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“A Tropical Treasure”
Review of The Gallery Inn

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The Gallery Inn
Ranked #8 of 30 San Juan B&B and Inns
Reviewed January 16, 2014

I've stayed at the Gallery Inn several times over the years as a connoisseur of art and historical buildings and every visit impresses me with the charm and beauty to be found there. Just a short flight away from the fridge, dark days of the north east and I'm in a garden of orchids. tropical birds and island ambiance. I love visiting with the owner whose knowledge of her home and its history is fascinating and I always find that the Inn seems to attract the most interesting collection of guests to chat with during my stay. Its my favorite place to unwind for a brief visit in a completely unique setting. I'll be back soon.

  • Stayed: January 2014, traveled solo
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1  Thank Murfee2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed January 13, 2014

The minute I went through the front gate of the Gallery Inn, I was delighted the El Convento had been totally booked. I felt as though I had entered a magical realm. Trees, fountains, bushes, sculptures everywhere and a macaw calling out ola.
My husband and I stayed there for 4 nights and we never tired of wandering every inch of the inn. Unlike most “winter tourists” we did not come particularly for the beaches but for the culture and history and people. So talking to Jan D’Esopo, the owner and her sister Tessa, both artists, we felt drawn in to a personal world.
Every nook and cranny of the inn is filled with art, much of it Jan’s. It is her home, her gallery and her inn. A well-noted painter and sculptor, she shares it all. Our Christmas Eve afternoon was highlighted with a string quartet playing in the terraced garden. Christmas Eve dinner in the artistically, baroque dinner room was accompanied the entire time by an amazing classical guitarist.
Our room up two short flights of stairs (hey, it’s an inn not Trump Towers) was moderate sized on the inside with an enormous terrace, including hot tub, and a 180 degree view of the Atlantic Ocean on the outside. It was clean, maintained, and air-conditioned.
The staff was helpful and friendly. A continental breakfast was even more enjoyable in the botanically abundant terrace garden. Cooked breakfasts are prepared upon request, in an open kitchen off the garden by a smiling chef.
My husband and I suffered none of the offenses mentioned in other reviews. I accept the mustiness because I treasure the history and experience more. It is, after all a hot, humid, rainy, Caribbean island. No, you can’t do laps in the salt-water pool but you can totally relax and experience such a special, personal décor, not to be found elsewhere. There is no way I would trade our stay at The Gallery in for any of the cookie cutter luxe hotels. Nowhere have I ever had an oil painting hanging in a clothes closet. I cannot wait to go back again.

Stayed: December 2013, traveled as a couple
1  Thank AndreaSP7109JN
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 9, 2014

The reviews over the past few days seem to be the most accurate, and therefore, I don't necessarily have to write a huge paragraph regarding my experience.

This hotel was HIGHLY recommended by many of my friends - unfortunately for me, these friends prefer charm over cleanliness and the ability to not breath in mold. If you're also into charm, and don't mind dirt, by all means this is the place for you!

Awesome things:
The place is loaded with character. There are so many cute pockets that you can find to read in, there's always coffee, and each individual room is uniquely ornamented. The breakfast is also fine (there's yogurt, breads, jams, etc.), and you can drink wine on the roof which has a 360 degree view. It's quite beautiful. Additionally, the more expensive "suite" type of rooms are much dryer, and much better taken care of than any of the smaller rooms.

But then there's this:
The place is filthy, and also extremely damp. This combination is lethal - especially for anyone traveling who has asthma. The first room we entered was so damp and dirty that I actually could not breath. I tried to ignore it, but several minutes after sitting in there, we had to go downstairs to request a 'dryer' room. The fact that the very friendly and helpful attendant knew what I meant without me having to describe it says a lot. My lungs could not handle it. The second room was indeed dryer, but still very damp, moist, and dark. It had a door which opened onto the pool - which was nice - but unless you opened the door and kept it open, there was zero sunlight. Additionally, everything was so dirty you kind of didn't want to touch it.

