by Michael Blanding
If your image of Puerto Rico is the teeming nightlife of San Juan, then Copamarina is as far from that–both physically and psychologically–as imaginable. Located on the south central part of the island, the resort channels the feeling of an unspoiled natural paradise. In fact, Copamarina is located in the middle of a forest preserve. Unlike the usual wet rainforests of the Caribbean, the surrounding woodlands are a rare tropical dry forest (a function of the mountains that block the moisture from reaching the area) full of unique plant and animal life. The road to reach the resort can be a bit harrowing, with several miles of narrow curving roads along ocean cliffs.
Once there, you are rewarded with grassy lawn that hugs a peaceful cove full of palm trees and beautiful flowering plants–bushes of red and pink and red bougainvilla, orange jasmine and red and white hibiscus. Kids quickly go native in the environment, which provides plenty of room to run around, along with a large pool and beach where scampering geckos and coqui tree frogs roam for young hunters to find.
Copamarina continues with the natural theme in its dÃ©cor, which consists of thatched ceilings, rattan furniture and blocky carved wooden tables in the open-air reception areas. After 50 years of age, the resort recently upgraded its rooms as a renovation under a new management is ongoing. For a family resort, the lack of a children’s program or other coordinated activities is glaring, service at the restaurants can be spotty and the beach leaves a bit to be desired.
All of these drawbacks, however, are overcome by one major selling point: The resort’s very own tropical island. Located a few minutes’ boat ride off the coast, the island has been named Gilligan’s Island for its uncanny similarity to the desert oasis in the old-time TV show. The island has virtually nothing on it — just palm trees, soft white sand and clear blue water. If you are looking to escape into nature, you may not find a better place to do it.
Our Editor Loves
- Location in the middle of an unspoiled nature preserve
- Plenty of water sports to keep the family busy
- Access to a secluded private island
- Water Sports
- Family Room 5+
- Kids' Pool
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The resort has five buildings -- three main buildings and two smaller buildings with villas and suites. In all, there are 106 rooms of a variety of sizes and configurations.
The most basic rooms are either Garden or Ocean View, depending on the side of the building they are one, and they come with either one king-size bed or two queens. Some of these rooms also have a sleeper sofa as well. The next grade up is Oceanfront hotel rooms, which are located closer to the water and come with a king bed and a sleeper sofa or two queens.
There are also two suites, which are bigger still and have a separate bedroom with a king bed and another room with two sleeper sofas.
The two villas, located in the small building closest to the water, are sizeable apartments for families, with three bedrooms, two full baths, a full kitchen, dining room and living room.
Most of the room the decor has been updated to calm tan and beige colors with splashing of navy. The resort recently upgraded to a more contemporary look, featuring more natural woods. All rooms have a refrigerator, cable TV, free Internet and a coffee maker; microwaves for families travelling with small children are available upon request. Cots and cribs are also available at no extra charge.
Located far away from San Juan Metropolitan Area, you need a car to get there but once you are there you can relax and forget about your problems. A GPS is a must. Drive during daylight hours since there are many turns, curves without adequate light.
Their restaurant Alexandra is very good. Beach front, with nice swiming pools. If you want more than relaxing they can arrange for a trip to nearby Gilligans Island, Guanica Dry forest (local guide is a must), snorkeling, kayaks, etc. They can manage big groups. Clean, air conditioned rooms with very helpful staff.
by Ralph O
The Hotel was amazing and the staff very professional. My family and I booked a trip to Gilligan’s Island, which is a seven minute boat ride from the hotel, and had a great time. The Captain of the boat, Alexis, and his Deckhand, Eduardo, were excellent and really went out of their way to make the short trip pleasant and enjoyable. They were knowledgeable in their craft and friendly. On our way back I commented how it would be fun to dive on the water from the point we were. (The water at the point we were was about 25’ deep. ) Eduardo told me that if I wanted to dive I could. I thought he was joking but he signaled to the captain to stop and he did. Me and my daughters dove into the bluest ocean you could see and it was so warm and awesome. Best dive ever!! I highly recommend these guys to anyone staying at the Copamarina and looking to go to Gilligan’s Island.
Most kids make a bee line to the pool, and Copamarina has a nice one, centrally located in the middle of the resort. The pool has both shallow and deep ends, a fountain and a hot tub beside it. Another pool is located by the more secluded third building, along with a small circular kiddie pool for toddlers. The pool is open almost all hours (except 9:30 p.m. to midnight), making it particularly convenient for families' schedules.
The beach here, alas, is not very attractive, with little sand and weeds choking the water. The management has tried to fix this by clearing a small area and adding sand to make for a nicer spot in one area -- look for it towards the east side of the property. Try to get there early to snag a day bed along the water, which are to be used on a first-come, first-serve basis. There is also a small ship-themed children's playground located next to Las Palmas CafÃ©.
