empowered to relive your island experience in the comfort of your home,” Velazquez says. (154 Calle Cristo, San Juan; 888-725-7259; spicycaribbee.com)
One of Velazquez’s personal favorite shops in Old San Juan is THE BUTTERFLY PEOPLE, where you can find charming artworks made from real tropical butterflies encased in Lucite. “Their captivating craftsmanship and distinctive timeless works of art are exceptional original designs.” (257 Calle Cruz, San Juan; 787-723-2432; butterflypeople.com)