BAHIA, Puerto Rico -- Luxury can be measured sometimes not by what is built but by what is left alone. Puerto Rico's Bahia Beach Golf Club and St. Regis Resort, set on 483 acres, let nature do the talking.
'Bahia' translates in English to a small arm of shore that curves inward, which is what the three-mile stretch of beach does here. Amongst Bahia's grounds, there are 3 1/2 miles of hike and bike trails, plus kayaking and canoeing amongst 80 acres of lakes and Espíritu Santo River.
Opened in 2008, the golf club is part of the new luxury resort and residential development about 25 minutes east of San Juan International Airport. Of the development's total acreage, more than 65 percent will remain undeveloped.
Golf at Bahia Beach
Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., the golf course is a Certified Gold Audubon International Signature Sanctuary, the only such course in Puerto Rico to receive the designation -- and it shows.
What's especially memorable about a round here are the many holes that play through dense forest with winding lagoons. Not only does it make for a pleasant environment -- and one entirely different from the more wide-open Trump International next door -- but golfers will come to appreciate the dense forest, which helps shield the brunt of any winds sweeping in from the ocean. Though, be warned, 15 holes are guarded with water hazards.
The breeze picks up a little when you arrive at the 15th hole, a gentle par 3 at a maximum of just 153 yards with a long, narrow green that puts a premium on distance control. The hole plays besides native fern plants on the righthand side. From here, you drive to the 16th tee, which kicks off a stretch of three holes that play beside the beach, where only a row of palm trees separates the fairways from the ocean breeze.
Thankfully, the day we played these holes were downwind, meaning the par-5 16th hole could be reached in two shots easily -- ripe for a late-round birdie opportunity.
Bahia Beach Golf Club: The verdict
Bahia Beach fits a nice niche. Resort golfers looking for a pleasant experience can pick from one of five sets of tees, and while even the back set can play just more than 7,000 yards, this isn't the most penal golf course in Puerto Rico. Jones Jr. found a way to plot a design that would be accommodating to all types, which to most is what golf in the Caribbean is all about.
Managed by Troon Golf, conditions couldn't have been better from tee-to-green, while the beverage cart gal came around early and often. Facilities onsite include a large driving range and practice area, while the tropical plantation-style clubhouse is home to a small pro shop and Molasses restaurant.
Stay and play in Puerto Rico
Just a short drive from the clubhouse, the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is a luxurious and spacious place to stay with large, modern-equipped guest rooms that feature private balconies, many of which are ocean view. Other amenities include a private beach, large pool area and Remede Spa.
Additionally, golfers can find a good base to set up their golf trip at the Grand Melia, which is adjacent to Trump international at Coco Beach. Though still a spacious resort with amenities such as five restaurants, tennis courts, its own beach, large pool and a small casino, you will find more affordable rooms and golf packages compared to the St. Regis.