W Retreat & Spa - Resort Lawn
Feature: W Hotel, Vieques

By Michael Franco - February 8, 2016

The island of Vieques, bobbing in the bright blue waters off the east coast of Puerto Rico, is an island of contrasts. The north side of the island is buffeted by the sometimes turbulent waters of the southern Atlantic Ocean, while the south side is caressed by the calmer and more vividly colored Caribbean Sea. While much of the island is now preserved as parkland in the hands of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, that same land was once used for military purposes by the US Navy and bitter disputes happened where there are now peaceful, dazzling beaches. And although there are wild horses grazing in the most unlikely places around the island lending it a Wild West charm, there are also concerns about the care the animals, along with the island's small stray dog population, receive.

Standing among -- and indeed contributing to -- the contrast that is Vieques, is the W Hotel, the chain's very first resort in the Caribbean.

While much of Vieques is dotted with small hotels and guest houses that are often more rustic than regal, the W stands out as a strikingly glamorous property.

The W is set amidst 30 gorgeously groomed acres on the north shore of Vieques. While the sea tends to be rougher here, it is nonetheless completely captivating and can be enjoyed by guests of the hotel on two postcard-perfect beaches -- a quiet one for adults only, and another accessible to families. Looking out over the powdery blue water, one can see the main island of Puerto Rico as well as Vieques' smaller sister island of Culebra forming a dramatic outline on the horizon. A host of water toys is available to guests, including stand-up paddleboards and kayaks.

Underwater DJ Climbing up the small rise from where the beaches are set, you arrive at the first star attraction of the property -- the stunning two-tiered infinity pool. The lower level is the perfect spot from which to gaze out to the mesmerizing ocean while sitting on white lounge chairs set directly in the water, while the upper tier provides another cooling-off spot surrounded by comfy lounge chairs and cabanas. A bar next to the pool provides tropical cocktails, and the super-friendly staff makes regular rounds making sure your every need is met, and occasionally bringing along free nibbles and drinks to enjoy.

A surprising bonus of spending an afternoon beneath the giant royal palms that grow on an island in the center of the pool is that when you dive into the water to cool off, you're able to hear the same hip and rhythmic music that plays around the pool when you dive beneath the water's surface. So that's what you see when you enter the property from the sea. Entering from the lobby, though, is equally impressive.

Lovely Lobby Soaring ceilings create a sense of instant grandeur, akin to walking into a palace -- a very hip palace, that is. The property was conceived by by Spanish-born designer Patricia Urquiola of Milan-based Studio Urquiola and, as with all W Hotels, there are design surprises at every turn. Large colorful glazed pots are perfectly placed on the polished concrete floor throughout the expansive space and jewel colored lights shift behind the wood-clad front desk.

Here you'll find the hotel's Living Room -- a warmly furnished space for lounging and enjoying a free cup of coffee each morning. A purple-topped pool table tempts in one corner, while the hotel's Sorcé restaurant offers a range of seating options just beyond industrial metal mesh doors.

The front wall of this colorful communal space opens straight to the outdoors, blurring the line between inside and out. Beyond it, a firepit surrounded by colorful cushions makes a great spot for an early-evening cocktail, and a range of large covered loungers provide the perfect place to cuddle with someone special -- or a favorite book.

Spacious Oasis While the 157 guestrooms and suites at the property range in size from 560-1400 square feet (about 170-427 square meters), they are all designed in the W's hip yet elegant style. Of particular note are the oceanview rooms, which provide a spacious oasis in which to rest and recharge. A tin washtub is set in a screened area to one side, while a giant lounging chair invites you to unwind on the other. The color palette throughout is subdued, with rich greys and warm wood tones accentuated with pops of dramatic color here and there. The flat-screen TV is hidden behind a sliding panel, so if you truly want to get away from it all, you can pretend it's not even there. Plus, with such dramatic ocean views available through the windows of so many of the rooms, you might not want to turn your gaze away.

Additional Amenities While you could easily spend huge swaths of your vacation time enjoying the lobby, pool and your room here, the hotel offers even more to explore. Head away from the hub of the hotel and off to east side of the property, you'll find an "iguana sun deck" where you can see the electric green prehistoric creatures chilling out on a wooden platform above the surf all day long. Wander a bit further afield and you'll come upon a large round black-stone plunge pool kitted out with massaging jets that you'll likely have all to yourself like a giant cool-water Jacuzzi.

An well-equipped 24-hour gym and daily outdoor yoga classes encourage you to stay fit, while an onsite spa is the perfect place to soothe sore muscles. In addition to the hotel's pool bar, restaurant and Living Room, you can also buy sandwiches and other nibbles at the hotel's Snack Bar.

And, if you can tear yourself away from the property, an onsite adventure company called Blackbeard Sports is on-hand to help you book excursions. One not to be missed is a trip the island's famous bioluminescent bay where the water lights up at night thanks to small animals known as dinoflagellates that live in the mangrove-rich waters. It's the perfect way to add even more enchantment to a stay at this dazzling property set on a completely magical island.