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Clean, Green and Picturesque: A Peep at What Makes Dorado Golden

By Brenda A. Mari

June 3, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

I remember Dorado in the 80s, when it still radiated the understated charm of a sleepy seaside secret. Back then, Dorado Academy was just a shack in the middle of Dorado del Mar. The French kids roamed free and commingled with the gringo girls, the ex-Sanjuaneros and the local BMXers. We were all strutting our pookas, playerito haircuts and Vans checkered shoes. The hot spots included the tennis courts, the golf courses, and oh, that flashy Cerromar river pool they took so long to build. There was also the exclusive, hushed elegance of Dorado Beach, the sound of the waves that lulled me to sleep by our house in Breñas and the timeless afternoons being the only one on the beach, along with my ball-toting’ water freak Golden Retriever, Cacique.

I remember the road that took us there, to the posh area of the Hyatts, a winding tunnel of trees that grew more dangerous in the dark. Once on that road The Man with the Cow Head, precursor to the Chupacabra, was sighted. There was the Goodyear store in the mall that sold those much-coveted $40 Cabbage Patch Kids. The Pizza Hut was THE place to meet and had THE best video game arcade -- Ms. Pac Man and all. In fact, I remember when cable finally came to Dorado and life was no longer just a beach after all.

Back then you could still get a decent beach home for less that $150k; now it’s close to impossible. Dorado’s realty is currently the stuff of the uber rich. I mean, who can afford a $4 million dollar home on an average salary of $26k? Blame it on the Rockefellers, I guess. They were the first to see the gold in them yonder beachy valleys.

On the former site of a grapefruit-and-coconut plantation, Hacienda Jardinera, with a nearby airstrip built by former owner Clara Livingston, friend to Amelia Earhart, Laurence Rockefeller built the Dorado Beach Hotel in the 1950s. This sleepy seaside town instantly became one of the hottest getaway destinations for presidents, royalty and Hollywood’s select few. The stunning hacienda-style tropical setting ended up playing host to the likes of the Kennedys, the Johnsons, the Eisenhowers, Liz Taylor, Bob Hope and Ava Gardner.

Once you’ve brushed shoulders with fame and fortune, there’s no turning back. You are officially a jet setting destination. Dorado slowly became a jewel of a resort town. Add to that countless of foreign executives and their families and scores of retired American couples that come to live off half of the year. Mix in the high-middle class Sanjuaneros that moved out of the city to raise their kids well and pay less. And throw in a dash of the local people with wide smiles, earthiness in their souls and Juan Boria blackness in their blood. Shake just a bit and roll and you’ve got the golden magic of Dorado right.

More than just a golden golf Mecca, with three courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. himself, Dorado offers something for everyone. Although the latest news is that its last public beach is locked in a fiery dispute involving possible development, the place has everything you could possibly hanker for and more. Hell, there’s even a huge Western Auto right in town if that strikes your fancy. What’s more, the town’s patron saint festivals -- pageant queens, "picas," fritters, music and all -- will take place from the 15th to the 19th of June. (Call 787-796-1230 for more info.)

Following are the most popular attractions in Dorado, the Golden Child.

The main hotels:

Embassy Suites Dorado

The place is nice indeed. Although the pool can get crowded on weekends and the beach did not need to be "enhanced" by waterbreakers, the food, rooms and service are commendable. Lunch at the tall atrium can be fun while watching all sorts of people traipsing by. If nothing else, ride the glass elevators up and down.

Dorado Beach

Nothing beats the timeless elegance with its whiff of The Great Gatsby. If you love golf, this is the cherry on top. Bills itself the "crown jewel of Puerto Rican resorts" and lives up to its promise. If you feel like treating your hon, take her to the classic Su Casa Restaurant (787-278-1653 / 796-1234 ). Then maybe you both can get lost through the damp nature trails.

Hacienda del Mar

Former site of the Cerromar Beach Hotel, now being converted into timeshares. The Johnny Rockets, the Zen Garden and the River Pool are open for business though.

