Recently, Nancy and I traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to spend Thanksgiving. We stayed at La Conch Renaissance Resort in San Juan. This was our seventh or eighth stay and it was a WOW- better than ever!
If you are heading to San Juan and want to be on the ocean, close to the heart of the City, or just relax in a beautiful environment, this is the place! By the way, we are golfers and found you can be on several nearby spectacular courses quite easily from this hotel’s central location.
Located on Ashford Avenue, this hotel is a welcoming oasis among a sea of cookie cutter properties. When one arrives, the greeting is warm, genuine and effusive from the high energy door persons (recognizing you, they say “welcome home” instead of “welcome back” - a really great touch).
At La Concha one person handles the bags from the start (not a cast of thousands), escorts you to the front desk, and then brings you and your bags to your room. Along the way and up the elevator, they will brief you thoroughly on the hotel and its attractions as well as the local gossip, or, alternatively, both.
There is a terrific water feature right by the front door entrance. At night it is amazing, but when you first arrive it instantly begins to put you into a state of relaxation. One also begins to realize that music is playing everywhere, and it is definitely not elevator music.
The Lobby is bright and cool. When we arrived, there were Christmas Decorations and Christmas Trees (white) everywhere. (You have to ask a local about the Christmas Holiday in Puerto Rico. They really know how to keep Christmas!) Nifty lobby bar area that leads outside to the pool atrium area, which is awash in giant Palm trees, palm fronds and plantings that are straight out of a Steven Spielberg Movie. (In fact, when you are in the pool atrium area at night, have a Mojito and you will swear you are in a movie set).
The Atrium and the adjacent Ocean are probably the most romantic settings in the evening anywhere in the Caribbean. Should you choose to walk out of the Atrium to stroll the beach; the sound of the waves will provide a backdrop that is breathtaking in its beauty.
And oh yes, one swims in a cove in front of the hotel that is protected from the surf (doesn’t everyone?).
Reception is one of the best. Knowledgeable staff, well trained, friendly and engaged. They truly seem to be delighted you are staying at the hotel (in fact, all the staff seems to be happy that you are a guest at La Concha-isn’t that refreshing?) Reception takes you through the formalities personably and you are off to your room.
If you haven’t already done so, request an oceanfront suite in the Tower, when you check in. Believe me, whatever the charge you will not regret it. The suites (and the rooms) facing the ocean have sliding glass doors. At night you can open them and listen to the ocean’s lullaby. This is why you came to Puerto Rico in the first place, isn’t it?
The suites are spectacular, with fridge, stove top, spacious living room, a really easy coffee maker with which to make coffee, bedroom with bath and a patio ensuite. Bathrooms are spacious, airy and modern with a rainfall shower and plenty of towels. Amenities are terrific and include mouthwash, which I always forget. Of course, the suite has Wi-Fi, gigantic flat screen TVS and stereo radios that will play your IPOD or MP3. So, your choice, if you want to stay connected or just kick back. (By the way, cell phone connection is terrific in Puerto Rico just about anywhere you chose to go).
Restaurants in the hotel are excellent. You have La Perla, the upscale restaurant on the mezzanine overlooking the ocean-well worth drinks and dinner one night (great wine list and seafood), The Italian Restaurant on the Mezzanine (can’t remember the name, but great food and you can dine on the patio at night overlooking the pool atrium area) and our favorite, Solera, the restaurant in the atrium pool area.
Now this restaurant by the pool isn’t just your ordinary restaurant. Not by a longshot. It offers Sushi (from the Sushi Bar, tucked in the corner of the atrium), local Puerto Rican specialties and other plates served in a Tapas format. They serve a wicked good Mojito (ask for the double, it saves time) and we strongly recommend at least a couple doubles on the first night if you are looking to unwind. Have a couple of the Tapas plates and listen to the song of the Coqui, the Puerto Rican Tree Frog (it is enchanting).
Nights in the pool atrium area are extraordinary . People watching (yes people come down to swim at all hours) is fascinating and on weekends there is live music. Toutes San Juan and tourists alike come to see and be seen and the air is full of besos and embrazos. Puerto Ricans in particular are people who love and thoroughly enjoy life. If you can smile, you will fit in.
And the people? Well, we saw geezers like ourselves unwinding and having a great time, as well as young and very young people dancing, listening to the music and chatting up a storm. If you decide to take it down a notch in the hotel, the lobby bar is a great place for a Margarita or, a final-final Mojito. Amazingly, this is also a business hotel with meetings and receptions. Incredibly, the two worlds-relaxed resort and business meetings never seem to get in each other’s way thanks to someone who knew how to design a hotel. Folks with briefcases ride down the elevators in the morning next to people in bathing suits. Typically, most are smiling and everyone is in a good mood.
Now I happen to be a very severe critic of hotel breakfasts because they are, to me, such a critical meal to get the day started right. Well La Concha gets it right. You can do off the menu, or you can partake of a spectacular buffet, that includes all the bells and whistles (presented in really nifty ways-so everything stays fresh-hot or cold, as appropriate. One really gets to enjoy the buffet items).
Ask for a patio table for breakfast, and if Luis is available ask for him as your waiter (he is from Mexico, but that is another story). The coffee is Puerto Rican and is addictive. Also, if you have a sweet tooth (as does most of Puerto Rico) lots of goodies to sample at the buffet. There is also an omelet station on the patio where you can get, literally, just about any type of combination you could imagine.
I have already noted that the staff are by far the best trained and friendliest I have ever experienced in Puerto Rico. Make a minimum effort to engage them and they will respond wonderfully. They are immensely proud of their hotel and their island; let them tell you.
So, if you have been coming to Puerto Rico for twenty five years, like some of us, La Concha will revive and refresh you as well as coddle you when you choose to relax. If this is your first trip to San Juan or Puerto Rico, you just can’t go wrong with this hotel. It will spoil you forever.
One thing it will never do, in my judgment, is let you down.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Welcome to the La Concha Resort experience, the stunning renovation of one of San Juan's most elegantly chic properties. On a sun-drenched corner of Caribbean beachfront in San Juan's most prestigious Condado district, La Concha is an icon of modernist architecture replete with spacious exhilarating decor and detail. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- La Concha Hotel Renaissance
- Renaissance San Juan
- San Juan Renaissance