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“Overrated Perhaps”

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Casa Grande Mountain Retreat
Ranked #1 of 3 Hotels in Utuado
Certificate of Excellence
GreenLeadersSilver level
Reviewed 9 January 2014

The Lonely Planet guidebook had us thinking this place was both really unique and really distinctive as a place of retreat (it was "Top Rated"). Perhaps we set our expectations too high. It is located in a very nice setting, the original "Casa Grande" restaurant/lobby area is distinctive, and the pool is nice, but beyond that it seemed pretty average. The actual quad-plex style cabins are well-maintained, but rather 1970s in style and don't really take full advantage of the views offerd. The restaurant is good and the staff are very friendly, but the menu is generally limited, and extremely limited for vegetarians. Vegans should bring their own supplies.

Overall, Casa Grande seemed more like a "resort" than a "retreat". I've lived at and worked at Tassajara Zen Retreat Center and Green Gulch Farm Zen Center (in California) and though everyone's got their own definition of these words, aside from the fact that Casa Grande offers a morning yoga class, I'm not sure what distinguishes it as a "retreat" rather than your typical "lodging in a beautiful place." If you're looking for a truly unique place with some real character in a nearby and similar (but even more beautiful) setting, check out my review for TJ Ranch.

  • Stayed: December 2013, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank adventurespiritvt
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Founder-Director, Owner at Casa Grande Mountain Retreat, responded to this reviewResponded 11 January 2014

Thank you for the review.

Casa Grande is considered a retreat because of its location in a river valley 900 feet above sea level in the central mountains of Puerto Rico.. Quiet hours are maintained from 10 pm until 8 am. There are no TV's, radios, telephones or air-conditioning in the guest rooms. Massage therapy is offered in a lovely free standing building on the hillside. The property is a virtual botanical garden with signage providing the names and origins of the countless plants, flowers and trees from all over the world. It's also an ideal venue for bird watching and just swinging in the hammock on a guest room balcony. It's a retreat, a place to get away from the cares and stresses of everyday life.

Six of the seven appetizers on the dinner menu are vegetarian. Three of eight main course entrees are vegetarian, two of which are vegan.

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154 - 160 of 504 reviews

Reviewed 5 January 2014

Our experience was exactly what we had hoped for only with better scenery. The rooms were clean and comfortable. We appreciated the lack of television and radio as it encouraged the quiet and peace we enjoy. The views are amazing and I've never seen a pool away from the ocean in a more serene setting. The restaurant overhaul must have worked because the food was the best we had on our entire 10 day trip. We took the recommended 4 mile "hike" (which was more of a trek) along a rarely used road and very much enjoyed it. The location may be a draw back if there is one, it's a long drive to about anything. My boyfriend would have liked to see hummingbird feeders since he's a birder (he still managed to identify one) and as a non birder I also think they would be a nice addition to the pavilion/restaurant area.

Stayed: December 2013, travelled as a couple
Thank Penny M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 December 2013

Casa Grande was in the breath-taking beauty of the Utuado region of the Puerto Rican rain forest. Basically, it's right in middle of the island. The drive to Utuado is not difficult, but the winding roads can be difficult to navigate in the rain or when passing large trucks that tend to use some of the mountain passages. The directions can be confusing, so leave extra time for travel. Even if you get lost, like we did, you will see breath-taking scenery and meet some friendly locals along the way - on horse-back or driving commercial bakery vans with loud-speakers blaring advertising for "La Panaderia!". If you speak Spanish fairly well, and get the locals to speak slowly enough, they will help with directions. They all know where it is and may even go the extra mile and have you follow them to Casa Grande as they give you a guided escort. It happened to us! As soon as you arrive at the property, you will want to ditch the loud-speaker and prepare for a time of peace and quiet. Once you enter the gates on the driveway that climb the mountain to the buildings, you will want to park your car at the first available lot and walk the rest of the way to the lobby for registration. There is not an easy way to turn around at the top of the hill. And, the narrow drive runs directly through and by the restaurant and pool area. It is a complete disruption for all who are eating or sitting by the pool. However, the disruption can serve as a good opportunity to meet the owner (and amateur horticulturist and caretaker of the grounds) Don Esteban.

