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When Sam and Jessica Jones sold their Brooklyn Heights brownstone during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, they didn’t bother looking in surrounding New York suburbs. As a real estate developer, Sam felt drawn to Puerto Rico—a hotbed of investor activity, where hedge fund managers, former private equity analysts and crypto billionaires are trading opportunities in a virtual tax-free haven over endless sunshine and 18 holes of golf.
“Why wouldn’t I want to live in great weather year-round, with great tax benefits and get in on the ground floor of investor activity?” he says. They formally moved to Puerto Rico in October, 2020. “It felt like a no-brainer. Fast forward two years and we couldn’t be happier.”
At the crux of Puerto Rico’s “business meets pleasure” M.O. sits Dorado Beach, a luxurious lifestyle community on a premier stretch of unspoiled beach just 18 miles east of San Juan. Once a citrus and coconut plantation owned by the Livingston family, oil heir Laurence Rockefeller bought Dorado in 1955 and built the Dorado Beach Hotel. The property’s longstanding legacy among the glitterati included a who’s who of mid-century personalities, like Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner, Gerald Ford, Dwight Eisenhower, Henry Kissinger, and John F. Kennedy. When the local economy took a turn in the 1980s, Dorado was rebranded as a Hyatt and ultimately closed.
In 2012 Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve revived Dorado. Situated on 1,400 acres of the former Rockefeller estate, the Reserve is a pristine sanctuary designed to give guests an ultra-luxurious experience with oceanfront accommodations featuring private plunge pools, as well as Omakase dinners, one of the largest vintage and wine offerings throughout the Caribbean, water sports with Olympic windsurfers and a mind-blowing five-acre spa.
Residents of Dorado also have access to the resort’s offerings, where homeowners mingle with guests at the open-air gym, in tennis HIIT classes or by the water park. There’s a communal feel to the whole thing. Think Florida for young, fit, attractive people who spend their days playing beach volleyball, taking meetings by their pools and cruising around on golf carts. It’s of little wonder why the area is seeing a post-Covid boom like never before.
“This market exploded after Covid-19 with a 60 to 65 percent increase in people permanently moving down to Puerto Rico and leaving places like New York, Chicago, L.A., Miami and Dallas,” says Oriana Juvelier, vice president at Sotheby’s International Realty in San Juan. “We’re seeing a lot of clients in the three million-plus range. Specifically the luxury client is looking for summer all year round and wide open spaces. Several areas here saw a huge uptick, but Dorado Beach and Bahia Beach are two of the largest and most beautiful resorts that are drawing a specific lifestyle.”
Last year Dorado saw its biggest real estate transaction yet, with a two-acre oceanfront property changing hands for $30 million.
“The growth that's happened here, in just the last four years, has been staggering,” says Lee Mitner, who moved to Dorado from Los Angeles in 2018. “Not to mention the value of everything going up like crazy. But I guess you have this very finite resource, and more and more people back home are finding out what's going on down here.”
Outside Dorado, The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort & Residences—the island’s other luxury property set in the El Yunque National Rainforest—is betting big on the boom. This summer it breaks ground on a collection of luxury beachfront condominiums, Ocean Drive Beachfront Residences, Phase II, which are 50 three and four-bedroom residences designed by architectural design firm, SB Architects Miami.
The St. Regis will also offer beachfront single-home residences at Atlantic Drive Estates. This two-story luxury complex features 12,000 square feet homes and bills itself as the most luxurious development in Puerto Rico. Like Dorado, residents at Bahia Beach have access to St. Regis offerings, which include five-star restaurants, two miles of wide open beach, state-of-the-art fitness and tennis facilities and a concierge service.
For the super high net-worth guest, Casa Estancias is a 14,000 square-foot villa built within the first phase of St. Regis Residence offerings, and is available to rent for $30,000 per night.
“In recent years, we’ve seen an increased demand for residences at Bahia Beach,” says Julie Miller, director of sales and marketing at The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort. “Homeowners can also opt into the St. Regis rental program, where the luxury management company offers short term rental options.”
According to Juvelier, most locals are optimistic about its new neighbors and the opportunities they bring with them. More development across the island means more jobs, and a new chapter of prosperity for the resilient region.
“The impact is so much greater than you could possibly know,” she says. “In 2008 we were struggling hard. Now, we’re seeing real business opportunities spawn from people moving down here who qualify for tax incentives, but they’re not just hiring nannies and housekeepers. They’re opening law firms and hiring highly educated, multilingual local employees. They’re trying to keep people on the island. What you see is people falling in love with Puerto Rico, growing businesses and helping us benefit.”
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