VIEQUES, Puerto Rico -- I visited a new hotel in a new destination
-- one that could become a very "hot" island, if recent visitor
interest translates to future bookings.
Wyndham Martineau Bay Resort & Spa had a soft opening in
February and officially opened its doors in May on a 42-acre site
near the tiny but modern airport on Vieques.
May was the same month that the U.S. Navy departed the island
after a 62-year visit, marred frequently by bombing runs, protests,
arrests and headlines.
The resort's 156 rooms did more than double the island's
guest-room capacity, which previously totaled 72 rooms in a mix of
bed-and-breakfast units, guest houses and small inns.
Wyndham's presence on Vieques signaled the arrival of a flagship
hotel company whose resort opening catapulted Vieques into the
tourist limelight for a change.
Ben Tutt, general manager, viewed the timing as "very
propitious" for both Wyndham and Vieques.
"This is a unique turn of events," Tutt said. "How often does a
new Caribbean destination emerge -- at the same time that a top
hotel opens on that island? These events represent a great
opportunity for all of us."
Wyndham's hotel -- its seventh in Puerto Rico and its 12th in
the Caribbean -- is named after the bay it fronts, which, in turn,
was named for a Frenchman who once owned the island.
Dallas-based Rosewood Hotels & Resorts formerly held a
minority stake in the oceanfront property. Construction began in
1998, but the property never opened under the Rosewood banner due
to legal disputes.
When Wyndham acquired the management contract in February, it
also acquired Rosewood's furnishings, decor elements and guest
rooms, which, at more than 600 square feet each for a standard
room, are "among the largest hotel rooms in the Caribbean,"
according to Tutt.
They're also among the most expensively decorated: Tutt said
that each room represented a cost of $18,500 in furnishings and
Spanish and French accent pieces, tile floors, wrought-iron
lamps, a Jacuzzi-style bathtub with a view through the bedroom's
sliding glass door of the sea beyond, and comfortable lounges on
each balcony are not typical touches at most Caribbean resorts.
Guest rooms are scattered about in two-story, four-unit pastel
buildings, overlooking the sea, pool or gardens.
Tutt said there are "a lot of pieces we are still working on,
but we will be 100% ready by the start of the winter season. The
casino, Kids Club, room service and menus and cuisine all will be
in place. We've already taken a lot of advance reservations."
This summer, many of the guests are from San Juan, curious to
visit Vieques, which they call Isla Nena (Little Girl Island).
"We want them to discover this island -- if they've not been
here before -- or rediscover it, and we'll offer them the Wyndham
experience at the same time," Tutt said. "We're selling the peace
and tranquility of Vieques as much as we are selling our own
Is it difficult to sell a new hotel and a new destination at the
Tutt said that "confusion about Vieques is pretty evident from
the telephone queries we get. Some agents and guests are worried
that beaches are closed, waters are contaminated and the island is
He assured them that most of the beaches are open and their
waters are not contaminated (waters are being tested at the sites
not open to the public, where the U.S. Navy held bombing
practices), that driving on Vieques is safe and easy (the island is
21 miles long by four miles wide) and that visitors are very
Tutt recommended that agents book car rentals in advance since
there is a shortage of cars on the island.
And, at the end of a day of sightseeing, driving, diving or
beaching it, a sunset cocktail on Wyndham's terrace awaits.
Wyndham Martineu Bay Resort & Spa
Address: State Road 200, Vieques, Puerto Rico 00765
Reservations: (800) WYNDHAM
General manager: Ben Tutt
No. of rooms: 156 rooms, including 20 suites.
Opened: Soft opening in February 2003; official
opening in May 2003.
Location: The resort sits on 42 acres on the north
(Atlantic) shore of Vieques, seven miles off the eastern coast of
mainland Puerto Rico, and a five-minute drive from Antonio Rivera
Facilities: A spa and fitness center, infinity
pool, tennis courts, the Meeting House for small groups, two
restaurants and a lounge, two beaches, water sports and a nearby
car rental facility. Still to come are 24-hour room service, a Kids
Club and a small casino by year's end. An 18-hole Pete Dye-designed
golf course opens in two years.
Rates: Through Sept. 30, from $250 per night,
double, with breakfast, welcome drink and a 50% discount on meals
for up to two children under 12 years old.
Noteworthy: Ocean views from every room,
enthusiastic staff and unusual decor.
Not worthy: Balconies are in full view of
neighbors on either side. Privacy screens are needed plus a screen
door between sliding door and room -- mosquitoes are large and
• Send a Wyndham Martineau Bay CD-rom to potential clients so that
they have a virtual tour of the resort in advance.
• Tap into the 'undiscovered destination' aspect combined with the
familiarity of Wyndham's standards.
• Enroll clients in the WyndhamByRequest guest recognition program,
which tailors individual guests' preferences to a Wyndham stay.
For more details on this article, see Vieques, P.R.: Forts, diving, art and a