Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers abandoned the high-rise hotels
in San Juan for a low-key resort in Guanica and discovered another
face and pace to the diverse island destination. Here's her
Reed Travel Features
GUANICA -- It was sunset on Puerto Rico's southwest coast.
I'd been on a press bus for hours on an itinerary that demanded
a stop at and a visit to every major tourist attraction from San
Juan south and west, starting with El Yunque in the morning, El
Morro at noon and Ponce at 5 p.m.
I wanted a swim, a drink, a meal and a good night's sleep, in
My spirits lifted decidedly when our little caravan pulled into
Copamarina Beach Resort, 20 minutes west of Ponce.
It sure looked good to me, nestled among coconut trees. I spied
no tall buildings, no liveried valets bustling in a circular
driveway, no mariachi band on the front steps.
Actually, this resort is a two-hour drive on the toll road from
San Juan (if stops at tourist attractions are omitted along the
way), and it has a devoted following among many San Juan residents
who use Copamarina as a weekend getaway.
The thing is, this is not a hermetically-sealed, glitz-and-ritz
property, nor does it have the cache of the for-tourists-only
hotels, casinos and highrises in the well-traveled northeast corner
of Puerto Rico.
I loved it.
I swam, drank and ate well that evening (frankly, this was no
contest -- after a day on a press bus, even warm beer or cold
mashed potatoes would have hit the spot).
Actually, Copamarina fulfilled all my immediate wishes during my
two-day stay and even threw in a short power outage, a tropical
deluge and a pulsing symphony of coquis (tiny tree frogs) each
night that rivaled any concerts I'd ever attended.
The resort's 69 rooms sprawl in several two-story garden-type
buildings bounded by landscaping, lawn, an 18-acre coconut grove
and a half-mile of calm Caribbean beach. The restaurants and
open-air lobby areas where guests congregate to meet, greet, eat
and drink are the heart of Copamarina.
Since my visit, the restaurant operation at Copamarina has
gotten even better with the addition of Wilo Benet as food and
beverage manager. Benet is also the owner of Picayo restaurant in
Fresh, local ingredients and spices are the key to many of the
new dishes now offered at Las Palmas Cafe and La Bellena,
Copamarina's signature restaurant.
Also, since I was last there, tranquil Coparmarina has embarked
on an expansion plan. Such plans sometimes prove to be the kiss of
death for resorts, especially with owners who equate Big with
The good news is that Copamarina's expansion appears to be in
keeping with its size and low-key scale.
Already in place are two new lighted tennis courts and a second
freshwater pool with a Jacuzzi for adults and a separate wading
area for kids.
A 35-room addition, done in the same low-rise, garden-style
design as the rest of the guest buildings, will be completed in
time for the next winter season. Existing rooms already have been
upgraded; new amenities include refrigerators and coffee
The new air-conditioned rooms will have tropical motifs, color
cable remote television, ceiling fans and direct-dial telephones,
much like the room I stayed in.
The only drawback to my ground-floor room was just that -- it
was on the ground level, which meant I had to close the shutters
when changing or dressing or reading in bed at night.
I have a pet peeve about dark rooms in a Caribbean resort, and
by blocking out the window for the sake of modesty, I felt as if I
were in a tomb.
By mid-day following my arrival, Copamarina was working its
charms on me, and I discovered that its appeal lay as much in its
location as in its ambiance.
That afternoon a group of us hopped on a small fishing boat at
Copamarina's dock, manned by guide Don Tito, who let us poke in and
out of the cays and islets and mangrove channels lining the
He took us to Gilligan's Island, less than a mile away, where we
snorkeled and swam. What a tonic for weary writers.
I also could have hiked along trails in the 18,000-acre Bosque
Seco de Guanica (the Dry Forest), an ecotourism marvel which lies
just across the road from Copamarina.
Ponce is 20 minutes away, La Parguera's phosphorescent bay and
the Victorian town of San German are approximately 30 minutes west,
and even the coastal town of Mayaguez, offering live entertainment
and a casino, is just a short drive away.
As for me, I stayed right where I was. Thoughts of that bus kept