I travel a LOT. I've stayed in all kinds of places - from sleeping on buses, to cabins with nets, to Four Seasons. I'm really not picky about where I stay as long as I'm paying the equivalent of what it's worth, and it is CLEAN. That's my thing. Cleanliness. It can be as ugly as it wants if it's clean. This place was filthy and moldy - but it's the kind of filth that only someone who really takes their cleanliness seriously is going to notice since the place is well-ordered. Things are where they belong, and it's neat. However, everything was just sooo dirty, and the smell of mildew was unbearable. For the first time, I completed regretted not staying at a boring chain hotel.

If you prefer charm over the ability over clean, you will definitely love this place because it's got that and then some. But if any of these recent reviews were available before I booked, I would have listened. I truly suggest that you keep these most recent reviews in mind, as they are VERY accurate regarding how this place currently is. And if you do book here, book one of the larger, more expensive, newer looking and smelling rooms.

Room Tip: Get a suite.
  • Stayed: December 2013, traveled with friends
    • Value
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6  Thank K J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 8, 2014

Charm and decay – Dr Jekkyl and Mr Hyde.

The smell of decay hits your nostrils immediately when you step into this mysterious, artistic place.
This is a 400 years old house, not well kept – in fact, almost a ruin, good for a museum, but not good as a hotel. First impression is really strange, like entering enchanted garden. You see a jungle of plants, hiding beautiful pictures hanging on a wet, damp, moldy walls, sculptures, old furniture and antiques, colorful parrots, some of them talking. So, at a first glance you see mainly charm. During a day I was enchanted by this place, but the nights were difficult.
Usually, to get to your room you have to climb plenty of step stairs, carrying your luggage (and they are not very helpful with a luggage).
Rooms are damp and moldy. They are NOT CLEAN – someone on this forum wrote that they are old but clean, but unfortunately this is not true – the floors are stained, the sinks are dirty; the carpets are covered with an old dust and stains. TOWELS ARE DIRTY (I mean big yellow stains on “white” towels). They change the bedclothes though ☺ (I mean, at your arrival), so this is good news.
The atmosphere is very decadent and the same is the air you breathe- dusty and moldy.
We stayed in three rooms at the same stay – we kept changing them. The first one was Amy –facing the street, which can be quite noisy at night. The ceiling in Amy is leaking, so the bed soaks with water when rains.
The second room was Steve – it is dark, but at least have balcony, facing the swimming pool (by the way – you cannot really swim in this pool). It is very moldy, and the bed was wet, too- I presume that the mattress never dries, that it holds damp from the air and then during the night you sleep in cold, wet bed.
The last one was Doctor Joe, the driest of all and beautifully furnished– with a view of the ocean, with nice antiques – yet, the wet bed and dust were still a problem there. Air condition in Dr Joe is connected to other rooms, so you are not supposed to regulate it on your own.
They also have a room without windows called Brown. I could not imagine staying there.
They claim they are only hotel in Old San Juan with beach access. Indeed, they have a facility such a beach house – but first of all, the beach is not accessible at all, unless you want to enjoy closed experience with a “fury of the waters”, as ocean there is really extremely rough. Do not even think of swimming there. This beach cabin is completely deserted, located between old cemetery from the one side and ruined (literally ruined) houses of dangerous La Perla quarter from the other side. To get there you pass the area covered with garbage. It is closed; there is nobody there, no reason to go there.
There are nice things about The Gallery Inn – in spite of being a ruin, it is full of character, very bohemian, very different.
The view from the rooftop terrace (which looks like unfinished beach shack) is really amazing. The owners are very nice, but unfortunately the reception staff seems to be more interested in filling housekeeping tables than helping guests. Besides, they are not very informative, so you have to prepare your trip upfront, they rather will not serve you with an advice.
Also, if you book a trip with tour operator, like El Yunque (really recommended) the tour operator will not pick you from your hotel, they will take you from Colon Plaza instead.
I still would say that staying there for one night can be sort of (survival) experience, yet interesting and adding local color to your trip (I recommend to sleep on a mat over the bed, as I did), but I can hardly imagine spending one week there, even in their representative room.
Even if this were a museum, not a hotel, it would dramatically call for some investments, protecting this amazing place from complete decay.
Part of my immunity to this charm comes from my European experience. In Europe you can stay in old chateau’s, palazzos or old houses furnished with antiques and not necessarily completely “refreshed” – as this is a part of the style.
Yet, some basic requirements – like dry bed, non-leaking ceiling, clean towels and clean floors are met and we take it for granted. Plus, we pay for that.
In fact, in my opinion owners simply do not care. They in fact do not seem to do any effort.
There is a restaurant in The Gallery Inn, so if you want to experience the place without staying there, it is a very good option.
And one of last things - if you are planning to go to Carribeans, Puerto Rico would not be my first choice. I like Old San Juan - I would not mind coming back for a weekend, I enjoyed El Yunque and Biobay, but in general you can find much better beaches somewhere else, not in Puerto Rico, which is in general overpriced - you simply do not get value for money there. So keep your trip short.

