For those of us who are passionate about world travel and exploring out of the way places; it is always such a thrill and exciting to discover a little hidden secret gem of a hotel or place where few have visited. That is exactly how I felt during my recent visit to this very special place: Casa Grande Mountain Retreat in Utuado, Puerto Rico. Fortunate am I to have friends and colleagues who share the same passion as I about travel, tourism, hotels and perhaps life in general. My dear friend and colleague Robert Geist, Assistant Chef Concierge of The St. Regis New York had posted about this visit here at Casa Grande and then highly recommended that I do the same. So off I went with wanderlust and curiosity to explore a little haven of beauty and hedonism nestled in a crevice of mountainous terrain with spectacular scenery all around.
As one approaches and drives up the driveway to the hacienda like main building and reception area; you feel and do exactly what the brochure and websites says, “now you can breath and relax.” Yes there is a sigh and feeling of solitude, of peacefulness, something comforting to the soul!! Its all here and yet only about a two hour drive from San Juan as described in my previous post; a little secret hidden world awaits!! Casa Grande Mountain Retreat runs up and down or cascades along a hillside of a mountain with 20 various cabin like cottages each with its own hammock swing and balcony. The Main Building which resembles a Hacienda also serves as the main restaurant, reception area, bar/lounge and little reading room library. There is a large wrap around verandah with rocking chairs to sit and dream or perhaps gaze at the nature’s mountainous beauty. At night one can see bright stars and listen to the native coqui, bull frogs, and various wildlife. Early in the morning one hears roosters and birds. You are one with nature!!
The cozy little bar/lounge and reading room is also what I called the “Hot Spot” there is a little area of this room where the internet actually works although about 50 %. Do not expect cell phone service either; I believe if you have Verizon it may work but AT&T does not work in this immediate area. Somehow its all okay doesn’t even seem to go with such atmosphere and serenity. The staff aim to please and will assist if needed. For example; they have a house cell phone which works and they happily lend this to guests who require any urgent or necessary calls. If you really must have complete internet and phone access you can always get in your car and drive a few minutes away down the river or to the little town of Utuado where all connections immediately return.
My cabin #5 which I absolutely loved; had an incredible view from the outside balcony porch area. The Cabins have no television, no telephone and no air conditioning; they are all however extremely spacious, comfortable, clean, with simple but tasteful furnishings, modern bathrooms with full showers, quality linens, sheets, blankets, towels, etc. There are ceiling fans together with very cool mountain breezes especially at night and in the early morning hours.
There is a lovely fresh water swimming pool which is kept impeccably clean and is very refreshing after a day of hiking and exploring. In addition to Swimming, there is one of the specialities of the house: Daily Yoga with a real dedicated Yoga Temple Cottage. Yoga Sessions by the way are $12 pp or $25 for a private Yoga Class. There is also hiking with a wonderful guide by the name of Jose who also works at Casa Grande in the Restaurant. I will post separately about my hike with Jose which was incredible by the way and is offered either privately or with a group and the price is the same, only $25 pp. The staff are all very friendly and there are many repeat and regular guests; it feels very much like family. The owner Steve Weingarten is also very friendly and approachable. Steve has owned Casa Grande for 17 years. Steve left his law practice in New York and bought Casa Grande after staying there for the first time in 1995 while visiting paradors of Puerto Rico. Casa Grande is actually a former coffee plantation. The 20 cabins cascade up and down a hillside of a mountain with 107 acres of lush tropical gardens. Room rates by the way are quite reasonable at $125 per night plus taxes. Local cuisine is served buffet style for both Breakfast and Dinner daily and is available at a very reasonable cost. The food is quite tasty and again the staff aim to please and will accommodate dietary restrictions; there is almost aways a vegetarian option at dinner. I especially loved their famous coconut oatmeal in the morning at breakfast time; its absolutely delicious!!!
My hammock swing on the balcony of Cabin #5!! I believe this says it all!! I could swing in that hammock for hours perhaps even for days!! What was only a two day and two night retreat felt as though I had been away for at least one week; I returned to NYC feeling completely refreshed if not rejuvenated!! Cannot wait to return again!!