We booked a long weekend at the Ritz Carlton in San Juan on a bit of a whim. Wanted to escape NYC for somewhere guaranteed to be warm so we could just relax and unwind. Chose San Juan because it's an easy, direct flight. Once we made the reservations, I discovered several friends who had been to this hotel and really enjoyed it. Let me start by saying that, overall, it was an okay stay. Would I go back? No. Why? I think you can do much better for the money...let me explain.
A previous poster mentioned how close it was to the airport. That is absolutely true. Rooms in the front of the hotel overlook the airport runways. You do hear the thunderous roar of airplanes coming and going the entire time you are lounging at the pool or the beach. Side note: the cab driver overcharged us by $5...just FYI, confirm that it is a $10 fare plus a $1/bag charge before they start to drive. It's literally a five minute cab ride.
We arrived at 1 a.m., so we probably didn't get the typical first impression of a Ritz Carlton guest. We dragged in our own bags, front desk guy was nice and efficient, but we had to confirm specifics of our check in...he didn't offer them. The offer to help take our bags up to the room was more of a hesitant, please-don't-say-yes question. Got the feeling they were operating with a very lean staff at that hour.
While the lobby was quite elegant and classy, once stepping off the elevator on our floor it was clear that the hotel was quite old, and possibly refurbished from something that was not a Ritz Carlton before. It was clean and well-cared for, but worn doorways showed clear signs of age.
We had reserved a club-level, ocean view balcony room and were quite surprised by how unimpressive the room was. It had all the standard appointments, but it was rather small, very little closet space (we had trouble fitting our suitcases in the closet), and the bathroom was nothing remarkable (one sink, shower/tub combo...did have a water closet, though). Our room clearly had some of the best views in the place, but we still overlooked unattractive rooftops of the buildings and apartments to the west. We had great views of the pool and beach, but the beach was quite far from our room. The only other rooms with balconies had a decent view of the beach, but no real views of the pool...instead they overlook the basketball court/wedding gazebo.
We popped up the first morning to spend the day at the pool and were surprised by how hard it was to find two decent lounge chairs together. Obviously, even though the pool area was jam-packed with lounge chairs, people had come down early to reserve seats (and frustratingly enough, we observed that many of the "reserved" chairs went unused over the course of the day). We ended up stuck by the beachside restaurant that day and were subjected to the not-so-great music coming from the bar and a steady stream of traffic (made up of waitstaff, guests going back and forth the bathroom, landscapers, etc.). It was hardly private or relaxing, but we learned our lesson and went down to reserve chairs at 7 a.m. the rest of our stay. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. (Note: shame on Ritz Carlton for maintaining such a large, private cabana area in a prime location. We looked into reserving those, were told they were booked for the entire weekend, and saw that they were more than 75% empty the whole weekend. You really should have plenty of comfortable seating for your paying guests.)
Somewhat surprising was the fact that the Ritz sits on a postage stamp-size property on a public beach. We preferred to hang by the pool during the day, but we were disappointed that walking the beach in the daytime or evenings was not appealing. Neighbors of the Ritz Carlton include: a rundown sports club, an unattractive condo building (which rooms on the east side of the building overlook), a Marriott Courtyard (which looked quite decent and appeared to have better ocean views than we had!), etc. Also disappointing, because of the way the beach is shaped and the height of the buildings to the west, we didn't get to see one sunset while we were there (even from the 9th floor balcony). Such a shame...I'm sure they were lovely.
I could easily get bogged down with other details about the pluses and minues, but I'll do my best to sum up here.
- The people were very friendly...we generally had great service from genuinely great and helpful staff.
- We had some EXCELLENT meals. Mares serves a great brunch and has a very nice lunch menu. BLT Steak and Il Mulino, while very pricey, were outstanding. In four days, we only left the property for one meal away, and I wouldn't have changed that.
- The atmosphere was surprisingly casual. I had been warned that dress codes were strict at the restaurants, but was disappointed that we had gotten so dressed up when others showed up in jeans.
- Property and room were rather disappointing. Housekeeping missed a few beats by not removing empty glasses (to the point of absurdity...like 10 over two days!) and not properly stocking our towels (we only had a bath mat two of the four days). Also had a bizarre situation where a bottle of wine was errantly delivered to our room. We unknowingly tipped the guy who delivered it, only to find out it was sent to the wrong room after he had walked away. We notified the front desk, and they took the bottle from our room during turndown service without leaving a substitute or just telling us to keep it. We were out the $10 tip for that one...kind of strange.
- The proximity to the airport was pretty annoying.
- Beach was nothing special. Hard to walk and crowded with local surfers.
- Club level lounge had a pretty lame breakfast spread and the lounge itself was small and dark. It didn't compare to other Ritz Carlton lounges we've had the pleasure of visiting in the past.
- We were shocked by all the families. Could have been the time of year we were there, but we had a couple of instances were children were very disruptive during our meals. Frustrating that parents don't consider other diners when their children are running laps around the tables and bouncing on seats. I'd expect that at a hotel near Disney World, but not here.
Overall, we had a pleasant but unremarkable stay. We were hoping to come across a place that could be a regular long-weekend getaway for some late-winter R&R...but this was NOT the place. We kept saying to each other that while there were things that were very easy to nit-pick, the biggest problem was that we could have gotten A LOT more for our money somewhere else. Had we stayed in one of the less expensive rooms or gotten a great deal, perhaps we'd have felt differently. But for $900 a night (after tax and resort fees), I would hope for more...MUCH more.
I've included photos here, but keep in mind that they were taken during off hours (pool doesn't look croweded) or I went out of my way to crop out "unsightly" elements (like the rooftops, etc.).
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- Also Known As:
- Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel Isla Verde
- Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel, Spa And Casino
- Ritz Carlton Carolina
- Carolina Ritz Carlton
- Ritz Carlton Puerto Rico
- Ritz Carolina
- The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan Puerto Rico/Isla Verde