24-Hour Room Service: W Retreat Vieques, Puerto Rico

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The pool is alive with the sound of music

Synchronised swimmers have always had my respect. All that underwater jiggery-pokery, fixed grinning, superhuman breath-holding, and North Korean march-past exactitude: hats off to them. But I imagined they could only hear the music when their ears were out of the water, that they were keeping the beat in their heads when submerged.

No. Submerged speakers can pump clear tunes into swimming pools for us humans to enjoy, too.

I know this because of my time at the newly opened W Retreat and Spa, on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. To complement the hotel's two beaches, there are two, tiered infinity pools surrounded by private, be-draped cabins (TVs work better in the shade) and artfully arranged deckchairs. I lay on one in the sun listening to an equally artful playlist of chillaxing tunes. Lift music? No way!

The eclectic soundtrack had soothed me in the uber-cool lobby when I checked in (and would check out "paperlessly": all part of the "eco" package). It had accompanied me to WET: the poolside bar where I ate a fine club sandwich. And when I slid into the pool to escape the heat, the song I was listening to didn't stop.

Wet: see what they're doing there? The W thing. W is for: Welcome, Wish, Wanderlust, SWEAT (inelegant, but it's the gym), Worldwide, WicNic (a packed lunch: I'm not making this up), Wake-up, Wow-vows (the Wedding package), WIRED (the business centre), Wisely, Whatever/Whenever (the concierge). Oh, and it's for P.A.W – the Pets Are Welcome policy as well. I know all this because the hotel literature and signage told me about it, the Whole time. Reclaiming the word for a moment: whatever.

Brute fact: this hotel is amazing. The service is superb. The food is faultless. Everywhere I looked – over the edge of my enormous marble bath, past the tactile and tasteful furnishings (all grey-taupe-dun, but hold on, this chair is orange, and still fits in, and that thing there somehow works despite being fire hydrant red), past the billowing bougainvillea, and the perfect palms, to the creamy sand, and the Photoshopped Caribbean beyond it, just there – I saw something beautiful.

So you'd have to be an almighty curmudgeon not to enjoy a stay here. And if you were, and didn't, and somehow needed to go Walkabout (I might trademark that) there's more than enough to do beyond the hotel's unobtrusively positioned walls.


Vieques Island is five miles east of Puerto Rico, a 20-minute flight from San Juan, the capital. You fly in a small plane. Very small. It's great. The pilot curled our twin-prop on to the landing strip like a well-flung Frisbee. The US military occupied the island until 2003, which meant nobody developed it and consequently there are no high-rises or unsightly condos. The W has its own private lounge at the airport, where fruit juice and croissants arrive before your air-conditioned ride to the hotel – five minutes away.

The island is known for having the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. The hotel organises trips to the bay: you can then kayak and swim in your own pulsing, spot-lit, neon glow. I did, and I'll never forget it: a WorldWonder (they can have that one for free).

There's superb snorkelling, diving, fishing and surfing to be had at the many secluded and pristine beaches spread around the island. Or you can kayak through the mangroves and ride horses through the mountains inland instead.


Despite being part of a global chain, the W's rooms have an organic, ethnic feel, with natural fibres, cane and driftwood winning out over steel and glass. My suite had 15 chairs and two toilets, so sitting down was no problem. If I'd tired of the headland-to-headland view from my private veranda, I could have looked at it through the silver kaleidoscope which the good W folk left at an angle on my desk.

They'd thought of pretty much everything, in fact. From the complimentary Bliss lemon and sage body butter, to the "Intimacy Kit", whose contents included not one but "two lubricated prophylactics", a "femme fresh wipe" and "two oral fixation mint packets", available for £15 from the "munchies box", I felt my physical bases were covered. Technologically, too, I was sorted: in case of Weight-Gain I had a pair of digital scales; there was Wi-Fi this and Widescreen that; and everything was dockable.

But just in case I found sleep elusive in my emperor-sized bed, and sinking a couple of Hemingway cocktails next to the fire-pit out front didn't help, it was good to know I could "Zen out at Spa Chakra" instead. (UnnecessaWy, but WeassuWing.)

W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Island, State Road 200 KM 3.2, Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, US (OO1 787 741 4100; whotels.com/vieques)

Rooms 5 stars
Value 4 stars
Service 5 stars

Doubles start at $348 (£232), room only.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    ICE ICT: Lead Business Consultant

    £39,000: ICE ICT: Specific and detailed knowledge and experience of travel sys...

    Day In a Page

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most