Bacardi Triangle Review: Ellie Goulding, Kendrick Lamar and Calvin Harris and more live on Palomino Island

This past weekend, Bacardi invited 1,862 of the world’s best bartenders, luckiest contest entrants and best-looking members of the media to Puerto Rico to experience the Bacardi Triangle, a weekend filled with cocktails, poolside DJs and a concert on a private island featuring Ellie Goulding, Kendrick Lamar and Calvin Harris. It was an unforgettable whirlwind trip and I am ready to do it all again.

Check out some clips of Ellie and Kendrick below. Calvin Harris was included in the original version of this video but Sony Music was all over me.

Did you want a full recap? I totally wrote one:

First of all, Bacardi knows how to make a blogger feel special. Before dawn last Thursday, a black car arrived to whisk me and my wife away to a chartered flight from LAX to San Juan, Puerto Rico. That’s right, Bacardi let me bring my wife, so happy second honeymoon to us. Having worked more than a few jobs as a “social media strategist” I know how half-assed most brands make these trips, but Bacardi really went above and beyond.

The flight was filled with LA bartenders, media, Bacardi reps and contest winners. One of the guys from Bar Rescue was there. That’s all the celeb sighting I need to have a good time. One Bacardi rep with an Australian accent walked around the plane making sure everyone was comfortable before heading up and down the aisle mixing Cuba Libres and Rum Swizzles for all the passengers. I can’t remember his name but I started referring to him as Swizzle because he used that word a lot and it sounded fun with an Australian accent. Swizzle had a really good rapport with the Sun Country Airlines crew who were also a lot of fun. We were one big airborne gang en route to more cocktails in the Caribbean.

When we arrived in San Juan, we hopped on a few buses that drove us out to the El Conquistador Resort, a giant 5-star resort in Fajardo. (I hesitate to write the word “the” in front of “El” here, the same way I do when referring to the El Rey, but I’m going with it). We were greeted with cocktails from a team of Bacardi girls (Bacardi women? I want to be respectful) and a four-on-the-floor drum beat that seemed to thump until about 4am Sunday morning. After check-in we made our way past the north and south pools (renamed “El Club 1862” for the weekend) which looked like something I’ve only seen on MTV Spring Break.

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Since we had arrived at night, we didn’t have the opportunity to catch the amazing view from our room until the following morning. As the sun rose behind a wall of storybook clouds, attendees got a clear view of Palomino Island in the distance, the location of the Bacardi Triangle concert we would ferry out to the following night. First though, as my itinerary mentioned, I “gotta do some work.”

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Left to right: Dmitry Ivanov, Bradley Thompson and Mary Jo Laborde

All the media peoples piled into a media tent where we had a Q&A session with Dmitry Ivanov, Senior Global Category Director, Rums (sweet title, brah), Bradley Thompson of promotions company Broadwick Live, and Mary Jo Laborde, Chief Marketing and Sales Officer of Puerto Rico Tourism. According to Ivanov, this event marks the beginning of getting Bacardi back to its party-centric roots and we should expect these events to get even bigger and better. Well sign me up. Bacardi conducted a worldwide search for the perfect destination for this event, and it just happened to end up in their back yard because Thompson was bombarded with advice about where to hold the event on his first flight to the island. Well that worked out. Mary Jo Laborde clued us in to the best spots for Mofongo and gave us directions to Fajardo’s Bioluminescent Bay where you can see water that appears to be filled with fireflies, which I suppose could be either beautiful or terrifying depending on how you look at it.

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Photo via Bacardi

Next, Ellie Goulding sat down to take our questions. She explained that even though her tour ended about a month ago, she was convinced to take on this Bacardi Triangle show before heading home to write and record her next album. Ellie had flown out to Puerto Rico with some of her biggest fans, and she apparently made the trip across the Atlantic a memorable experience by starting a conga line on the flight. (But did they have Swizzles)? Goulding apparently brought two costume options for the night’s “Black Magic Halloween Party”: Mr. Blobby and “something sexy.” From the photo below, it’s clear that she went with sexy.

