I read reviews of La Concha Renaissance for months prior to our trip, and even nervously contacted a couple of reviewers trying to ascertain whether the beach would be rough or the rooms would be loud. I even e-mailed the manager, Senor Rivera, to request a quiet room. Because my husband is a Marriott gold member, we do try to stay in the Marriott/Renaissance chain when possible. But the thing that ruins a vacation for me is a loud room at night.
Our flight into SJU arrived at noon, and we collected our bags and rental car and made it to the Renaissance fairly easily by about 1 or so. The hotel is located on Ashford Avenue, along with many others such as the Stellaris Marriott and the Hilton Condado and is just around the corner from the Hilton Caribe. There are a number of restaurants on the street, such as Mike's Pizza (very good, quick, about $20 for a large), Wendy's (typical prices), Café de Angel Puertorican food (good, $8 for a generous kids meal w/ beverage--though they usually forgot to give the drink to us for free but adjusted it upon request or $15 to $18 for most entrees with two sides--enough to split with my husband as we usually do at home, $2 bottled water or soda) and even a Walgreens with some groceries ($3 for half gallon of milk, $6 for 6 ice cream sandwiches, $5 fresh cut pineapple--a little high but not bad for across the street from the beach).
We left our bags and rental car with the bellman who was Hector something--maybe Perez? He was warm and friendly and helped our kids practice counting the suitcases in Spanish. He was surprised and delighted when they started speaking whole sentences in Spanish to him. It was great practice for them. He was truly the only staff member who showed warmth or personality during our stay. Most were indifferent or stiffly polite and a couple were just rude (at the Aroma breakfast bar)...and the infamous Hector Torres (from all the TA reviews) handed me a menu at the pool but then spent 10 minutes with his back to me entering someone else's order and then talking to other employees...finally another staff person noticed me standing there with menu in hand, apologized, and told me to go back to my seat at the pool and sent someone else to take my lunch order. The hotel seemed like a large city hotel (like NYC) where there are so many people coming and going that the staff don't really take time to register you as a person and just more as another face.
The check in desk gave us a pager to let us know when our room was ready, but we were told that check in was at 4 and not to expect our room before then. So we grabbed lunch across the street at the Puertorican Café de Angel. It took an hour for the food to come, despite the fact that all the other guests seemed to be leaving as we arrived. The other two times we tried this place (once to go) were much quicker, but the waiters are a little on island time--you have to ask them for the bill several times, etc.
Then we sat and waited on backless benches in the open air lobby across the desk with all the others who seemed to wait daily for their rooms to be ready. At 3:30, we saw another family get paged, but did not get a page ourselves. At 3:45, I inquired and the clerk checked and seemed surprised that our room was ready but that we did not get a page. I mentioned several times that we had requested a quiet room and that Senor Rivera had emailed that we would indeed receive one. The clerk just reiterated that it was a high floor and sort of blanched when I mentioned that my kids are light sleepers and had been up since 4:30 am for our early flight. I hoped that our room on the 10th floor in the new suites tower would be quiet, but I was certainly disappointed.
If you arrive before the 4 pm check in time and your room is not ready, don't sit on the backless benches across from the desk where most people seem to land. We wish the clerks had told us that there are some more comfortable chairs on the far side of the room towards the pool, behind Aroma which serves as a quick breakfast place in the morning and a bar at night. Or just plan to go downtown to see Old San Juan. Or bring a swimsuit in your carryon bag and hit the pools or beach.
Do not accept a room that faces Ashford Avenue. Even though we were on the 10th (next to top) floor, the music from the casino, club, and bars below and across the street, reverberate through the floor and the sliding glass doors from 11 pm to 3 am each night. It is worse on the weekends, but still exists during the week as well. The Friday we checked out, my husband was amazed how loud the street noise still was at 5 am when we left for the airport. Previous guests told me that rooms facing the side of the hotel were better. But after waiting in the lobby so long, we were willing to take the clerk's word that it was quiet on such a high floor. And we didn't ask to be moved the next day, which was our choice...the thought of repacking a week's worth of swimsuits, clothes, etc. for four people and having to take our milk, ice cream, snacks, etc. to another room just seemed too much effort.
Fortunately the kids usually fell asleep before 11 pm and somehow slept through the noise. I brought earplugs for myself but still often woke up every hour or so. My husband often slept on the couch in the living room of our 1 bedroom suite (with 2 queen beds), which surprisingly was quiet...despite the fact that we were told that one of the 2 weddings the first night was scheduled to have some activities in the atrium of the suite tower due to the rain. It wasn't ideal, but we found that need for sleep trumped comfort.
