There is no perfect hotel in the San Juan area, so you have to compromise on something and in this review I'll do my best to explain what those compromises are.
Basically there are four areas in San Juan you can stay: Old town San Juan, Condado, Ocean Park or Isla Verde.
Old Town just does not have any beach so that rules it out for me immediately. Condado is excellent location with good restaurants some funky bars and is a great place for tourists to stay. Ocean Park is another good option, not as busy, quite funky, but no big hotels. Isla Verde has several famous and big-name hotels and is a consideration but please note that this is now quite a distance from old town (25 minutes by car) and they were probably slightly fewer good restaurants here.
In terms of beaches, all 3 apart from Old Town have very good beaches. The beach at Isla Verde is the best but probably not so much better that it makes much different.
The Marriott hotel
this is a great hotel. The staff here are almost without exception very friendly and helpful. Importantly, all communal areas, the bars, and the rooms are kept absolutely, totally, spotlessly clean. 10 out of 10 for cleanliness.
Note that this is not the case with some of the other top brand hotels you might also be considering. Look at the reviews on this site carefully.
The beach is immediately outside the hotel and is a good one. The pool area is not huge but is fine.
One of the issues with this hotel and several of the others along the coast is that they face North. This means that whilst there is a balcony here for all rooms, the ocean facing rooms, i.e. North facing rooms, never get any direct sunlight. These rooms DO get 180° sea view but you just don't get any sunshine directly onto the balcony. Ever. The west facing rooms, whilst not having full Sea view and are over the Pool, do get sun in the afternoons. I had one of the north facing rooms and on reflection the fantastic Seaview is probably better than the west facing rooms.
The fact that everyone has a balcony in the Marriot is a major plus side. The other competing hotel just 200 m down the beach, the Concha Renaissance, far fewer rooms have balconies then down here at the Marriott.
I wold strongly recommend a room in the main tower, on a high floor. The other block 'looks out on' the pool and that would annoy me!
AC is good. Wifi is 'free' (ie included in $16 resort fee) and is ok, not the best, not the worst.
The hotel is in a very good state of repair, with good fittings and good beds. However, don't expect trendy! The Marriot is quite conservative in terms of decor. If you want a trendier environment then your better bet is the Renaissance just down the road, which IS quite funky.
At the Marriott, there is a beach bar and also a cocktail bar (Red Coral Bar) which is situated in a special section in the large reception area. It is a great place to sit, drinks are ok (not enough cocktails!) , and I enjoyed the atmosphere.
So it's a lively hotel, very well run, good rooms (although not particularly large) and I would definitely recommend staying here.
But is it the best?
The Renaissance Concha is very close (200m down the beach) and very similar, both owned by Marriott. The beach is very similar in both locations. But the lack of balconies at the Concha (they have windows that open but no proper balcony for most rooms) would put me off. But to be honest there's not much in it.
Up in Isla Verde district, the Ritz Carlton is not one of their best and is too clinical (boring?) for my taste. The Hilton (El San Juan resort) has a long history in San Juan and the reception and bar areas are amazing and fantastic but I would warn you to read the reviews on trip advisor about that hotel and I would not stay there. And both a bit far out. Great beaches, though,
the weather here when we visited in October was excellent with highs in the upper 80s and very little rain. so it was a good time to visit. You can tell that we are in off-season because there are not many crowds but I can't imagine this place gets incredibly busy in peak season.
I would definitely hire a car when you are here (unless you intend to spend the entire time on a beach) because there is so much to see around this relatively small island.
Don't both with more than 1 day in San Juan. Get out and about to the far corners of the island where it's really beautiful.
Don't expect too much from the food or shopping in Condado, it's ok but not excellent.
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