advertisement

18 miles (29km) W of San Juan

Dorado -- the name itself evokes a kind of magic -- is a small town with some big resorts, a world of storied luxury hotels and villas unfolding along Puerto Rico's north shore west of San Juan. For decades, the Hyatt Cerromar and Dorado Beach formed the epicenter of this stunning coastal stretch of rolling palm groves and white-sand beaches. Currently, vacation and golf clubs are operated on the former site, and there are plans to renovate the old resort buildings and reopen as a luxury resort.

The site was originally purchased in 1905 by Dr. Alfred T. Livingston, a Jamestown, New York, physician, who developed it as a 1,000-acre (405-hectare) grapefruit-and-coconut plantation. Dr. Livingston's daughter, Clara, widely known in aviation circles as a friend of Amelia Earhart, owned and operated the plantation after her father's death. It was she who built the airstrip here. In 1955, Clara Livingston sold her father's 1,700-acre (688-hectare) Hacienda Sardinera to the Rockefeller family. Her former house, now called Su Casa, which served as a golf clubhouse in the '70s and restaurant from 1982 to 2006, remains on the property. On May 31, 2006, 48 years after Laurence Rockefeller officially opened the hotel, the resorts that had made Dorado synonymous with upscale tourism closed their doors. It brought an end to a legendary resort -- with a list of clients including former presidents John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, and George H. W. Bush, as well as athletic greats Joe Namath, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio, and actresses Joan Crawford and Ava Gardner. The golf and tennis courses are still functioning and two upscale resorts are being developed on the beautiful site.