This hotel is ideal for couples or individuals who want late night casino and bar (the whole lobby becomes a bar and you are asked not to wear shorts or swimsuits through the lobby in the evening to maintain the atmosphere...even though the only family pools can only be accessed through the far side of the lobby or if you walk through the adults only (ages 15+ and up) pool off the back of the suites tower and go a few hundred yards down the beach and back around to the family pools...
If you like lying on the beach and not getting in the water, this is the ideal hotel for you...the beach was on red flag every time we went out during our week visit. No lifeguards are on the beach at all. The waves were rough.
Even though an 18 year old died at the hotel beach in June (saw on TA and verified through a major independent news source before we went), no one at the pool or check in warned us about any dangers even though they knew we had kids. We do bring life vests and warn our kids to keep the water below their waists when there is a red flag, but the kids do splash and build sand castles...it's a beach trip after all. There is a 12foot+ wall of rocks at the edge of La Concha's beach and the current moved towards it, so watch the kids carefully even on green or yellow flag days.
If you have kids who like to swim in the ocean, I would stay instead at the nearby Hilton Caribe. We debated before going between it and La Concha and Marriott Stellaris. We chose La Concha for the 1 bedroom suite (door between living room and bedroom) and the Marriott points and having a fridge (nice sized) and microwave. Stellaris has the same rough beach as LC...it's only 6 hotels down. But Hilton Caribe has a wall protected lagoon with no waves even on rough days but also has ocean, a multitude of pools, and even a Starbucks on the beach. We visited there for Snuba (see my review of Aqua Adventures) but they also have snorkel gear to rent and Sea Trek too. If we were to return with our kids, we would stay there instead.
Although we love having a solid wall between our living room and bedroom as our younger son goes to bed and awakes at much different times than our teen, the noise from the street was a huge disadvantage. We also did not know that the shower shares a glass frosted wall with the bedroom and the toilet shares a frosted glass wall with the bathroom. Though the glass was frosted enough for modesty, if you turned on the light to use the toilet or took a shower, it woke up whomever was sleeping. So everyone had to shower before my little one went to bed or after my teen woke up. And you had to use the toilet in the dark. I'm sure the frosted glass was a cool loft look for a couple or an individual, but it just doesn't work well for a family at all.
Tip for Management:
Please spend one night in a street facing suite yourself. Better yet, bring a young child or niece or nephew with you. IMMEDIATELY replace all glass sliding doors with ones that lock well (the lock is VERY hard to click and isn't sturdy at all!) and that are SOUND PROOF!!! Great Wolf Lodge in Concord has an extra lock on the floor at the base of the sliding door for extra safety. Check with them to see where they got them. San Juan is a city full of homes with bars over their windows, balconies, and even A/C units. Surely your guests would like secure exterior balcony doors.
Next, soundproof the roof of the casino/club in the ground floor of your hotel. The sound literally reverberates through the floor and beds all the way up to the 10th floor. Literally the bed shook.
Next, in rooms with 2 queen beds, replace the frosted glass between the bathroom and the bedroom with sheetrock. If we come to your hotel with a family, we don't want to see each other in the shower or the toilet. Also replace the glass window between the living room and the hallway/atrium with sheetrock. We don't really want to watch anyone walking by our suite and don't want to hear the noise from their conversations late at night.
Work with the local government to have lifeguards on the beach. You can prevent many drownings by having life guards and not just security that makes sure that non guests are not accessing your grounds. On NC beaches, we have life guard stands every few yards. They are proactive telling individuals where the rip tides are and bringing back folks who get too far out. Even though we appreciated the lovely free chairs and umbrellas (and the hard working staff that were quick to set them up for folks), in NC the life guards charge for the rentals and get tips that help pay their salaries. I'd definitely pay $25 a day for a chair and umbrella if that meant that my kids were safe in the water with a life guard at hand. Even though I watched my kids, even if I knew they were in trouble, there was no one to call for help if I realized they needed rescued.
The hotel is clean and attractive. We saw workers repainting ceilings and scrubbing floors at 5 am on our way to the airport.
There are 3 pools (one is split level). One is ages 15+. Occasionally pools were closed for private events. There was lunch and drink service at the pools and beach. You did have to hunt someone down, but they were around. Kids meal was $8 for 3 tenders and fries (drink extra). Most entrees were $15 to $20 for a sandwich or quesadilla or the like. There are vendors on the beach selling sunglasses, empanadas, ice cream, etc. Get the passion fruit (or coconut) ice cream for $4 a cup. Delicious!!!
There is a sushi bar in the lobby in the afternoons. Voga (30% for gold members) and La Perla were upscale restaurants in house. Aroma has a $15 continental breakfast where you choose any 4 items--coffee (free refills), juice, yogurt, muffins, cookies, bottle water, apples, bananas, etc. for $15. If you choose 5 or more items, it's $25 and can also include pancakes, eggs, etc. at that price point.
