O:LIVE BOUTIQUE HOTEL: Some places I visit leave a lasting impression and the O:live Boutique Hotel was one of these places. Nestled on a quiet side road in the Condado area of San Juan, this boutique Mediterranean inspired hotel delivers warm, personalized service with a romantic, trendy vibe. It’s a place where everyone knows your name and you feel like your coming home to a friend’s house every time you enter. Upon arrival I was greeted by a friendly receptionist in a space that feels more like a European Chalet. Next I was offered a Coquito, which is traditional local favorite cocktail with Puerto Rican rum and Coconut Milk. I choose pistachio flavored and it was delicious. I even purchased a bottle for the way home.
Husband / Wife Team, Loisse Herger and Fernando Davila, owners and visionaries of the O:live Experience have thought of every detail. Each of the 15 unique rooms feature an oversized private patio with outdoor shower and tub, gorgeous distressed wood with colorful Moroccan tiles and a view of the lagoon. Rooms don’t have numbers and instead the tassel on your key matches the tassel on the door. There is a complimentary candy bar downstairs and even a stuffed pet doggie on the bed when you arrive. My personal favorite is the photography on each floor, which are photos taken from Loisse and Fernando’s honeymoon through the Mediterranean.
Another incredible feature of the hotel is their stellar roof top, which impresses guests day and night. In the morning guests can choose to have their breakfast on the roof top, relax by the pool mid-day with views of the lagoon and dance under the stars at night with a live DJ. O:live Boutique Hotel is ideal for a romantic weekend getaway or while traveling on business like I was doing.
I am super excited to talk about their next project. O:LV, a contemporary version of O:live with 26 rooms, most having direct lagoon views, huge suites with floor to ceiling glass and high ceilings. Most impressive is the double tier roof top with infinity edge pool, hot tub, green walls and the custom 1977 Rolls Royce Car called The Lay of Luxury adapted into DJ Booth / Champagne Bar by Dutch artist Stef Vanderbijl. WOW! Stay tuned for more exciting information on their new hot spot. Another reason to Visit Puerto Rico this summer when they open.
During my short trip to San Juan I had an opportunity to spend some time with the owners of the O:live Boutique Hotel, Loisse Herger & Fernando Davila. This trend-setting couple has big plans and an inspiring story.
WX: Your 15-room hotel is truly a gem with so many incredible details. Can you tell us how the O:live Boutique Hotel came to life?
LOISSE HERGER: O:live began as a feeling, not as an idea. The same feeling of awe you experience when traveling to a magical place. Just before we decided to open our first boutique hotel we traveled extensively throughout the Mediterranean, we got married in Sorrento in the Amalfi Coast and fell in love with its vibe. We wanted to re-create that same feeling and transport guests to the Mediterranean life in a Caribbean Canvas. Through the design, ambiance, amenities and using artifacts from our travels to Morocco, Spagna, Italia, and France we brought O:live to life. It didn’t make traveling lighter, but it was all worth it.
WX: I understand the beautiful photography is from your honeymoon. Can you tell us a little more about your travels. Did you know you would use these photographs for the hotel?
LOISSE HERGER: We had no idea we were going to be hoteliers or use our photos as part of the design of a hotel. When we first started travelling it was the best, think 21 straight days driving with no specific schedule, if we liked a place we stayed and if we felt like discovering something new, we drove. One day we were in Torre Saracena having dinner in the Amalfi Coast and we saw a poster on the wall that advertised the most important Italian festival, “Il Palio”. It was happening the next day in the lovely town of Siena. We look at each other at 11pm after our dinner and said why not! Fernando drove 8 hours thru the night and ended up at the magical town of Siena at 7am. We have amazing photos of Il Palio in one of our rooms, but it’s the story behind it that makes it special.
WX: Do you have a favorite photograph?
