Bahia Beach welcomes visitors of all ages as they explore the island enclave’s natural wonders and create memories that will last a lifetime.
By Michelle Franzen Martin
Sculpting sand castles on the beach. Painting coconuts under palm trees. Feeding exotic turtles and hiking through the rainforest. Bahia Beach offers a number of extraordinary experiences that parents and children alike will enjoy, and these activities are just a few of the many ways families can come together for an unforgettable trip to this island paradise.
“We believe that children are the heart of family vacations,” says Jossell Velazquez, chef concierge at The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, which recently launched a Family Traditions at St. Regis program for its youngest guests.
A sustainable sanctuary that’s nestled at the foot of El Yunque National Forest, surrounded by marshes, lakes, tropical wildlife and sandy shores, Bahia Beach also offers a host of amenities tailored for families that only a resort destination can provide. The St. Regis’ Family Traditions program helps guests of the resort develop a full itinerary during their time on the island, with numerous excursions and thoughtful touches that create an unforgettable stay.
“Our guests truly enjoy the uniqueness of our location,” Velazquez says. “It’s a true jungle-style ambience from the moment of arrival. Children enjoy the koi fish pond at the Plantation House and our great Boat House that provides complimentary mountain bicycles, stand-up paddleboarding, [catch-and-release] fishing and two different complimentary tours: a morning nature tour and afternoon kayak tour.”
From myriad discoveries at the Iguana Children’s Club to s’mores and stories at the outdoor fireplace and breathtaking scenery during a kayak tour, the St. Regis is a destination where families can share experiences together in a way that’s customized for their interests and preferences.
A Warm Welcome
A family’s stay at The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort begins when the staff reaches out to learn who will be traveling with children and ask about specific likes—favorite color, toy or movie—as well as to find out about any food allergies. Then, from the moment children check in with their family, they are shown just how important the youngest guests are to the resort: Each child is presented with a gift that is uniquely matched to his or her interests.
“We always try to personalize the gifts for the children by giving them a plush iguana toy, stickers, a pail and shovel or a coloring kit,” explains Lili Rodas Medero, recreation supervisor for the St. Regis. One favorite gift is a Kiki Kokí coloring book, with tales about a legendary local frog.
“We also go above and beyond by sending their favorite dessert to their room or during dinner at one of our fine restaurants,” she adds. “They may even find cookies and milk before going to bed. No detail is overlooked for our little guests.”
Parents also don’t need to worry about packing supplies like high chairs, cribs, strollers, diapers or bottle warmers, as the resort has nearly every baby and child necessity available on-site.
In the Club
Once families are ready to explore, the St. Regis team encourages them to get to know the resort before venturing out into nature.
The resort’s Iguana Club is a favorite of young guests and their parents, providing a place to play, learn and relax, all in a creative environment. Geared toward children ages 5 to 12, the Iguana Club offers a play center, movie center, video games and a nap room. The center’s staff members also organize activities for young guests, such as miniature basketball games, nature discovery tours, turtle and duck feeding, and pajama parties.
“We do an outside art class where we have made it a tradition that children can leave handprints all over our pathway on the palm trees and coconuts,” Medero says. “Children love it and, when parents pick them up, they are always so excited to show them where their handprints are. When we have repeat guests, they come back to look for their handprints. The look on their face is magic.”
A new tradition at the Iguana Club involves an artwork shop—a place close to the pool where children create papier-mache masks, souvenirs and wood characters. Children enjoy taking their creations back to their parents at the end of the day.
Other Iguana Club activities include sand castle building on the beach as well as everyday play. “We will have tea parties indoors and outdoors where we drink delicious berry tea or iced tea,” Medero explains. “We’ll have scrumptious chocolate chip cookies and a wacky match of croquet, and sometimes we face paint and all the girls become princesses or fairies and the boys are superheroes or even animals.”
Among the most popular of the Iguana Club’s offerings are the nature outings, which allow children to explore the great outdoors in a golf cart ride that ends with feeding the ducks and tilapia fish. “The wildlife is always happy to see the children,” Medero says. “And they always know the children bring them snacks.”
And, of course, there are plenty of the club’s namesake reptiles to meet along the way. “The children can count iguanas,” Medero explains. “We always show our appreciation for nature and our wildlife and, most of all, give the [children] an unforgettable experience.”
Connecting With Nature
Bahia Beach is a nature lover’s retreat, and that’s one of the reasons that families are drawn to the area. The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is located in a fascinating part of Puerto Rico, where rainforest and ocean come together and create an important habitat for a variety of species—including sea turtles that lay their eggs on the beach. This extraordinary ecosystem, which also serves as a bird sanctuary, leaves an impression on both adults and children.
