Puerrrrrrrto Rico. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Very sexy. Just a 2 1/2 hour flight from Miami, San Juan’s cozy cove of Isla Verde Beach in the pequeño pueblo of Carolina glistens with oceanfront resorts and blue/green waters. You know, like a postcard.
The grande dame of this balmy stretch is El San Juan Hotel, designed by Miami’s legendary Morris Lapidus and delivered in 1958 to the glamorous jetset who adorned themselves in tuxedo jackets and cocktail dresses. After designing and opening The Fontainebleau in Miami Beach in 1954, Lapidus’s Puerto Rico work attracted the famous Hollywood rat pack of Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and other world-class boozehounds who oozed personality. Many of them performed in the El San Juan Hotel’s intimate theater.
But in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the hotel underwent a $65 million renovation, restoring and updating that rat pack swagger with new everything. Swim-up bar? Yes. Updated rooms? Si. Excellent restaurants? Unquestionably. (There’s even a Meat Market, just like in Miami Beach.) Rich-tapestried common areas? Absolutamente. A tranquil Well&Being Spa floating in the sky? Om. But it’s the Chico Cabaret theater that still steals the show some 61 years later, with its live entertainment and masterful drinks that wash away sunkissed days. In the best possible way.