Ellie Goulding Mr. Blobby

via @EllieGoulding on Instagram

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Actually, maybe this Pocahotass costume was supposed to be the sexy one. Photo via Bacardi

Bacardi had put a bottle of Bacardi 8 Años in our room, with a note that said it would make a great gift to send home. Or, I argued, would be a great gift for my mouth immediately. So that evening, all Años’d up, my wife and I headed down to Coqui Water Park for the Black Magic Halloween Party, where we grabbed dinner and wandered around a tiki torch-lit water park complete with a lazy river. If you can find someone that remembers more of the party than that, they were not there.

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The next morning, a group of attendees headed for a tour of Casa Bacardi, Bacardi’s distillery. From the photos I’ve seen, it looked like a lot of fun, and I will definitely visit next time, but my wife and I decided to break away from the crowd for a few hours and explore Luquillo Beach, which was totally worth it. We grabbed some Mofongo for lunch at La Parrilla in the Luquillo Kiosks (which made us feel very Anthony Bourdain-y.)

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When we returned to the resort, we stopped by the bar at Las Olas for some pre-ferry drinks. We felt we were ready to go until the bartender on the left decided to spray everyone with champagne while yelling “dance bitches!” “Dance Bitches” does not work with a pirate-English accent, apparently. In his defense, he did proceed to make us the most flamboyant cocktails we’ve ever had, and flamboyant cocktails do work well with that accent.

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When the sun began to set, and after a quick wardrobe change (I just switched to the other Old Navy shirt I brought), it was time to hit the ferries and make our way over to Palomino Island to catch the pinnacle of the Bacardi Triangle, a concert featuring live performances by Ellie Goulding, Kendrick Lamar and Calvin Harris. The island was quite a sight. It seemed that an army of locals had anchored their boats along the coast, creating a very Lake Havasuesque scene. The stage shot lasers across a sea of 1,862 attendees that could be seen from Fajardo. We de-boarded the ferry and made our way through a maze of tiki lamps, past a few rum bars and up to the stage to catch Ellie Goulding sing her hits “Anything Could Happen” and “Burn.”

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Photo via Bacardi

Following a DJ set and a light rain shower, Kendrick Lamar ran the freshly-misted crowd through a set that felt bigger than life when backed by his live band. Calvin Harris finished the night with a lot of crowd favorites that had people literally falling into the ocean from exhaustion afterward.

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Photo via Bacardi

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Photo via Bacardi

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Photo via Bacardi

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Photo via Bacardi

When the rain started up again, we decided to head toward the ferry to watch the rest of the show. I had visions of somehow ending up numbers 1,861 and 1,862 in line to return to Fajardo. Or possibly being left behind on the island. And I did not want to make the decision about who I was going to eat first if it came down to it.

Riding the ferry back to El Conquistador

Riding the ferry back to El Conquistador

That night, ferries continued until about 4am. I peeked out of my room at about 4:30 and Sade’s “No Ordinary Love” was cranked at the poolside DJ booth. Well, all right. This party refused to stop.

The next morning, amid Daylight Savings confusion (Puerto Rico does not observe Daylight Savings), we made it back onto the bus and somehow ended up at the Sun Country Airlines check-in desk, despite the fact that no one working at San Juan Airport had ever heard of Sun Country Airlines. The flight crew was a lot less fun than the one we flew out with, but our airborne gang didn’t seem as into cocktailing as we were on the way out anyway.

When we arrived back at LAX, we were picked up by another black car and taken home where I promptly closed the windows and put on a sweatshirt because Puerto Rico has apparently ruined LA weather for me.

Big thanks to Bacardi and the folks at Citizen Relations for having us out. I thought this trip sounded too good to be true until we arrived at El Conquistador, and now that we’ve returned I still think it was too good to be true. See you at the next event?