Now, onward to fulfill the promise
It is what owner-developers Charlie and Stanley Pasarell have been doggedly pursuing from the very beginning, the dream of turning the lush, 426-acre Royal Isabela into a resort that will be widely considered by the most discerning critics and guests as among the most stunning they have experienced, not just in Puerto Rico, but also in the world.
They are well on their way to accomplishing the feat with the golf course, at least judging from reviews obtained thus far from some of the most discriminating critics of the sport.
In its March 2011 article titled "Puerto Rican powerhouse," Golf Digest's Ron Kaspriske wrote, "With its impeccably manicured fairways and greens routed along rugged cliffs and through lush vegetation, dramatic ocean views and the sound of waves bashing the coast, the scene here borders on surreal and is reminiscent of several worldclass golf properties. Why doesn't everyone know about this place?"
The fall 2011 issue of Links read: "Despite the unrelenting hype generated by many mediocre golf courses, occasionally a layout comes along quietly and unexpectedly that exceeds even the most flowery of marketing descriptions. Say hello to Royal Isabela." It is, the magazine says, "an inspiring work of art."
On and on they go, in reviews posted on the resort's Facebook page and conversations in popular travel app Trip Advisor.
Our very own Philipe Schoene Roura, CARIBBEAN BUSINESS' managing editor, raved about the "treacherous layout" in a December 2011 CB review, particularly the deep, "sod-faced bunkers that pose a formidable challenge because the true links play on this course— howling wind forces golfers to hit low-bearing shots that often find their way into these pits of darkness. Ultimately," he continued, "nature wreaks havoc on scores."
It is, by all indications, an iconic golf course in the making, and the Pasarells are hopeful the aura will spill right on over to the new 20- room Royal Isabela Casitas Lodge to be inaugurated officially Oct. 18, in the North Coast municipality of Isabela.
The guests- and members-only facility includes such amenities as tennis courts nestled in thick forestry, a spectacular pool area, the beach house at the Pastillo Beach & Reserve, and La Casa, the resort's plantation-style nerve center.
La Casa houses a dark-wood lounge that doubles as a classic floor-to-ceiling library; the golf and tennis club house; the circular Croquet Bar; and Restaurant at La Casa, featuring master chef José Carles (known from New York's famed Esca Restaurant).
Each casita is a cozy, standalone, 1,500-square-foot "house" fully decked with luxury details, including natural-wood floors and ceilings, a private pool, and the pampering of a concierge team at your beck and call.
"We took our time placing each unit so they all enjoy the utmost privacy and a spectacular view," resort General Manager Joaquín López told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS.
Royal Isabela, the first of many developments to come in the 2,000- acre Costa Isabela oceanfront property, also includes two luxury residential communities consisting of 34 spacious Fairway Villas measuring about 3,300 square feet each, and 29 home sites no smaller than an acre each.
The Pasarells set aside a portion of the proceeds from the resort as funding for the Pastillo Conservation Trust, set up by the family to work with local authorities in preserving the diverse ecosystem of Pastillo Beach, as well as the surrounding cliffs that give Royal Isabela its distinctive oceanfront topography.
"That's an integral part of what we do," López concluded. "Aside from serving as an ecotourism attraction, our natural surroundings give Royal Isabela its sense of wonder and awe"—yet another element he and the Pasarells are counting on to turn Royal Isabela into an international icon.