The Last Word
Tracy Lee

Luxury Puerto Rico eco resort Dorado Beach has been relaunched as a Ritz Carlton reserve, with the Spa Botánico at its heart. The spa's creator Tracy Lee tells us more

By Tracy Lee | Published in Leisure Management 2013 issue 3


With therapists trained as local folk healers, an apothecary where fresh plants are mixed into products and 5 acres of ‘purification gardens’ featuring tropical pools and outdoor showers, it’s not difficult to spot the standout features of Spa Botánico.

The nature-inspired spa, complete with 10 glass-walled treatment pavilions and two tree house therapy platforms, is a centrepiece of Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve which opened in December 2012 on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico.

The story of the 1,400-acre (567-hectare) development is rooted in the 1950s when Laurence S Rockefeller – a conservationist and one of the Rockefeller family billionaires – purchased a coconut and pineapple plantation close to the small coastal town of Dorado to build his second eco-retreat on. RockResort quickly attracted the rich and famous.

With many changes in ownership following its glory days (including two Hyatts) the property did not fare so well. But, now, thanks to a US$342m (E264m, £227m) investment, it’s set to reincarnate itself as one of the Caribbean’s most exclusive getaways once more.

Simultaneously, the opening marks the arrival of the second Ritz-Carlton Reserve – an ultra, yet understated, luxury brand which is targeting the affluent elite.

When and how did you become involved in Spa Botánico?
Staring in 2009, I spent four fulfilling years working on this project. Eric Christensen, the CEO of Dorado Beach Resort, was previously with Auberge Resorts and I’m the vice-president of spas for the group (as well as the owner of T Lee Spas). Eric and I created two spas together at Auberge including the award-winning Solage Calistoga in California (see Spa Business 12/3 p76). We enjoyed that working relationship and were pleased to collaborate again.

What makes this spa unique?
Every aspect has been specifically designed for this project and there are many points of differentiation – from its immersion in local culture and the size of the site (5 acres) to the onsite apothecary and therapists who’ve been coached in Puerto Rican healing rituals and botanicals once used by the region’s natural medicine doctors.

How does the Apothecary Portal work?
Every spa journey begins at the Apothecary Portal where an 80-year-old fig tree marks the entry to the building. We call it a ‘museum for the senses’ and, inside, the 32ft high walls are lined with bottles of local botanicals, natural oils and dried and fresh herbs picked from our own thriving garden. It’s a befitting foyer for a great plantation estate.

The ingredients are used to help aid guests' health, in beauty treatments, for aromatic purposes and in the food and drink. There’s also an interactive Apothecary Bar where guests can smell, touch and sample three blends.

What research went into creating it?
We looked for local experts to help in our research and found botanical guru Maria Benedetti, who created a reference guide detailing 70 medicinal plants for our spa.

What are you working on next?
I’ll keep an eye on Spa Botánico. I’m also working on the spa at The Edition Miami Beach in Florida and will remain involved in Auberge spa developments.

One of my favourite spas in the pipeline is at Kohanaiki, a private community that’s being developed on Hawaii’s Big Island. The Big Island is a place that’s deserving of authentic interpretations of cultural healing.

 


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Leisure Management
2013 issue 3

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Leisure Management - Tracy Lee

The Last Word

Tracy Lee


Luxury Puerto Rico eco resort Dorado Beach has been relaunched as a Ritz Carlton reserve, with the Spa Botánico at its heart. The spa's creator Tracy Lee tells us more

Tracy Lee , T Lee Spas Consultancy
The Spa Botánico features two tree house therapy platforms

With therapists trained as local folk healers, an apothecary where fresh plants are mixed into products and 5 acres of ‘purification gardens’ featuring tropical pools and outdoor showers, it’s not difficult to spot the standout features of Spa Botánico.

The nature-inspired spa, complete with 10 glass-walled treatment pavilions and two tree house therapy platforms, is a centrepiece of Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve which opened in December 2012 on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico.

The story of the 1,400-acre (567-hectare) development is rooted in the 1950s when Laurence S Rockefeller – a conservationist and one of the Rockefeller family billionaires – purchased a coconut and pineapple plantation close to the small coastal town of Dorado to build his second eco-retreat on. RockResort quickly attracted the rich and famous.

With many changes in ownership following its glory days (including two Hyatts) the property did not fare so well. But, now, thanks to a US$342m (E264m, £227m) investment, it’s set to reincarnate itself as one of the Caribbean’s most exclusive getaways once more.

Simultaneously, the opening marks the arrival of the second Ritz-Carlton Reserve – an ultra, yet understated, luxury brand which is targeting the affluent elite.

When and how did you become involved in Spa Botánico?
Staring in 2009, I spent four fulfilling years working on this project. Eric Christensen, the CEO of Dorado Beach Resort, was previously with Auberge Resorts and I’m the vice-president of spas for the group (as well as the owner of T Lee Spas). Eric and I created two spas together at Auberge including the award-winning Solage Calistoga in California (see Spa Business 12/3 p76). We enjoyed that working relationship and were pleased to collaborate again.

What makes this spa unique?
Every aspect has been specifically designed for this project and there are many points of differentiation – from its immersion in local culture and the size of the site (5 acres) to the onsite apothecary and therapists who’ve been coached in Puerto Rican healing rituals and botanicals once used by the region’s natural medicine doctors.

How does the Apothecary Portal work?
Every spa journey begins at the Apothecary Portal where an 80-year-old fig tree marks the entry to the building. We call it a ‘museum for the senses’ and, inside, the 32ft high walls are lined with bottles of local botanicals, natural oils and dried and fresh herbs picked from our own thriving garden. It’s a befitting foyer for a great plantation estate.

The ingredients are used to help aid guests' health, in beauty treatments, for aromatic purposes and in the food and drink. There’s also an interactive Apothecary Bar where guests can smell, touch and sample three blends.

What research went into creating it?
We looked for local experts to help in our research and found botanical guru Maria Benedetti, who created a reference guide detailing 70 medicinal plants for our spa.

What are you working on next?
I’ll keep an eye on Spa Botánico. I’m also working on the spa at The Edition Miami Beach in Florida and will remain involved in Auberge spa developments.

One of my favourite spas in the pipeline is at Kohanaiki, a private community that’s being developed on Hawaii’s Big Island. The Big Island is a place that’s deserving of authentic interpretations of cultural healing.


Originally published in Leisure Management 2013 issue 3

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