The thing about Puerto Rico that hits you hardest today is that it is suddenly all places under the winter-resort sun wrapped into one. It is Las Vegas action, Tahiti escape, Acapulco jazz and Barbados serenity. It all depends on where you stay and how you play there. The peculiarly eclectic quality of the island is dramatized by the eclectic quality of this winter's beach fashions. The surfer at right is ready to ride a wave or watch the championships in cover-up stripes. On the following pages other Puerto Rico resorters, whether bared in a minimum of mail or costumed like rich hippies, make the scene the length of the island, from Conquistador to Rincón.
Rincón, on the west coast of Puerto Rico, was the site of the 1968 world surfing championships. For viewing them, Jamee Becker wears Oscar de La Renta's long-sleeved maillot.
On the lush green lawn of the Mayag√ºez Hilton, Jamee limbers up in a cotton romper swim-suit designed by Bill Blass. Mayag√ºez is a resort getaway near Rincón's surfing beaches.
At Dorado Beach, which has a two-mile strand on the Atlantic, Vicky Howard rides Azuquitar, a native-bred Paso Fino pony. Her cowboy and Indian getup is from Giorgio Sant'Angelo.
At El Conquistador's spa, in a rooftop whirlpool bath that is the world's largest, Erin Gray splashes in the Caribbean sun wearing Oscar de La Renta's one-piece stretch nylon swimsuit.
Waiting for the surf at Rincón, Mike Hynson talks to Erin and Jamee, both in Sant'Angelo's richnik ropes and jeans. Vicky (right) waits in a Roxanne swimsuit that bares only the back.
For sailing a native sloop from the fishing village of Fajardo, near El Conquistador, Vicky wears a shiny, many-zippered jump suit made of lightweight nylon ciré by Elaine Brandt.
At sunset by the Mayag√ºez Hilton swimming pool, Erin shimmers in aluminum mesh. Giorgio Sant'Angelo's creation covers Erin fully in front. The back consists mainly of thin straps.
TRAVEL AND BUYING FACTS
Easterners tend to think of San Juan as a kind of tropical Brooklyn and the airlines that take them there as jet-propelled subways. They are not far from wrong on either account. The cheapest New York-to-San Juan fare is $45, or, at less than 4¢ a mile, cheaper than the average subway ride. There are about 500 nights a week from the U.S. mainland to San Juan. Delta, Eastern, Pan Am and Trans-Caribbean are the busy airlines. Most of the straphangers are headed for the crowded confines of San Juan's Condado Beach and Isla Verde hotel strips. But now, with El Conquistador, like the Dorado Beach and the Dorado Hilton before it, enlivening the periphery of the island, there is a whole new Puerto Rico to discover.
El Conquistador is 37 miles east of San Juan. The hotel has a five-passenger helicopter that leaves from a parking lot near the airport every half hour during daylight. The 10-minute trip to Conquistador costs $15. A limousine service costs $5 and takes about an hour and a half.
One of the remarkable things about this hotel is that there is not a room without a view, either of the Caribbean all the way to St. Thomas or of the Atlantic and the fishing village of Fajardo. Rooms cost from $52 to $70 single, from $72 to $90 double, with breakfast and dinner included. After April 30, rates drop dramatically.
One of the great advantages of El Conquistador is its water. All the other major hotels on the island face the open ocean, but here one is on the protected Caribbean, with clear water for sailing and water skiing, reefs for skin diving and islands for picnic excursions. Walter Hendricks, an old hand at the game in Puerto Rico, has been made water-sports director of the hotel and he and his two sons will teach you basic scuba in the hotel pool and take you on reef excursions after. When the marina is finished in February, this hotel will be the ideal takeoff point for deep-sea fishing trips as well.
The marina will also have an attractive waterside restaurant—open only at lunch, unfortunately. This should be a great place for an informal thatch-roofed seaside dining place, the kind you find in Acapulco or Capri, and a considerable relief from the air-conditioned marbled halls up on the hill, where one is forced to dress for dinner. And in Puerto Rico dress means no trousers for the ladies, no matter how fashionable trousers are this year, and ties—no turtlenecks—for the men. The reason for this archaic formality after dark in an otherwise with-it resort is the casino. The government gambling commission requires such dress in all casinos, and the hotels figure that a guest better be dressed before he eats or he might not bother to change just to play the tables.
If El Conquistador does not seem your cup of camomile—it isn't everyone's—consider these other possibilities: Dorado Beach, which has not only the best golf resort in the Caribbean but first-rate tennis and a first-rate tennis pro—Nick Bollettieri; or the Mayag√ºez Hilton, a superbly run hotel in the quiet, provincial town of Mayag√ºez on the western end of the island. It is here that the Atlantic surf runs high, and at nearby Rincón the 1968 world surfing championships were held. If what you are really looking for is a quiet tropical vacation with prices in line with the extremely low fares to Puerto Rico, consider one of the island's guest houses. There are 50 of them, either on or only walking distance from the beach where double rooms cost no more than $12 to $20 a day. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Department of Tourism, 666 Fifth Ave., New York 10019, will send you a list.
The outfit and accessories worn by Jamee Becker on the cover were designed by Giorgio Sant'Angelo. The top and wraparound skirt are of 100% Acrilan knit. They cost $90 and, like all of Sant'Angelo's put-ons on these pages, are at Bonwit Teller, New York, and at Neiman-Marcus, Dallas. On page 27 Jamee wears a striped suit designed by Oscar de La Renta for Fantasy Swim-wear. It is of nylon stretch fabric and costs $40 at Lord & Taylor, New York; Stix, Baer & Fuller, St. Louis. On the following page, at the Mayag√ºez Hilton, Jamee wears a floral-printed romper swimsuit by Bill Blass for Roxanne. It is $40 at Bonwit Teller, New York; Marshall Field, Chicago. The colorful jeans outfit, scarf and braided headband worn by Vicky Howard facing this page of color are by Sant'Angelo. The pants and bra top are $100. The brown swimsuit worn by Erin Gray in the whirlpool was designed by Oscar de La Renta for Fantasy. It is $40 at Neiman-Marcus and at John Wanamaker, Philadelphia. On the following page Erin and Jamee wear Sant'Angelo outfits. Erin's patchwork jacket and top are $100; her pants are also $100, as is Jamee's Acrilan knit outfit. On the same page, Vicky Howard wears a pink maillot by Roxanne of 84% nylon and 16% spandex. It is $40 at Marshall Field; Gidding-Jenny, Cincinnati. Facing them, Vicky sails in a wet-look jump suit by Elaine Brandt for Ginori. It is $75 at Bloomingdale's, New York; Jordan Marsh, Miami. Erin Gray, on the following page, wears a metallic sunsuit by Sant'Angelo. It is $90.