While the resort doesn't schedule any formal activities or children's programs, it does have a beach hut with lots of water sports and expeditions arranged by Aquaventures Hilton. Guests can rent sea kayaks or Hobie cats and book scuba trips to any of 22 spots along The Wall, a precipitous down into clear, blue, ocean off the southern side of the island that is one of the best dive spots in the Caribbean. The resort also offers snuba, a lighter form of scuba-diving that uses a hose tethered to a boat and requires no previous experience for exploring a nearby coral reef 25 feet under the water's surface.
The resort offers regular trips out to Gilligan's Island, a small tropical island a few minutes away by ferry. The island has several secluded beaches and calm water for swimming, even for young kids; bring everything you need for snorkeling or sunbathing, and ask for the resort to prepare a picnic lunch, as there are no facilities on the island apart from primitive restrooms and picnic tables.
Guanica Dry Forest
Not everything here is about the ocean -- the Guanica Dry Forest next door offers lots of opportunities to explore on foot or mountain bikes, which are available for rent from the resort. The preserve has trails of all abilities for families, a small fort and ruins of a sugar mill and 16 different species of colorful birds that flit among the cactuses and scrub trees. Be sure to take lots of water, especially in the middle of the day, since the area gets very hot. They don't call it Dry Forest for nothing.
Another excursion a bit farther afield from the resort is a trip to the Bioluminescent Bay at La Parguera, one of three places in Puerto Rico where you can see the light-up phytoplankton that glow a ghostly green when disturbed by boats or people. The small town of La Parguera is located about a half-hour from the resort, and several onsite operators offer a variety of tours of the bay. These include everything from kayak tours where participants can jump in and swim with the plankton, to glass-bottom boats from which you can see glowing fish darting around in the water. Due to pollution, the creatures in the bay aren't as light as they once were, but a trip there still provides a unique experience, especially on moonless nights where there is little light pollution to spoil the show.
Copamarina has two restaurants onsite. Where guests spend most of their time is Las Palmas, a casual, open-air eatery next to the beach and the pool. All of the standard pool bar items are here -- pizzas, hamburgers, sandwiches and quesadillas -- but many of the items on the menu are surprisingly more creative. Octopus wonton with citrus-soy dipping sauce is a standout among appetizers, while entrees include many authentic native dishes, such as grilled mahi-mahi with island spices and chicken cracklings with spicy aioli and fried plantains. While most of the menu is kid-friendly, the restaurant does offer a separate kids menu with all the usual favorites.
The resort also has an air-conditioned "fine dining" restaurant, Alexandra, which ups the standards with white tablecloths and a quieter ambience, while still remaining suitable for kids. The menu also kicks it up a notch with sophisticated (and pricy) entrees such as filet mignon with port wine sauce and Caribbean lobster termidor. The restaurant has a fantastic children's menu, which includes snapper filet and grilled skirt steak in addition to standbys like chicken fingers.
Both restaurants have high chairs and crayons available, and the resort offers several meal plans that include breakfast, breakfast and dinner or breakfast, lunch and dinner. With advance notice, they can also pack a picnic lunch for excursions to the Dry Forest of Gilligan's Island.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The resort offers babysitting services by staff members who are certified and trained in CPR. Rates are $10 per hour for one child.
Fitness Center and Spa
The resort also has a small fitness room and an excellent spa that has a steam room and sauna, along with treatments including massages, manicures and pedicures.
The Art of Smart Timing
Puerto Rico has an almost perfectly consistent climate, with temperatures hovering around the 80-degree mark year round. Copamarina follows the seasons of most Caribbean resorts, with prices highest between Christmas and late March, and lowest during the summer. The resort remains surprisingly crowded year-round, however, August in particular can be busy, since that is when most locals take their own vacation.
Puerto Rico has a rainy season from around April to November, when showers are possible, even in the relatively drier landscape of the south part of the island. During these times, the dry forest tends to be a little greener, though never lush.
Most flights to Puerto Rico arrive at Luis MuÃ±oz MarÃn International Airport, outside of San Juan. To get to Copamarina, the most economical option is to rent a car at the airport and drive. A multi-lane highway goes most of the way to the resort, with back roads only at the very end. Driving time from San Juan is about two hours depending on traffic. The resort also offers a VIP shuttle service from San Juan for the cost of $320 round trip for two people.
Puerto Rico also has another international airport located in the southwest, Rafael Hernandez International Airport, in the town of Aguadilla. But it has limited service. Aguadilla is about an hour's drive from the resort. Transportation is available for $110 round trip for two people.
The resort is easily walkable.
For Mom and Dad
While the restaurant Alexandra is suitable for kids, it really shines as a date spot. In addition to a list of fancy entrees, it has a long list of wines from around the world.