The friendly reception and service started with him and was happily extended by all the staff. They were all friendly and accessible. One of the waiters even served as our private guide the following week, when we returned with our three boys for a day long hike through a little traveled, privately owned portion of the Utuado rainforest.

The food was excellent and varied. Very fresh and creative dishes are prepared by aspiring chefs from all over who want to live at the retreat and learn about authentic Puerto Rican ingredients, preparation and cuisine. Most of the food was organic and locally grown, with many items like fruits, vegetables and herbs being grown right on the property with the help of Esteban.

The rooms were simple and very clean. Hammocks hang on each room's balcony, where you can lie all day long and enjoy the view, the cool mountain breeze and peaceful sounds of the rainforest. It can seem like you are in a treehouse. One downside, was the mountain road that runs almost underneath some of the furthest and loftiest units, so try to get one closer to the mainhouse or the interior of the property, if possible. There was a surprising amount of traffic late into the night along that road.

The daily morning yoga classes are a must and a great way to start the day, centering on peace and tranquility. Be sure to sign up for the classes the previous day. They do cost extra, but are worth it. ($12 at the time.) Because the leader of the yoga class tries to accommodate all levels of participants, the intensity of the class can vary day to day, and private sessions may be more to your liking. The yoga center building is beautifully adorned with woodwork and artwork.

The pool is very clean and crisp, and situated in the side of the mountain. You will be serenaded by thousands of the Puerto Rican "national animal" - The coqui tree frog. They are difficult to see because they are so small, but definitely can be heard with their distinct calls. It is beautiful and hypnotic - we even bought a CD of the songs of the coqui.

This is a place to go with your spouse, significant other, or alone, to experience some peace and tranquility away from civilization. This is NOT a place to catch up on work or internet or cellular-related activities. There is virtually no communication opportunities with the outside world once you arrive, except for the occasional bakery truck with a loud-speaker on top announcing the day's specials.

We spent two days and nights at Casa Grande Mountain Retreat. We would have been happy to spend a couple more, but not more than a week or two. Give yourself time to slow down and truly absorb the serenity. The Utuado mountain region is the area where the indigenous people of the island, now known as Puerto Rico, once lived and still have as their cultural center. A day trip to the nearby towns is beautiful and could yield interesting art or cultural finds.

One trip certainly worth taking is to the Rancho Marina Restaurant. A ferry trip across Lago Dos Bocas (the major interior lake of the mountain region) takes you right to the welcoming dock of the restaurant, where you will not be disappointed by the traditional Puerto Rican fare with a little more variety and new twists. The drinks are particularly fresh, varied, yummy and potent. Anyone at the Inn can tell you how to get there... there is a long way and a short way. However, only the long way involves the must-experience boat ride across the majestic mountain lake and shows off the interior beauty of Puerto Rico. Be careful not to get stuck driving in the dark - the restaurant closes early anyway. The last ferry left the restaurant dock around six pm, anyway. We returned to the restaurant a second time during our extended stay on the island, so our three sons could fish off the dock adjacent to the restaurant. They had a great time, reeling in some unusual varieties of fish that are only found in Lago Dos Bocas. A small crowd of kids gathered around by the time we left the restaurant, all having a great time - even receiving fishing tips and bait from the restaurant staff and even the owner! The owner is a particularly charming bi-lingual woman, who used to work in the restaurant of Casa Grande! You can tell she has a gift for creating a great menu and dining experience for all! Be sure to sample the different varieties of 'mofongo' - the most popular Puerto Rican dish - at Rancho Marina. It may not be your favorite thing, but the 'rancho-style mofongo' served at Rancho Marina was the tastiest we tried.

Room Tip: One downside of our room was the mountain road that runs almost underneath on the perimeter of the p...
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  • Stayed: July 2013, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank Tracie W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 December 2013

Not a bad place. Dinner menu was being overhauled for the better, but portion sizes should be a bit mor generous. FYI it's not really a place for kids, but is a haven for homosexual couples and trios. The owner might benefit from a visit to Omega in upstate NY to see how a real vegetarian retreat operates. For Puerto Rico this place is ok! Nor real good or real bad, just ok!