LOISSE HERGER: There is a photograph we enlarged to a canvas and placed at the rooftop lounge. It was taken while we were waking in Sorrento near a cliff. It shows an old abandoned small hotel overlooking the Mediterranean waters. Fernando kept looking at the property and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had this hotel?” We opened O:live in 2012 and this was in 2009. The universe seemed to agree but in a somewhat different location.
WX: There are also unique art pieces. Who selects the artwork and what type of pieces are you inspired by?
LOISSE HERGER: Fernando typically travels with the eye of an art collector. On our trip in 2009 to Italy he saw an antique bronze scuba diver helmet for sale and he loved it. I on the other hand was more like it weighs 20 pounds and it’s huge, where are we to put it? We did not get it and at the airport we saw the Architectural Digest magazine cover showing a living room with an identical scuba helmet. Ouch! Come next trip to Italy one year later and he was determined to find the store on our way to Portofino. Fast forward a few hours later, diver helmet was still there with a little more dust than before and shipped door to door to O:live. Today it is in our lobby.
WX: Is there a story behind the name, O:live?
LOISSE HERGER: We were brainstorming, just the two of us. Coming from the advertising world, I knew that we needed to create a concept behind the story. At the time, we were managing my aunt’s Bed & Breakfast and the restaurant was called Uva (grape in Spanish). Fernando said let’s called it Olive since we already have grapes. It made me laugh. I was hesitant because it was such a common name, so I just wrote it in the “maybe list” so he didn’t feel bad. I gather some of my creative friends from the advertising agency and after a few hours of brainstorming, Fernando mentioned Olive again. I raised my concern again and Sally, one of the copywriters said “why don’t you add : between the O and Live so you make it yours: O:live and Voila, everyone happy.
WX: Working together with my husband, I love seeing successful couples building business together. How do you balance running a hotel together and your personal life together?
LOISSE HERGER: We really make a good team. We always say, Fernando builds it and I sell it. Fernando is an engineer and his experience is in the construction business. My background is 100% marketing, advertising and entrepreneurship. We divide responsibilities in a natural way, but honestly everything is mixed. It helps a lot that Fernando’s personality is very calm and collected, there is no drama. On our personal time we enjoy discussing our projects, on our travel time we enjoy discovering new things to implement in the hotel. For us, work is a lifestyle.
WX: I am super excited to talk about the latest Olive Experience Project, O:LV. Tell us More, What is the vision for O:LV and when will it open?
LOISSE HERGER: O:LV Fifty Five is a new chapter in our story but it will be written in a different font sort to speak: it’s sleek and refined. The art will be more provocative and in black and white. The tone is glam but the author will still feel the same. O:LV is a modern abbreviation from O:live, a common address in both hotels, 55 represents our union, and our individuality.
We tend to create stories in spaces and O:LV is no exception. O:LV is designed to make you feel the vibes of creative and vibrant cities like Amsterdam, London, Copenhagen & Hong Kong. We thought about today’s global creative traveler who seeks something beyond a resort, they seek inspiration. They seek experiences to share on social media so we created Instagramable bathrobes and slippers. Our amenities that go hand in hand with their active, technological and healthy lifestyles. It is set to open in August 2018.
WX: Lastly, we all know Puerto Rican just experience the most powerful category 5 hurricane in history of the island and its incredible to know that O:live never closed. What was this like for you? AND What can people do to support Puerto Rico at this time?
LOISSE HERGER: Yes, it was really tough for us to keep the hotel running as if nothing was happening outside our doors. The morning after Maria passed it felt like you entered a war zone. We've been lucky for many years not having major hurricanes impacting the island, but this year broke the record; it was the toughest hurricane in 100 years and gave us a PHD on how to manage and better prepare ourselves and our business to overcome a natural disaster like this one. We really can say that this was the most powerful learning experience we have had as human beings and as business owners to date. To support Puerto Rico, just come, visit and share with friends.
O:live Boutique Hotel Phone: 787.705.9994 Website: http://www.oliveboutiquehotel.com/