Here is what you need to know about this resort in order to have a great time in Puerto Rico:
1. You may be thinking "Where the heck is it?!" Before I went, my wife and I couldn't find an actual address for it, or figure out exactly where it was from Google maps. Ignore the Gran Melia website and where Google thinks the resort is, use this map instead (with good directions from SJU airport): http://tinyurl.com/3xesn39. Gran Melia and Sol Melia (the vacation club) are right next to each other. As you are following these directions, you will see a pretty big Gran Melia billboard on the right hand side of the road before the exit to the left. You'll also see a "Super Gigante" supermarket on the right just before the turn, and there is a bakery on the corner that has some great desserts.
2. Before you go, pick up "Puerto Rico day by day," a book from Frommer's. This has an excellent overview of many of the awesome things you can do in Puerto Rico, and some pretty good maps for getting around, especially in Old San Juan.
3. If you're going to stay at this resort, you will need a rental car to get around. DON'T BOTHER GETTING THE RENTAL CAR FROM THE RESORT, instead reserve a car online and pick it up from the airport when you get in. I used Budget rent-a-car, and regretted it. On the one hand, we knew ahead of time that things move more slowly in Puerto Rico, so I was ready to wait in some lines, but on the other hand my wife and I waited for quite a while for the shuttle from the airport (which picks you up just outside from the baggage claim area) to take us to the rental place, and then we waited OVER AN HOUR AND A HALF while one person behind the counter (very slowly) helped all of the people in front of us. Also, they never answer their phones. Get a rental car, but avoid Budget. Other tips for the rental car:
a. Don't assume that your TOM TOM GPS will work here in Puerto Rico. I brought mine and it was useless everywhere except near the coast. I ended up using my iPhone for directions everywhere, which worked pretty well (I had a great signal almost everwhere we went). If you don't have an iPhone, it's worth paying for the GPS addition to your rental car.
b. I consider myself VERY LUCKY to have not gotten into a car accident in Puerto Rico...those people do not drive safely AT ALL. Nearly every vehicle you see has damage from car accidents. I saw one guy driving backwards the wrong way on the freeway at about 40 mph to get back to an off-ramp that he had missed. No one uses blinkers. If you get a rental car and you don't buy the extra insurance so that you are completely free of liability in the event of an accident, you are nuts!
c. Budget rentals (and probably all of the others) come with an easypass sticker in the window so that you can breeze through toll booths. Traffic moves pretty fast through the toll booths, I recommend just bringing a bunch of quarters and dollar bills with you and not even using the easypass (you get charged per day that you use it AND per use...not worth it).
d. When you inspect the car upon pickup, make sure to mark EVERY LITTLE SCRATCH. I didn't have any accidents, but if I did I would have been very glad that I was meticulous during my inspection.
e. If you have USAA insurance, go through the USAA website to rent your car...you get certain perks, like unlimited mileage.
4. Gran Melia vs. Sol Melia - Stay at the Sol Melia Vacation Club, not the Gran Melia Resort. Why? Because at Gran Melia you don't get a kitchenette, and they actually prevent you from bringing outside food into your room, so you are forced to either travel to eat, or pay lots of money for their not-so-good food (so I heard...we didn't actually try it). Also, people who stay at Gran Melia have to have $16/day to park their cars, but Sol Melia people park for free. Also, you get access to some ammenities (VIP room, etc) that Gran Melia people don't. So save a lot of money on this stuff by staying at Sol Melia.
5. People complain about the beach here, that it's too rocky and what-not. In truth, it's not the "white sandy" beach that you see on Caribbean postcards, and you won't swim in the water here, but if you want to hang out on beach chairs as the sun sets in a tropical setting, this is the place. If you get a rental car, it's not much of a drive to the post card beaches.
6. Things you must do while you're here:
a. BIO BAY TOUR. I highly recommend the tour to Mosquito Bay in Vieques...yes it's a bit of a trek, and yes it's a little expensive, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Here is the website for the company we used, which was awesome http://eastwindcats.com/. In one evening you'll take a catamaran to Vieques, a taxi (van) to a restaurant, eat good Puerto Rican food, a VERY BUMPY bus ride to the bio bay, a pontoon to the middle of the bay, you swim in the water (AWESOME, but be aware that it is the ocean..one girl got stung by a jellyfish, no big deal), and then they take you back. They have a military discount of 10%
b. Visit Old San Juan
c. Visit El Junque
d. Take a drive down the eastern side of the island down route 3, stopping at beautiful beaches that you see along the way. Go all the way down to Yabucoa and see some of the Colonial architecture there. Plan on getting lost, because the streets are a little difficult to navigate in Yabucoa. Then, if you are a good driver, purchased the top-notch rental insurance, and are not weak-hearted, drive back north through the rainforest on PR-191...ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! Twisted roads, and some of the steepest driveways in existence. Again, people drive crazy, so you'll have to be very careful.
I highly recommend a Puerto Rico Vacation, and I highly recommend Gran Melia (but moreso Sol Melia)
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- With an idyllic location on Puerto Rico's northeastern coast in Coco Beach, Rio Grande, Gran Melia Puerto Rico brings the privacy and exclusivity you deserve and allows you the opportunity to escape from the rest of the world. From the moment you step inside this tropical oasis, you will be enveloped by the beauty and grandeur of Gran Melia Puerto Rico. Boasting a world-class YHI spa, the nearby Trump International Golf Club and the best pool on the island with four integrated whirlpools, Gran Melia Puerto Rico is the place to live the true resort experience in Puerto Rico. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Gran Melia Golf Resort Puerto Rico Hotel Rio Grande
- Gran Melia Rio Grande
- Sol Melia Rio Grande
- Paradisus Puerto Rico
- Gran Melia Golf Resort Puerto Rico Rio Grande