Marriott gold (50 nights or more a year) members no longer have access at La Concha to the conciergle lounge as of June. Since we booked prior to June but arrived in July, I asked Senior Rivera to allow us access to the lounge. Instead, he graciously comped continental breakfast for us at Aroma for 2 adults and 2 kids...which should be 16 items (4 times 4). Each day the staff gave us a different story on what we could have 12 items, 8 items, 16 items...sometimes graciously, a couple of times not. This daily $60+ charge went on our bill but was kindly and efficiently removed by the concierge the night before we checked out when we asked. Aroma is open from 6 to 10:30 am. A better value for a family is to bring items from home or hit Walgreens. Also, Dunkin Donuts is just a block away and Ben & Jerry's is on the far side of the hotel.
We checked with Marriott Stellaris, and they would have charged $20 for my teen and $10 for my middle schooler to use the concierge lounge a day. It's hard for them to get $30 worth of breakfast, snacks, and sodas day. And we liked having a separated room, which Stellaris did not offer.
La Concha's one bedroom suite has a sliding wood door between living room and bedroom/bathroom area. There is a window out to the hallway which is a large atrium. The room does smell musty but is not noticeable when the a/c runs. The a/c can be set down to 68 degrees. There is a nice sized fridge and separate freezer with ice maker as well as a standard microwave and stove top (no oven). You are given dishes for four and few pots/pans. There is a sponge and dishwashing liquid but no paper towels or dishtowel (handtowel makes do). There is a small sink by the stove top. The white leather couch is not the most comfy but works. There is a curved banquet seat for 3 and a single chair for the 4th person at the table.
The a/c works well. My trick was to let the room get a tiny bit warm before I went to bed so that the ac would run when I went to sleep as the white noise was great at helping to drown out the music/street noise. I also advise you to bring earplugs, if you are sensitive...or just book an oceanfront room. I did not see any oceanfronts listed with 2 double beds (only king) so I didn't book that.
Also, if you want a GUARANTEE of 2 beds or a king at any Marriott, the trick is to join Marriott Rewards (free). They guarantee your bed choice if you are a member...or will give you back the cost of your night's stay in cash.
Valet parking is $20 a day. We had to wait a bit at mid morning (check out for many) but they were speedy otherwise.
Resort fee is 18% of your room rate. We had a great rate $176 weekday/$206 weekend, but higher rates would bring a higher resort fee. Most hotels have a set fee so the percentage seems a bit unreasonable. This resort fee covers wifi for unlimited devices (even worked well on the BEACH!!!) and 2 bottles of water a day. We only were given water on the first day and not the next 5...but if we saw housekeeping and mentioned it, they were happy to give us some. Just ask. (of course, you shouldn't have to ask when you pay for it)
Sometimes towels or sheets for the sofa bed weren't left. Requests were quickly answered. We did have one cute puppy towel animal on our last night but that was the only time. I never saw the same housekeeper twice. We do tip.
The safe is large enough to hold a smaller laptop and all of iPads, DSes, phones, etc.
We never had a "WOW" moment. We've seen the GMs reach out to Gold Members at other Renaissance properties...especially when the concierge lounge was closed to us for a holiday or something. Like when the concierge was asked what time we should leave for our 7 am flight and we asked her to adjust our Aroma charges, it would have been nice for her to realize we wouldn't be able to get breakfast on our last day and sent something up. Or for the manager to have given us full breakfast in Aroma or Voga, the nicer restaurant, or sent some sodas and snacks to our room since we could no longer access the concierge lounge (the GM in Asheville did both of those over Thanksgiving)...though it was nice for him to comp the cheaper breakfast at Aroma, it was a hassle every day because the staff didn't know how to handle it as we weren't on the "list" of rooms with breakfast with their package and it was only in the notes of our room reservation. No one called to see if our room was okay or thanked us for being gold members. Even my last Fairfield in Atlanta ($78 a night) gave us a welcome gift.
All in all, if this hotel checks your list, it's a nice clean pretty hotel with pools, beach, dining options, and a good location. If you are a family, I'd either book 2 oceanfront rooms and book snorkeling adventures with Aqua Adventure or just stay at the Hilton Caribe.
We had a great time in San Juan, tried our Spanish skills, explored the rainforest (very crowded on the July 4 holiday weekend), ziplined with Toro Verde (great!). snuba-ed with Aqua Adventures (amazing!), kayaked in the Bioluminescent Bay with IO Ecoquest Tours (amazing!), and had some good family time for a very reasonable price (and Southwest even flies there!). We probably wouldn't return to San Juan or La Concha, but it was a good holiday.
- 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