The sight of an empty swinging egg chair was irresistible enough. But glimpsing the view before me—the mesmerizingly turquoise hues of the ocean—if I grabbed that seat made it impossible not to jump right in. I did just that, happily swaying like a kid for a bit after checking in to the Serafina Beach Hotel, Puerto Rico’s new design-driven hot spot.
Puerto Rico is Back in Business
The property, which opened in March, was the first brand-new hotel to debut on the island since it was slammed by Hurricane Maria in 2017. With much of Puerto Rico’s tourism industry back in business and 95 percent of power throughout the island restored, Serafina Beach Hotel is giving new meaning to the word “energy.”
The vibe emanating from this boutique beachfront haven in San Juan’s Condado district is Mid-Century Mod meets Atlantic allure. It’s complete with design nods to the ocean, sand, driftwood, and simple retro lines that feel right at home in Puerto Rico.
“The hotel was designed to be like an edgy and intimate beach house that makes you feel like you are escaping with family and friends,” said Betsy Mujica, director of sales at Serafina Beach Hotel.
It’s the first hotel venture for New York-based Serafina Restaurant Group, which specializes in inventive takes on traditional Italian food at its global locations. The group opened Serafina restaurant at San Juan’s La Concha, a Renaissance Resort, about five years ago.
“Serafina Restaurant Group continues to branch out globally, and when the two partners came down to Puerto Rico, they fell in love with the destination and always had it in the back of their minds to move into the hotel industry and be known globally as a boutique lifestyle chain,” Mujica said.
The partners, Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato, grabbed the opportunity when the San Juan property became available. They completely reimagined it to become Serafina Beach Hotel.
New York-based ICRAVE was hired to lead the design effort in Puerto Rico, and San Juan-based LA Architects stripped the existing structure to completely remodel it. That included the facade, which now has continuous glass bands that provide guest rooms, public areas and meeting spaces with fantastic ocean or lagoon views out from floor-to-ceiling windows.
“Drawing the ocean in from a design and ambiance standpoint was very important, so we wanted to take advantage of every piece of square footage that we have here,” Mujica said. “From the arrival when you walk in the door and over to the infinity pool area overlooking the ocean, all the way to the ocean-facing ballroom, guest rooms, and aMare restaurant terrace, you are engulfed in that experience.”
Designer Social Hubs
Aside from the ocean views from Serafina’s lobby lounge, named PiñaCo as a play on Piña Colada, which is said to have originated in Puerto Rico, elements of the beach and ocean prevail in the design.
Features include custom etched blue mirror tiles, driftwood grey planks, an area rug by Durkan depicting the watercolor compositions of artist Yelena Rodin and white beach house-like retro furniture such as a pair of hanging egg chairs by Kettal and Scandinavian-inspired, 1950s basket chairs.
Just outside PiñaCo, By the Pool is another stylish gathering spot in Condado, complete with an infinity pool overlooking the breaking ocean waves and a poolside DJ. Nine private cabanas and two larger pavilions are filled with pops of sea-glass green against white, while blue and green mirror shards on the bar reflect the Atlantic.
Ninety-six guest rooms look out onto the ocean or the lagoon. The bright and airy feel of the interiors is complemented by a color palette of white linen, sea-glass green and driftwood grey. Vintage-inspired furniture includes streamline, 1960s-like blond wood chairs and a white leather chaise lounge, as well as a playful giant curio cabinet that opens to reveal a minibar with curated refreshments and nibbles. Pool life is depicted in the minimalist photography and reminiscent in touches like Sebastian Bergne coat hooks for bathing suits.
As a fashionable restaurant group now managing its first hotel, it’s no surprise that dining in a design-forward yet cozy ambience is an integral part of the Serafina Beach Hotel experience. Its aMare signature restaurant, whose name evokes the Italian words for love and the sea, lures you in with its indoor-outdoor environment and cool coastal charm. The space is accented by white brick walls, mod furniture, bright murals reflecting Puerto Rican culture, turquoise tiles, white-beaded curtains and mirrored port-hole rings.
Meanwhile, dining alfresco on aMare’s oceanfront terrace is a great way to soak in the oceanfront setting. It’s also not a bad spot for a toast to Puerto Rico’s comeback and dreamy designer hotels—particularly those with swinging egg chairs.
Lori Tenny, director of strategic content for interiors + sources’ sister publication, Meetings Today, recently stayed at Serafina Beach Hotel during a trip to check out how Puerto Rico’s tourism infrastructure is faring post-Hurricane Maria. Aside from some hotels that plan to reopen later this year and early next year following renovations, Puerto Rico remains a bright and beautiful island paradise waiting to be rediscovered.