Location, location, location ..... 5 mins from the airport (but I never heard a plane) Isla Verde beach is the best in San Juan. Famous expensive resorts sit to the right and left of this small, older inn and patio bar/restaurant on the water (I mean over the water; the patio is literally on pylons over the surf). To the right on the beach is the Ritz Carlton; to the left almost next door is the El San Juan Resort and Casino. Hotel La Playa offers comfortable, no-frills (but good free perks) accommodations in the midst of this beautiful location at 1/3 the price of the resorts (or even less if you consider the hefty resort service fees added to the final bill at the other places). They provide a simple free continental breakfast on the patio where I am now using the Wifi (provided free) to write this review while I sit only feet away from the surf watching a couple of little crabs scurry about at the edge of the deck, and a couple of paddle-boarders out beyond the surf. There is also free parking - a nice benefit in this area.
We stayed 3 days here, long enough to get to know the staff a bit; and they are very sincere, helpful, and friendly. Norbert always had a smile and joke; Julio at the front desk escorted us to our cab in the pouring rain with 3 umbrellas; and Caroline kept our room fresh and neat, even folding clothes and straightening our things. The housekeeping staff assisted us with doing a load of laundry for $2.25 in quarters and a generous tip. I saw a load of fresh coconuts being brought in via wheelbarrow, and we watched as the bartenders cut the top off with a machete and pop in a straw for us for instant Coco Frio ($5++) and then use another to make the house special drink Coco Loco with 4 rums ($12++)... fun !
For a small inn (15 rooms) there is much staff on-hand because the outdoor bar/restaurant (La Playita) is a popular local spot. We arrived our first night just before mid-night and Julio met us out on the curb when our cab dropped us off; and got another cab for us 20 mins later to go out. I always felt safe, even when I awoke at 5am and sat in a darkened patio using the Wifi while the night security guard sat nearby. We took a 20 minute walk after dark to the Walgreen's and Pueblo grocery, seeing lots of locals, and asking one of the ever-present policemen for directions.
So, keeping in mind the value offered, here are the things some tourists may not find appealing: while the beaches are the best in this part of Puerto Rico, the immediate neighborhood is older with refurbished condos and some abandoned buildings next door. The community seems to know and like each other well, whether they be the PR staffers, the retired Ford manager and his dog from Michigan who lives here 5 months per year, the law school student having a party next door at his mom's older beach condo, or the 2 established homeless men who are out on the street every day. Yes, there is a bit of real-life seediness here, including a touch of gummy beach-front bar grime left behind even after the hard-working staff does their job. The nice new French-engineered doors that proved too challenging for us dumb Americans to lock or unlock were a test of one's true "beach attitude"; but the staff was always quick to do the job if they saw us fumbling.
If you stay here, try to dress-up go over to the El San Juan Resort lobby on a Thur, Fri, or Saturday night for a real "old-days Cuban-influenced" Puerto Rican experience with live Salsa, dancing, and lots of drinks in a beautiful location. Also don't miss having a drink at sunset on top of The Water & Beach Club hotel. Great day trip was spent with Acampa Adventures ... they picked us up and handled everything for an amazing day of hiking and ziplines in Toro Negro rainforest.
Last note is that when I realized our luggage was overweight for the small plane to Vieques, they offered to keep a bag in the office for us for 2 days, at no extra charge. I like it here. It feels like family.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Newly renovated 15-room motel-style hotel, restaurant and bar in Isla Verde - only 5 minutes from San Juan's airport. Only 10 steps to the best beach in San Juan from our front door. La Playita restaurant and bar on ocean-front deck for fantastic views. New 'Miami-style' design and decor feature new beds, flat-panel cable TV, air conditioning, new bathrooms and complementary continental breakfast every morning. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- La Playa Hotel
- La Playa Carolina
- La Playita Puerto Rico/Isla Verde