Puerto Rico Vacation - hotel between $100 & $2000
November 24, 2021 9:50 AM   Subscribe

I’m about to book this hotel on the east coast of Puerto Rico: El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort Anything I should know ahead of time? I’ll have my 70-year old parents and 5-year old daughter with me and we wanted to be close to the major attractions. The luxury hotels are crazy expensive, but I also wanted to stay somewhere really nice…hrm! Also, any recommendations on must-do excursions or even private tours (if I save money from not staying at the Ritz or Regis I can splurge elsewhere)!
posted by Shaitan to Travel & Transportation around Puerto Rico (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
We are headed to PR in 3 weeks - our third time. We have an AirBnB right on the beach in a gated community in San Juan for $125 a night. Our first trip we had a 3 bedroom single family home about six blocks back from the beach in the same area. So if you want to save lodging cash look at AirBnB/VRBO. I heard from another Mefite that was on the island a few months ago that the rental car situation is a mess - can take hours to get yours - so keep that in mind as I assume you have a rental if you are staying on the east coast.

Also, what do you mean by major attractions? When I think major attractions in PR I think of San Juan, not the east coast.

El Yunque is a must visit on that side of the island. There is a 1-mile easy and well groomed hike to a waterfall you can swim under in the National Park that is loads of fun. Would think your parents, assuming they have normal mobility for their age, could handle the hike to the waterfall without a problem.

I've written a handful of blog posts about our previous two trips - feel free to peruse.
posted by COD at 12:02 PM on November 24 [1 favorite]

Just want to be clear: You're looking at hotels up to $2,000/night?
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:43 PM on November 24 [1 favorite]

Room rates seem to start cheaper than the Waldorf at the hotel where my wife and I stayed years ago on our honeymoon, Hotel El Convento. It's in Old San Juan, however.
posted by emelenjr at 1:21 PM on November 24

I stayed at that hotel a few years ago. Highlights: the beachy island that the hotel owns that they ferry you to is fantastic. Well worth it. Reasonable snorkeling off the island and all manner of options for beach experiences— from crowded to isolated. There was a street vendor zone just north of the hotel (kinda had to squeeze past a fence, didn’t seem hotel endorsed). That area provided the best meals I had in Puerto Rico (maybe ever). Fresh lobster, etc.

Lowlights: there’s no beach right at the hotel. You have to ride the ferry. The hotel (when I stayed there ca 2014) was ready for a major renovation— just in terms of age of the fit and finish.

And do go to the nearby rainforest. It’s great.
posted by u2604ab at 1:55 PM on November 24

And I guess this hotel is a bit isolated— not near “all the major attractions”. I had a good time there with a similar age range of travel companions.
posted by u2604ab at 2:01 PM on November 24

Response by poster: @Conrad Sorry, I should have been more clear. I feel like the range of prices is crazy! And I’ve actually seen up to $2,000 per night for hotels…which is crazy! Who is spending that? But I don’t see a lot of resorts in the middle range and I am willing to spend up to $500/night, which I still
Think is a lot!
posted by Shaitan at 2:11 PM on November 24

Best answer: My husband and I stayed at the Condado Vanderbilt after one of my work events in PR ended in 2019 and we were on our own dime. We were able to walk (longer walks that New Yorkers think are reasonable, but others probably wouldn’t!) to a lot of restaurants, but still used a rental to visit El Yunque and for a few other locales. We were happy with the hotel—it sits on a rocky portion in San Juan, but shares beach access with the hotel next door. We liked the placement of the Waldorf if we were just going to commit to that side of the island, minus a day in San Juan, but it hadn’t reopened yet for our stay. Industry friends have enjoyed it.

I’ve stayed at the Hotel El Convento on a site visit and while I appreciated the older decor/look, my room could have used a deep cleaning (vent cover was missing and the ducts had piles of dust quite visible), making it an irritating night of sleep with poor air quality. I couldn’t recommend that one after my experience.

The El San Juan Hotel is a Hilton property in a hotel that was originally built for an airline’s staff use. It was a beautiful entry bar and I’ve gone there for their jazz. My colleagues have hosted a multi-day program and warned that it’s a bit loud at night if you have light sleepers.

I have hosted incentive programs at the Ritz and it’s beautiful, one of my favorites, but the prices have multiplied by 5 since the start of the pandemic. It’s a bit too far for easy access to activities, as it’s more of an escape destination. I had a similar feeling about the location of the St Regis when I visited but haven’t stayed there.
posted by icaicaer at 4:31 PM on November 24

I may have been the person that COD referenced saying that rental cars were a mess. My group rented 3 cars, one from a location at the airport and two off-site. Unless things have gotten better, I'd recommend going with a big name rental company at the airport, as the offsite ones (while moderately cheaper) involved a 3-4 hour wait in August.

Another side note - if you're planning on doing anything in old San Juan, check the traffic before making plans. The day we tried to go to visit one of the forts they had major roads closed down to the point that the only way into the area that was practical was to walk in from some distance away.
posted by Candleman at 4:46 PM on November 24

I’ve stayed at El Conquistador twice and loved it both times. El Palomino (the private island) is beautiful and they also have a small water park with slides, pools and a lazy river that is accessible without the ferry ride but does require a short funicular ride. It’s near El Yunque and the bioluminescent bay (worth it to pay for a private boat ride to see it at night), but it’s a long drive to San Juan, so if you have an interest in exploring Old San Juan I would stay somewhere closer to there, not in Fajardo.
posted by Fuego at 7:14 PM on November 24

Also, the last time I stayed there was 2015 and I heard that they were hit pretty hard by Maria and were potentially going to close as a result. I’m assuming that the fact that they’re open now means they were able to get some major renovations done to re-open so that might have updated it a little bit.

In Old San Juan I’ve stayed at the Sheraton on the waterfront where the cruise ships dock and while it’s not the most glitzy place, it’s walking distance to just about everything of interest there, is clean and has a great breakfast buffet and a casino if your parents are the gambling type.
posted by Fuego at 7:19 PM on November 24

I stayed just over the hill from that resort this summer. I don't know who it was, but someone in the area had loud parties (like with amplified music, not just people noises) at night and we thought it was the resort. It didn't bother us, but if you're early sleepers and sensitive to noise, it's something to be aware of.

Plan on making reservations for everything, preferably before the trip. Everything from things like the rain forest park to breakfast.

any recommendations on must-do excursions or even private tours

The bioluminescent bay tour is worth checking out but can be annoyingly crowded. The kayaks they use are two person and can be easily done with just a single fit person in the back and the person in the front just providing navigation directions (and warning of low hanging branches). You might be able to find a tour that will have experienced guides in the back position for your parents and daughter if you don't have enough full bodied adults. Also, if you're highly risk averse with Covid, be aware that to really see the bioluminescence, at least in August, they have everyone duck under a shared tarps to cut out external light, so you share air with a half dozen or so people in close quarters for a few minutes.

There wasn't a lot of things that I'd call must-do in the area. It was all very pleasant and relaxing but nothing too extraordinary. I don't know how good the rainforest park will be for 70 year olds - the trails we took were narrow and steep. You might be able to find a driving tour or something like that. We didn't go, but were I to go back I'd look into the excursions to Reserva Natural Cayos de la Cordillera.

La Estacion was my favorite restaurant in the area. El Pescador was also nice, particularly for seafood.
posted by Candleman at 8:03 AM on December 2

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