Room Tip: They have four types of the room - from rooms without windows to full apartments with own gardens...
  • Stayed: December 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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4  Thank MagdaCK
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 7, 2014

I stayed at The Galleria Inna for about 8 days. During this period I developed a love-hate relationship with this place. This is a very unique place filled with misc. brick-a-brack, peculiar art and bits and pieces telling a fascinating tale about the owner of this place whom everyone calls Jen. Things I loved: the aforementioned clues to the story and story behind the story; the sweeping views, the ubiquitous talkative birds, various secret nooks and crannies, the entire super relaxed atmosphere. I had the notion as if I was visiting a regal aunt who didn't care much for my visit but didn't care if I snooped around the house and fed off her treasures to fuel my imagination either, which was pretty cool. Things I didn't like: no WiFi connection in the rooms,you have to hang out at the common areas to get online. Also, you have to pay in full 5 days in advance which is somewhat restrictive, so if you are planning to do some hopping around (and you should in Puerto Rico), make sure that you plan accordingly.

Room Tip: Choose a room that opens into the inner garden or better yet - to the waterfront
  • Stayed: December 2013, traveled with family
    • Value
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Thank Dandelion_IRL
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 5, 2014

Before visiting any property I always check Trip Advisor reviews and I did so prior to my visit to the Gallery Inn. I always read all reviews good and bad. There were many more positive reviews than negative and so I decided to give it a chance. I made a the worst mistake ever.

A little background to my character, I'm a Generation X who has lived in the UK (the land of the shabby B&B) and travel abroad regularly and have traveled extensively throughout the world. I wrote my first review on Trip Advisor in 2002, however, I only write reviews when I've had the time and inclination and so there are many places that I never write about. I don't really have the time right now, but I'm very compelled to report the truth about this place.

On 12/29/13 I visited the inn with a European friend booking two separate rooms for $277 a night. Upon arrival I looked around at the lobby and I noticed things appeared untidy and the front desk in disarray. Although my instincts were now kicking in at this point, I was willing to give the place a chance. They brought me first to my room which was up a steep flight of stairs just to the left of the lobby entrance. My first impression - the room was dark, dingy and over cluttered, yet even at this point I was withholding judgement. As I put my bag away, they proceeded to take my friend to her room, which she described as a tiny basement room without windows which was so far down that she felt she needed a shovel to dig her way to her room. (remember $277 a night) At that point she refused the room and told them either they find another room for her or tell her the name of another hotel and so they did put her in another room, which I believe was one of their better rooms with a terrace and faced the back of the hotel.

After both of us settled into our rooms for longer than 10 minutes, we both accessed properly...the rooms were nothing less than filthy and the bathrooms (which have the cheapest toiletries I've ever seen) smell like urine which you can smell while laying in your bed.

Later we stayed for the cocktail hour, where they serve up the cheapest wine (of which guests pay for) and the American owner was there with her parrot on her shoulder. At one point there was a distinct electrical fire smell which I mentioned and her sister acknowledged and mentioned to Jan. Her response was, "It's on the street and not my problem" and continued with her lounging. Perhaps it was indeed coming from the street, but I would think if I was a hotel owner I would not state out loud in front of paying guests that it's "not my problem". That pretty much sums Jan up.

We later had dinner which was expensive, very mediocre and microwaved. We asked for a bottle of sparkling water and our subpar server told us that they were out of all sparkling water and also tonic. Wow! I've never known a hotel or a B&B of any kind that I've ever stayed at has run out of water.