“Oceanic birds and river birds seek shelter in that area, and you can see them go back and forth,” says Marcela Cañón, a naturalist with the resort. “The ecosystem is home to more than 55 birds, 13 fish and gigantic shrimp. It’s a very important area in terms of biodiversity.”
The St. Regis is committed to maintaining and enhancing this special ecosystem, both inside the resort and out, by working with Audubon associations to support conservation of the river and to improve the region’s ecology. In fact, it is the first and only Audubon International Certified Gold Signature Sanctuary in the Caribbean, with more than 65 percent of the property preserved as green areas, sanctuaries and nature trails.
To offer a glimpse of the island’s fascinating wildlife, the St. Regis provides tours that are led by trained wildlife interpreters, including environmental scientists, biologists and marine biologists. The resort’s Rediscover Nature tour gives families an opportunity to explore El Yunque National Forest through hiking, waterfall vistas and the chance to swim at La Mina Falls. The four-hour tour culminates with a visit to the Yokahu Tower, which offers incredible views of the rainforest and northeast coast.
A bioluminescence tour takes families on a two-hour nighttime kayak trip through mystical channels that lead to Laguna Grande, a famous lagoon in Fajardo. While on the tour, guests learn about Pyrodinium bahamense, microscopic plankton that glow at the touch of one’s fingers. These organisms are explored as guides provide interesting facts about the area’s ecology and star constellations.
“We always hear, ‘I never imagined a place so rich and having so much to offer,’ ” Cañón says. “It’s truly enlightening for our guests. They’re always telling us how amazing it is to see and how much in-depth information we give them. These tours are something truly amazing. There are few places in the world like this.”
At Your Service
For guests who choose to spend a day at the resort, the picturesque pools are an ideal place for adults and children to unwind and relax. “… Families and children of all ages can enjoy our three infinity pools, including a shallow area for babies and toddlers and various other depths for parents and older children,” Velazquez says. “With great views of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s a relaxing way to spend the day.”
The resort also offers cabanas for rent, and attendants can provide pool toys, towels and lounge chairs to make the experience even more relaxing. After spending time at the pool, kayaking on the water or wandering through the rainforest, families can find a variety of delicious offerings at Seagrapes, Molasses and the St. Regis’ signature restaurant, Fern, by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. In-room private dining also can be arranged with menus that appeal to all ages.
One dish that proves popular with children is the brick-oven pizza from Seagrapes. “These pizzas are famous with the young crowd,” says Rocio Varela, executive chef for The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort. For dessert, the s’mores pizza offers a decadent diversion from the traditional pie, topped with Nutella, crushed hazelnuts and marshmallows made in-house.
For more health-minded options, the St. Regis serves up a variety of dishes that are both nutritious and delicious. For breakfast at Fern, families may enjoy Irish oatmeal, egg white scramble or an omelet, chicken sausage and fresh fruit. A dinner option includes organic chicken breast with baby carrots and apples as a starter. At Molasses, pasta is prepared with vegetables, while Seagrapes offers side options such as fruit, a vegetable medley and steamed carrots.
The St. Regis staff is also mindful of any possible allergies or restrictions children might have. “We are very accommodating with dietary restrictions, and my entire staff is able to handle all types of allergies, which is something our guests greatly appreciate,” Varela says.
From food to fun, guests of all ages are sure to enjoy the special offerings of the Family Traditions at St. Regis program. Unforgettable tours that promise to captivate both young and old, personalized service and child-friendly gourmet fare are just a few of the countless ways for families to share a vacation—all while creating new traditions of their own.
One of the area’s most treasured resources is El Yunque National Forest, a short drive from The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort. Exploring this unique ecosystem is just one of many ways that families can enjoy their time in the area. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the National Forest System, and families particularly enjoy its scenic roadways and many hiking trails, as well as shady picnic areas that overlook breathtaking scenery.
In addition to the forest, many beach adventures—such as snorkeling—offer another wonderful way for families to spend a vacation in Puerto Rico.
One tour, available through The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, allows guests to board a catamaran and sail to the deserted island of Icacos, where a light picnic-style lunch is provided in addition to snorkeling lessons.
For the adventurous families interested in more extreme activities, zip lining is a thrilling option. Puerto Rico offers a range of zip lining opportunities, and one favorite is in Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park, which boasts more miles of zip line cables than any other park in the world.