LA CASA GRANDE, UTUADO at the corner of hammock and vine In less time than it takes to crack a coconut, parents relax into the rhythm of the jungle—every room at La Casa Grande has its own porch, slung with a hammock—while the kids run around chasing lizards. Set on a former coffee plantation deep in the highlands (two hours west of San Juan), the hotel is now home to a well-labeled botanical garden of, among other things, apricot moonflower trees; Chinese-hat plants; a shrub called yesterday-today-and-tomorrow; and eight varieties of ginger. Boardwalks link the pine guest cabins, which are staggered up the hillside (two are connected by a tunnel of lobster claw heliconia). There are no televisions or radios here, and the pool is free of fluorescent foam noodles.
That's because Casa Grande is owned and run by Steve Weingarten, a former New York lawyer who knows what mainland families need a vacation from—and where to find the local fun. He'll have the whole crew playing Robinson Crusoe: hiking to the nearby river, scrambling along a waterfall, riding on horseback into the woods (that's his ex-wife, Marlene, who operates the stable across the street), and coaxing a kayak around pretty Dos Bocas Lake, where you can dock at a cantina for lunch.
A 1947 hacienda houses Casa Grande's office and lounge, with a leave-one, take-one library. Guests commune on its broad and breezy veranda from sunup to moon-up, stopping by the resort's restaurant, Jungle Jane's, for smooth, rich coffee; dishes like chuletas ahumadas (smoked pork chops with pineapple); and mango, papaya, and avocado plucked from the garden. The porch view skims across a steep valley encompassing every shade of green: chartreuse backlit fern and palm fronds, the fir-hued rooftops of the guest rooms and yoga pavilion (daily classes at 8 a.m.), and the malachite, shamrock, and emerald of the Cordillera Central, the island's biggest range. This is the perfect place to catch early evening tranquillity giving way to the after-dark din of the jungle. Here's a bedtime quiz for the kids: What's producing that chirping cacophony?Answer: tiny frogs, called coquis after the sound of their croak, that blanket the jungle floor.
LA CASA GRANDE MOUNTAIN RETREAT Carr. 612, off Carr. 140, Utuado; 888/343-2272 or 787/894-3939; www.hotelcasagrande.com; doubles from $80, children under 12 free, over 12 $10.