Royal Isabela, a $100 million private membership club in Puerto Rico committed to protecting the environment
Royal Isabela on the far northwestern shores of Puerto Rico about one and a half hours and mind-sets away from the ching ching of San Juan’s big casino slots, runs along the cliff tops high above the Atlantic. When founders, Puerto Rican tennis-stars-turned golfers, Charlie and Stanley Pasarell, laid out the 7,667-5,206 yard Golf Links at Royal Isabela, very little earth was moved nor trees destroyed.
“We didn’t cut down trees, we moved them only if we had to,” said Stanley, a man passionate about preserving the environment. “No one cuts even a leaf off a tree unless it’s me,” he said emphasizing his love of growing things.
The scorecard says, “Designed by Mother Nature, Architect David Pfaff and Brothers Stanley and Charles Pasarell.”
Indeed that is exactly what happened here. “We located and developed the golf course that nature gave us,” said Pfaff, a former associate of Pete Dye.
“There was lots of arguing between my brother and me with David caught in the middle,” laughed Stanley. On the 6th hole when Charlie wanted to make it a par 5 going left and Stanley preferred a par 4 heading right, they built both, using the same tees. So which hole do you play?
“When we get to the tee, whoever has the honors chooses,” said Stanley. Sweet.
In other serendipitous moves, Stanley built a “private” par 3 and installed a “Whisky Tee” near the clubhouse playing down to the 9th green. That’s used for settling bets.
Named “Best of the Best” by the Robb Report in 2012, Royal Isabela rolls out one after another memorable hole, some requiring carries over ocean coves like on the par 3, hole #17. Sod-faced bunkers, grassy dunes and roll-up undulating greens along with caddies evoke the courses of Scotland and Ireland.
Typically today’s real estate developers set aside prime coastal land for multi-million dollar estates. Not here. At Royal Isabela, this dramatic stretch along the sea is devoted to golf allowing holes like #12 and #14 to treat you to incredible wide vistas of limestone cliffs, pristine beaches, sea and breaching humpback whales.
Although a muscular course from the tips, six tees give you choices and the forward tees are quite playable for shorter hitters. But lose your focus for two seconds and you could be looking at a double or worse.
Royal Isabela is not about mass tourism. Rather this exclusive club is for like-minded individuals who are invited to become part of the Royal Isabela “family.” Having money is not in itself a ticket to membership. “We want people to come here who can enjoy the gift nature has given us and appreciate the importance of preserving it for future generations,” said Stanley.
Indeed the Pasarells have deeded close to 100 acres along cliffs and the seaboard to the Puerto Rican people to be preserved in their natural state for perpetuity while the El Pastillo Conservation Trust has been created to oversee management of the site.
Out of a total of 1,600 acres, 426 acres have been devoted to Royal Isabela with more golf to come on another beautiful piece of land running along the Guajataca River and the sea where a nursery is planted with more than 20,000 native trees, fields of plantains and 40 acres of turfgrass. There is also an organic farm that gives work to homeless men with disabilities.
Having breakfast on the patio of La Casa, the beautifully honed limestone and timber hub containing the library, dining room, gardens and circular outdoor bar, you hear the deep-throated rumble of waves crashing into the base of the limestone cliffs and you catch the melodious chirping of birds and scent of flowering shrubs.
Resort guests can book into one of Royal Isabela’s 20 spacious casitas set into the hillsides, all with views of the sea, private plunge pools and huge showers. Eighteen, 3,500 square feet Fairway Homes priced from $975,000 are under construction designed so that one section can be locked off if the owner desires to rent part of the unit while using the other side. Villa and casita guests will have use of Royal Isabel’s golf course, tennis court, croquet court, fitness center, pool and other facilities. There are also 28 homesites of up to 1.50 acres priced around $2 million.
Fly into San Juan or Aguadilla, a regional airport just 20 minutes away. Then prepare to be welcomed and spoiled by a staff that treats you as if you are a guest in their home. The Pasarells would have it no other way.
Note: A variety of membership plans are available including one that can be shared among three people. Non-equity initiation fees are $50,000.
Casita rentals are $609-$1,409 including two rounds of golf and breakfast; members get preferred pricing.
A new stimulus program in Puerto Rico encourages U.S. investment with $0 charges for stamps and vouchers at closing; $0 payment of real property taxes to CRIM for several years; 100% exemption from local capital gain tax at the time the unit is eventually sold; and 100% exemption in rental income derived from the unit for a 10-year period. The same banking laws that cover the U.S. apply to Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory.
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