Royal Isabela

Named Puerto Rico’s top golf resort at the World Travel Awards

Ever hear of Royal Isabela Golf Resort?

Well, two weeks ago, the “Pebble Beach of the Caribbean” on Puerto Rico’s lush northwestern shore, beat out some pretty strong competition from properties owned or managed by Gran Melia, Wyndham, Waldorf Astoria, St Regis, and Embassy Suites to be named Puerto Rico’s top golf resort at the World Travel Awards (WTA) Caribbean and North American Gala.

Though its founders and developers—brothers and one-time tennis stars Charlie and Stanley Pasarell, and partner Edwin Pérez—are hardly anonymous chancers, it was really a win for the little guy.

Royal Isabela officially opened in October of last year so obviously didn’t waste any time in impressing WTA judges.

Such recognition restores a little of one’s faith in humanity. Instead of waltzing in with an unlimited budget and erecting a monument to gross overconsumption with armies of staff members, and taking advantage of an outsized marketing budget, Pérez and the Pasarells did it right, disturbing precious little earth, constructing guest rooms and communal buildings that are consistent with local architecture, employing locals, offering food that locals might eat, and keeping it all rather low-key. 

Owning a residence here, becoming a member of the golf club, or even staying the night in one of the 20 charming casitas, isn’t particularly cheap, but you can you really put a price on what staying at a place like this does for your soul?

The Pasarells, keen golfers and likewise keen to build an exciting golf course while preserving the land as best they could, played a major role in designing the layout alongside their longtime friend David Pfaff who began his design career with Pete Dye back in the 1960s. Pfaff sadly passed away earlier this year but his course at Royal Isabela will serve as a lasting legacy to a humble and talented designer who had a hand in hundreds of golf courses around the world.

The star of the show at Royal Isabela – besides the locally-caught fish on the menu at La Casa, the circular bar on the patio outside La Casa, the friendly staff (not just polite and smiley but genuinely friendly) and the plunge pools overlooking the ocean at each casita—is the back nine. It starts with a superb Par 5 and boasts four exciting clifftop holes. The front nine isn’t nearly so dramatic but definitely has enough good holes of its own, such as the wonderful Par-4 5th, to contribute to what will be one of your life’s more memorable rounds of golf.


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