Review: Royal Isabela Golf Resort, Puerto Rico

Even Better After the Honeymoon!!
Many things have a honeymoon period; your marriage; new cars, new clubs, and new golf courses. But what happens after that? Some believe that once the honeymoon is over, real life won’t be as good. But Royal Isabela is even better after the honeymoon!
I was able to play Royal Isabela before it was officially opened (review here) and I fell in love.  It was golf heaven.  Links style golf on the island of Puerto Rico with incredible views; it simply didn’t get much better than that in my mind.  I had a honeymoon with the course.  I played one great round with my father and brother-in-law.  Even still 2 years later I can remember that round with such fondness.  It was amazing.  So could going back really live up to that near perfect experience?  My recent visit reminded me that things can get even better after the honeymoon.  The course has grown in nicely and the resort has taken shape for an ideal Caribbean getaway any time of the year.  The north west corner of Puerto Rico has a constant ocean breeze and 85* temperature almost 365 days of the year, so you can plan a trip summer or winter and enjoy amazing weather.

This young resort has really grown up in 2 years.  The course is even better (probably from my multiple rounds of playing it and understanding it better) and the resort has filled in with a full host of amenities.  On my first visit, the Casitas were only shells and not ready for occupancy.  There was no pool, no fitness center, and honestly no real ability to enjoy a stay on property.    Now the tennis courts are done, the fitness center functions, the pools are all swimmable and with 20 Casitas they can host a good number of guests at one time.  Another unique feature of the property is the farm which has fully grown in allows them to truly have a field to table experience in the dining room.

The real joy of staying on property are the Casitas.  20 small condos done perfectly.  Each one has a living room, bedroom, bathroom, plunge pool and deck.  They feel very homey and luxurious.  They each have incredible privacy yet ocean views.  They are set into the hillside above the ocean.  While they don’t have a kitchen, who really want to cook on vacation anyways.  All your meals are just a short walk up the path at the Casa.  This full service restaurant offers excellent small batch foods.  You can tell that they are hand crafted meals.  Sometimes they take a little longer than one might expect, but the food is worth the wait.  There is some thick-cut “magical” bacon at breakfast that you must have and the churrasco for lunch or dinner is the best meal on the menu.  The fire brick pizzas also make a great lunch.  The food is excellent; although not overly Puerto Rican.  There are a few dishes that have a slight Puerto Rican flare, but if you really want to experience Puerto Rican cuisine, you will need to go off-property for that.

Royal Isabela is on the less touristy side of the island.  Many of the adventures are on the opposite corner, a good 3 hours away.  But that isn’t to say there are some fun things to do right outside of the resort either.  The Caves of Camuy are impressive, the radio telescope in Arecibo is educational and the paddle boarding with Verde Azul up the Guajataca river is adventurous.  If you want to try some other foods, any local street vender will offer you great Puerto Rican foods, or if you want to try some beer and Thai food head to One Ten Thai.  (The concierge can get you reservation and transportation).

Currently the golf course is still the main attraction of the resort.  The 20 1/2 holes of links style golf have really stayed true to form.  The front and back side have a different feel to them based on the vegetation and views, but play similarly when it comes to shot making and style.  The front 10.5 weave through more trees and hills, while the back 10 are flatter, more open and have shots over the ocean or near the cliffs.  I still stand by everything I found during my first round.  I don’t think I’d change a word of the review, my only thought now since I’ve played it 3 more times is that is just got better.  Still a very hard and demanding course, but so much fun.  Links Golf + Puerto Rico = Golf Heaven.

Royal Isabela is a private resort and has amazing plans to expand.  While they are still in the expansion process, they offer limited outside play.  If you contact them ahead of time, arrangements can be made to stay and play.  They do limit play to keep the course in great shape, so don’t just assume you can show up and get on.  The future expansion of golf, lodging and restaurants will make this an even better destination once it is completed.

Of all the places I’ve traveled to for golf, Royal Isabela has won my heart.  The setting on Puerto Rico, the resort amenities and lodging and the golf course just keep me wanting more.   I’ve played some of the best ranked courses in the world and I think I would rather go back to Royal Isabela than any one of those.  Royal Isabela is even better after the honeymoon.

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Quick Hits
+Full amenities completed
+Luxurious Casitas
+Outstanding links style golf with awesome ocean views
+Farm to table food
+Relaxing vibe everywhere at the resort.
+Concierge can arrange anything you want to do