Hotel, pool, trainers, park, stores, a restaurant, and café. No, it’s not the island’s newest resort. It’s an entire establishment dedicated to (wo)man’s best friend - dogs.
Abel De Varona founded the Guaynabo De Varona dog hotel in 1993 to provide families with a safe and clean place with the highest security and professional standards.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the facilities have been improved. They include suites equipped with carpets, memory foam beds, television, and private cameras for owners to check up on their dogs. The Shop De Varona will be opening as well, featuring exclusive products and highlighting Puerto Rican businesses.
De Varona’s Café is perfect for those pet owners who love coffee. The open-air cafe allows pet parents to enjoy a cup of premium coffee prepared by baristas José Simone and Fabián Bermúdez, while the restaurant will have tapas, frappés, and other dishes prepared by Chef Marcos Rodríguez.
Origins Of The Park
Abel De Varona trained as an accountant and worked with his father as an insurance representative, but to the benefit of canines and owners alike, he has always cared deeply about dogs. In high school he began going to Dallas, the capital of canine agility sports, where he started training, later becoming an agility and obedience judge.
“Since I was four years old, I tried to make the dogs at home jump through hoops. [The] dogs responded to me. I always had a great connection with them,” said De Varona in an interview with THE WEEKLY JOURNAL.
In 1993, he decided he didn’t like numbers and the insurance thing - he was just in love with dogs. At that time, dogs were treated more like outside animals than family members. Their place was in the yard or chained to the fence.
De Varona felt he needed to change that reality. During his time in the states, he saw how people pampered their pets and treated them like family. “[I was] training dogs, but mainly training people. If they put some love into the dogs, they will love you back,” he explained.
So, he began training dogs and other trainers, using positive reinforcement only. “If you treat the dog well, the dog will respond to you, they will want to be with you,” commented De Varona.
A few years later he acquired the property in Guaynabo and began building the hotel and facilities, leaving half the acreage as a venue for birthday parties. In 2009, they built a pool just for the dogs. According to De Varona, around 90% love to get into the water.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, no birthday parties were booked for over a year, so De Varona decided to transform that half of the property into a park with a restaurant and café. Over the past 14 months, they’ve developed the property into what can only be called a canine resort.
“I just want to be certain that the dogs are loved and taken care of, and that there won’t be so many stray dogs,” said De Varona of his future goals. At home, he has three dogs of his own.
Grand Opening And Reservations
Those interested in visiting should make a reservation on the website. There is a $10 fee to visit, waived for those who purchase a beverage in the Cafe De Varona. All pets should be up-to-date on vaccines. Reservations must be made ahead of time, with two human companions per dog. The dog should be accompanied around the park at all times by at least one companion.
The grand opening will be this Sunday, April 24. There will be a 3K event “4paws De Varona”, whose proceeds will go to The Sato Project.