After dinner we decided to retire to our rooms and go to sleep. I should have looked more closely before getting under the covers. At 3am I awoke freezing and realized that I only had a sheet and a thin bedcover and there were no other blankets in the room. I went to use the room phone and saw the phone (besides being dirty) was visibly broken and I was unable to call down to the desk to request a blanket, so for the rest of the night there was no sleep and I laid there shivering the rest of the night. I complained about this in the morning and Gabriela promised me that she would speak to the management and come up with something, of which they did nothing.

Breakfast the next morning...cheap breakfast items and the worst coffee in a pump thermos. Puerto Rico which is known famously for their coffee and that can't even get that right. Even in the saddest of British B&Bs they know how to serve a proper cup of tea in the morning.

Bottom line...People are taken in by the location and the "uniqueness" factor. The place is owned by a narcissistic owner who displays her sophomoric art work and self portraits all over a dirty, jumbled mess.

The staff is friendly, yet not trained properly and unprofessional. The maids (whom I observed) clean by flicking a dirty rag on the furniture. (forgot to mention that prominently in each room there is an envelope asking for gratuity, which I found not only offensive, but laughable considering the state of the place).

The last straw, when checking out with Gabriela, I asked to pay cash for my dinner bill. Gabriela called Jan for change for my $50 bill and I witnessed the struggle she had trying to get Jan to come to the desk to give change. My friend than rustled up the change and Jan was relieved of coming to the desk. When I mentioned to Gabriela that I wanted her to speak with Jan regarding my complaint of lack of bedding, she told me that "she didn't like to bother Jan". Bottom line...Queen Jan is not involved in the performance of the hotel in anyway beyond sitting around with her parrots.

Perplexed and bewildered why so many positive reviews on Trip Advisor. It's a mystery to me. My favorite bad review was the one that mentioned the place was like the Addams Family and Fawlty Towers. I roared after reading that one.

Posting no photos of this disaster, but it's far gone to do so.

Stay somewhere else. A ripoff. Also confirmed to me by locals that told me that ownerJan is famous for her money grubbing. Apparently she makes the taxis pay her kickbacks.

Room Tip: Make sure you don't end up in the basement.
  • Stayed: December 2013, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
27  Thank TrevisoBettiol
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 4, 2014

Great location and super friendly staff (except owner who was miffed with us - more below). Every nook and cranny of this place is filled with stuff - statues, masks, fountains, books, furniture,... The affect of all this flotsam and jetsam is alternately charming and a little creepy. Loved the parrots in the courtyard and reception area. The Inn building is a collection of homes that have been cleverly connected over the years which makes for interesting funky spaces and a Maze-like layout that reminds me of an Escher print. (If you have any difficulty climbing stairs or moving around, think twice about coming here.). Our rooms (nico and caracol) had a lot of character and charm but felt cluttered and slightly musty. Maintenance seemed subpar - for example, a window shutter was hanging by one hinge over the bed. Given the pricey room rate, we'd expect better cleanliness and upkeep. Might have given the Inn a higher rating if not for an encounter with the owner (parrot on her shoulder) that was odd and uncomfortable. She was peeved (and let us know it) that we had cancelled our dinner reservation, even though they couldn't seat us at time we wanted and their jan 1 menu was very limited.

Stayed: January 2014, traveled with family
2  Thank A A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about The Gallery Inn

Address: 204 - 206 Norzagaray St | Old San Juan, San Juan 00901, Puerto Rico
Phone Number:
Location: Caribbean > Puerto Rico > San Juan
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Restaurant Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #8 of 30 B&Bs / Inns in San Juan
Price Range: $117 - $391 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — The Gallery Inn 3*
Number of rooms: 22
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
This sprawling 22-room ocean-view boutique hotel features lush gardens, tree-shaded patios and secluded and private nooks at every turn. The Wine Deck offers breath-taking, panoramic views from the highest point in Old San Juan. The newly completed sculpture waterfall pool meanders through ancient brick passageways, past fragrant gardenias. Six active art studios and world-class piano recitals are all open to our guests. Unique, elegant and exotic: the Old World charm of The Gallery Inn. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
The Gallery Hotel San Juan

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