Looking for Dorado vacation rentals? Try these:

PR West

Clasificados Online

Embassy Suites Vacation Rentals

Where to go:

Sardinera Public Beach
787-796-2830, 787-622-5229

End of PR- 697. Open daily from 8:30am-5pm.

A wide swath of powdery fine sand welcomes you and everyone else you bring. A near perfect beach, although the water can sometimes get very choppy. There’s a great man-made spot for the young’uns to swim in.

Cerro Gordo Beach
(787) 883-2730

On PR-690, off PR-22 or PR-2.
Perfect creamy sand and lots of bay to swim on with a Blue Lagoon-type of backdrop.

Main Plaza
787-796-5740, 787-796-6001, 787-796-9031FX
A nice, breezy spot near La Plata River and one of the coziest plazas on the island. Check out the Monument to the Puerto Rican Roots, a statue that pays homage to our Taíno, African and Spanish legacies. They embody the fused culture we learned about in school. It was sculpted by Salvador Rivera Cardona (another Doradeño).

San Antonio de Padua Parish
A notable church right in front of the main plaza, founded in 1812. So airy and breezy, there no need for air conditioning.

Art and History Museum of Dorado
787-796-5740, 787-796-6001

Open Mon-Fri 8am-3:30pm, Sat 9am-3:30pm.
A newly opened museum, on the former parish home, that concentrates on the history of Dorado. Has three exhibit halls with local art, archaeological finds and a presentation on the town.

Marcos J. Alegría House Museum
787-796-1433, 787-796-5740

Open Mon-Fri 8am-4pm, Sat 8am-4pm.
The former residence of master painter Marco Juan Alegria, a deep and jolly man whom I once had the pleasure of studying painting from, is now a museum displaying works from well-known local artists and memorabilia, and offers classes to kids under 11. The wooden house itself is a little typical Puerto Rican marvel of the early 1900s.

Casa del Rey Museum
(787) 796-1030; Open Monday-Friday, 8:00am - 4:30pm.

Built in 1823 as an inn for government personnel, the hosue was purchased in 1848 by Jacinto López, the town’s founder, who converted it into a residence. He added two wings which created the U-shaped configuration around an interior patio. In 1871, Casa del Rey became the home of Manuel Alonso y Pacheco -- a notable romantic poet. It was restored by the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture in 1978. This former Spanish garrison is now a museum exhibiting mid-19th century furniture and fixtures and doubles as a cultural center.

Del Plata Museum
Another recent museum exhibiting paintings, sculptures and works by local Dorado artistes.

Distinguished Doradeños Plaza and Juan Boria Theater

Stop by, right in town, for a quick look at a colorful, quaint, but lonely side plaza and check out what’s playing at this great little theater named after the "Pharaoh of Black Verse." Juan Boria was Puerto Rico’s most well-known Afro-Caribbean poetic interpreter. (Check this page for more info, in Spanish:

Ojo del Buey
787-796-5740, 787-796-6001
Allegedly an area where our most famous local pirate, Cofresí, buried his treasure. The main feature is a rocky formation called the Eye of the Ox because it resembles the head of an ox. This real tresure is the seaside recreational area located in the Barrio Mameyal of Dorado. The more the merrier, but not the place to take young kids, as you have to walk along rocky crevices. It is also somewhat solitary and sometimes turns into a veritable lovers lane. So do bring your friends along.

Santuario del Cristo de la Reconciliación
787-278-5459, 787-796-1291

Tue-Sat 8am-5pm, Sun 9am-6pm.
Inside the church is the world's largest indoor image of Jesus Christ, standing at 25 feet, 5 inches. It’s impressive to see a Christ this size. I dare anyone to not feel slight. The body and face are modeled after that in the Shroud of Turin. Saturday mass is at 12:15pm. The Christ is the creation of well -know local artist Sonny Rodríguez. The grounds are nicely kept, I might add.

The Lowdown:

For more information and to schedule a trolley tour around town, call the Dorado Cultural and Tourism Office at 787-796-5740 or 787-796-6001.

Brenda A. Mari is a travel, music and entertainment writer and editor extraordinaire. She is also a consummate web copywriter with a penchant for the unique. You can reach her at

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