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June 3, 2005
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 its close to impossible. Dorados 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 Hollywoods 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 youve brushed shoulders with fame and fortune, theres 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 youve 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, theres even a huge Western Auto right in town if that strikes your fancy. Whats more, the towns 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.
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:
Embassy Suites Vacation Rentals
Where to go:
Sardinera Public Beach
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. Theres a great man-made spot for the younguns to swim in.
Cerro Gordo Beach
On PR-690, off PR-22 or PR-2.
San Antonio de Padua Parish
Art and History Museum of Dorado
Open Mon-Fri 8am-3:30pm, Sat 9am-3:30pm.
Marcos J. Alegría House Museum
Open Mon-Fri 8am-4pm, Sat 8am-4pm.
Casa del Rey Museum
Built in 1823 as an inn for government personnel, the hosue was purchased in 1848 by Jacinto López, the towns 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
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 whats playing at this great little theater named after the "Pharaoh of Black Verse." Juan Boria was Puerto Ricos most well-known Afro-Caribbean poetic interpreter. (Check this page for more info, in Spanish: http://www.prpop.org/noticias/feb05/juanboria_feb07.shtml)
Ojo del Buey
Santuario del Cristo de la Reconciliación
Tue-Sat 8am-5pm, Sun 9am-6pm.
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 email@example.com