St. Regis Bahia Beach Review for Destination Weddings & HoneymoonsPuerto Rico
Puerto Rico…. San Juan, Puerto Rico in particular is a great choice for destination weddings. A variety of activities, various lodging options in most any style and price point…. AND the biggest draw (in my humble opinion) is the non-stop flights from MANY cities stateside.
I spent a weekend in November at the St. Regis Bahia Beach and was able to tour their event facilities as well as experience the weekend as a guest.
A non-stop flight from Tampa took us 3 hours and we were picked up quickly and driven about 30 minutes to the St. Regis Bahia. The hotel grounds are gorgeous. Insanely LUSH (feels like what you would expect staying somewhere like Costa Rica). The Plantation House, the resort’s lobby and main building provides an elegant welcome with a modern feel. The entrance is flanked by koi ponds and is particularly stunning lit up in the evenings.
Wedding ceremonies are typically held on the lawn in front of the Plantation House with the beach in the background. There are a number of cocktail hour locations as well as reception spaces both indoor and out. The Astor Lounge is an outdoor space available near the hotel’s ballrooms that is both beautiful and unique.
I believe it important for all brides, especially destination wedding brides, to LOVE their indoor option in case of inclement weather. If you hate the back up space don’t pick that location at all, if it rains you have to be happy with that option. It’s a must.
Luckily, the. St. Regis’ “conference center” has a gorgeous ballroom that can be used for ceremonies and reception in case of bad weather.
We stayed in a one bedroom suite. An insane suite. A full living room. Two bathrooms. And TV screens built-in the bathroom mirrors… so ya know… you can watch the news while brush your teeth!? Very luxurious. You and your guests will not be disappointed with the accommodations.
Guests can participate in paddle boarding and kayaking on the resort’s man made lake. Bikes can be rented to tour the beautiful grounds and there is a full gym and spa. If your groom loves GOLF and your guests love golf this is definitely the place to be. The Bahia Beach course is on-site and there are other courses nearby. The beach isn’t great. The resort is truly pool-centric. If you are looking for a resort where you can sit all day long at the beach, this probably isn’t it. The waters are often rough and it was very windy when we visited.
Three restaurants are on-site at the St. Regis: 1. Fern: (the hotel’s Jean-Georges restaurant) 2. Molasses: (more of a golf clubhouse restaurant). 3. Seagrapes: a casual, poolside place perfect for lunch and cocktails. One more restaurant would be nice and perhaps late night music (nothing crazy) at Seagrapes. I think that guests are a bit “stuck” at this resort with limited options on-site and it is expensive to go into town (a car service is $120 each way to downtown San Juan for dinner, about half for a taxi), but I think one more restaurant on-site would do the trick.
Overall, I would recommend the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort as a great destination wedding choice for any bride. I would consider a few factor when comparing it to other wedding destinations…
1. It’s somewhat isolated location from San Juan. I would recommend hosting a variety of events to keep guests entertained and from feeling as though they have to drop a ton of dough to keep busy. Though a second resort (Gran Melia) is located about 10-15 minutes away and can be a good place to offer as lower priced hotel option.
2. Non-stop flights to San Juan. This is a huge advantage to hosting a destination wedding in Puerto Rico. It cuts down on travel time, costs, etc. for your guests.
3. Authenticity. This is not something most people care about or think about but this resort lacks authenticity & history, perhaps because it is newer. It is hard to describe but many resorts (such as Caneel Bay, Four Seasons Nevis, Round Hill etc.) have a historic feel to them… as a guest you feel a part of the hotel’s story or family. I have had many brides become very attached to their past destination locations because of the staff, setting and ambiance… and I feel that this resort lacks (at this time) that feeling.
4. This might be like #3 in that it’s something that someone like me …. who tours and works at MANY different high-end resorts around the country notices… It seemed as though the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort did not use facial recognition software or any type of guest recognition system. What is this and WHY does it matter to a bride… you might ask?! It is software resorts, stores and other businesses use to recognize their customers. Many hotels have a recognition staff that alerts front staff to the names of the guests they are serving or coming into contact with. As a planner I would hope a larger resort would use this kind of software to make my client feel special, every second of her initial visit and throughout her wedding weekend. I would want to make sure everyone bellman, doorman, bartender and housekeeper knew that she was the BRIDE and congratulate her and recognize her. Maybe the answer is that they want everyone to feel special? Well, facial recognition does make everyone feel special and helps service run more smoothly… for example, my husband and I visited The One & Only Ocean Club in Nassau two years ago. Upon our arrival from the airport we were greeted at a guard gate and asked for our names to verify we were guests arriving to check-in. The guard let us in and as we reached the front gate a bellman opened the car door and greeted us by name. It’s not magic but it makes a difference and it alerted the front desk to start pulling up our reservation and make sure our room was ready for us. This is a topic I could go into more detail about and is really something to talk more about to my colleagues in the event and travel industries but I did not want to miss touching on it for brides. It is something to notice when touring potential destination wedding venues.
Photographs via Starwood Hotels and LuxuryTravelAdvisor.com