  • Stayed: December 2013, travelled with friends
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Thank MelbaR06518
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Founder-Director, Owner at Casa Grande Mountain Retreat, responded to this reviewResponded 1 January 2014

We're always disappointed when a guest has a lukewarm opinion of their stay.

We gladly welcome and cater to guests regardless of their sexual preferences. Also, we consider ourselves to be a family friendly establishment. We recently hired a chef/consultant to assist us in creating a new menu using more local and fresh ingredients. As it has only been in up and running for a week, there are some wrinkles to smooth out.

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Reviewed 4 December 2013

Casa Grande really is a rainforest retreat in the mountains. The room was spacious, clean and simply decorated (and have some nice shelving to keep your things on). You can lie in bed and look at the forest. The hammock on the balcony was perfect for relaxing with a drink and a book. The meals at the cafe were very good, and good value. (Although I'd advise to check with reception in advance what the evening service is. It's a long way to travel to dinner if you decide not to eat in the cafe.)

My only disappointment was that the accommodation was not quite as tranquil as I was expecting. While the rooms are visually very private, the dividing walls are not well insulated against sound, so our peaceful evening was disturbed by noise from a neighbouring unit of what I presume was a DVD playing. While this is not the fault of Casa Grande, just be warned that if complete serenity is what you are seeking, you may not find it here.

The gardens are lovely to wander about, and the well marked rainforest hike is a little adventure right on the doorstep of your cabin.

  • Stayed: November 2013, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank Kim E
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 November 2013

My experience at Casa Grande was unforgettable. It a distant and quiet property surrounded by beautiful scenery. The service is awesome, the staffs are very friendly, everything was very clean and the food in the restaurant Casa Grande is very tasty. The room is rustic, the bed is not very comfortable, no internet, no TV, and my cell phone had no signal (T-Mobile). The quiet hours are from 10PM to 8AM, so the sounds of nature become the protagonists of the place. Its location was my biggest dissatisfaction, because it is away from all the tourist attractions, and the area restaurants are close on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

  • Stayed: November 2013, travelled with family
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1  Thank Raul1077
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
proprietor44, Owner at Casa Grande Mountain Retreat, responded to this reviewResponded 30 November 2013

Thank you for your review. The beds are medium, neither soft nor hard, so they will not suit all preferences. There is limited internet access at the hacienda but none available in the guest rooms. Some cellphones function well depending on the service provider. TV is intentionally not provided so guests can leave behind, for at least a brief while, the cares of the world and one's usual activities. Weekdays one is relegated to dining at Casa Grande as there are few food options in the nearby town of Utuado.

The usual tourist attractions are not near at hand as the location itself is the main attraction. The hills and valleys, the breathtaking mountain view, the grass areas, the trees, plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables, the earth, sky, sun and moon, the clouds and the rain, the chirping coqui frogs, the tiny lizards, butterflies and birds, the hiking trails and park benches. These are at the heart of the Casa Grande experience.

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Reviewed 27 November 2013

This is a charming place with a breathtaking view of the mountains that surround it. The food and service is very good. Perfect getaway if you want to disconnect and relax yourself. His owner has a little piece of Heaven in earth. Definitely, we will return!...

  • Stayed: November 2013
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1  Thank Jeannie R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Casa Grande Mountain Retreat

Address: Road 612, Km. 0.3 | Barrio Caonillas, Utuado 00641, Puerto Rico
Phone Number:
Region: Caribbean > Puerto Rico > Utuado
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Parking Restaurant Spa Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 3 Hotels in Utuado
Price Range: £87 - £95 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:2.5 star — Casa Grande Mountain Retreat 2.5*
Number of rooms: 20
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Set in a valley in Puerto Rico's central mountains, Casa Grande is an oasis of peace and tranquility. 20 rooms scattered up the mountainside, each with private bath, balcony and hammock. Freshwater pool, restaurant and bar. The Café serves comida criolla, contemporary dishes and vegetarian options. Fully equipped yoga facility offering morning class, birder's paradise, botanical gardens and woodland hiking trail. Near Camuy Caves, Arecibo Observatory, Caguana Ceremonial Park, Toro Negro and Rio Abajo Forests. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Casa Grande Mountain Retreat Hotel Utuado
Casa Grande Mountain Retreat Puerto Rico/Utuado

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