I was going to title my review, "My wife got sunburned, and it's all Conquistador's fault," but, with some of the reviews on here, people would have actually believed I meant it. My wife and I absolutely loved this place. It was a great vacation. I'll do my best to sum up an amazing vacation, provide responses to negative reviews, and mention some things to be aware of.
Treatment/Service: Everyone at this resort was amazingly friendly and went out of their way to ensure you had a great stay. Our trip started with a free upgrade. I booked an Ocean View room on top of the hill, but was upgraded (two levels) to an Ocean View room in the Marina Village. The rooms were bigger, and it was nice to be so close to the ferry and water park. Thanks El Conquistador! The staff always greeted you with a smile, and said, 'hello' as you passed them. You will generally get out of people what you put into them. Be friendly to them, and you will get friendliness in return. All in all, 5 stars for service.
Food/Restaurants: There are an amazing amount of food options here. In our five days, we were not able to eat at all the restaurants. For the negative reviews about food prices - they act like someone held a gun to their head and made them eat the most expensive food at the most expensive restaurants on the property. There are plenty of choices across the board, and if you want to save money on food, there are options available. And the drinking water in Puerto Rico is very clean and safe, so no need to order bottled water. Save the money and get the tap. Here's what we did try, and the results:
Café Bella Vista - A great restaurant for lunch and dinner! We really enjoyed the pizza there. A sizeable (and delicious) pizza will run you between $12-16 at this restaurant. I found that if we weren't completely starving, my wife and I could even split a pizza. Either way, you could eat for between $6-16/person here.
Starbucks - Fairly standard products and prices, and many very happy people to have it on site.
Café Caribe - It's a great place for a relatively inexpensive family meal. It's open for three meals a day, so if you don't want a full buffet, Café Caribe was a great option. I got a huge breakfast here (bacon, eggs, French toast...all in large quantities) for around $13 here. My wife got a fruit plate that fed two people for $10. All was delicious, and, as with many of the restaurants here, we had leftovers for the fridge in our room.
Iguana's (on Palomino Island) - This place was just ok for food, but the prices were reasonable. It's a good place to grab a mid-day bite on a long day on the island. Two good-sized meals (sandwiches, burgers, etc) came to $26 here for two, so $13 a person.
La Piccola Fontana - This is the nice Italian place on site. Nice restaurant, with excellent service, but my wife and I thought the food was just average. We are lovers of Italian food, so perhaps went in with very high expectations. A lot of people really like this one though, so don't go by just one review. Two large meals (with leftovers) came to $58 total here, so $29/person.
Blossoms - This is the nice East Asian restaurant on the property. We only tried the Teppanyaki grill, so I can't speak to the Chinese or Sushi portions of the restaurant. The Teppanyaki was excellent! I've been more entertained at Teppanyaki grill's elsewhere, but the food here compared favorably with any I've ever had. We had huge portions here (leftovers for both) and paid about $36/person. Spendy, but delicious, and we each got two meals out of it.
Ballyhoo - This is the Marina level bar and grill, and is a very relaxing place to sit right along the water and have a laid back meal. We ate two meals here, and really enjoyed both of them (quesadillas, pulled pork sandwiches, etc). Our meals came out to about $12/person here.
Las Brisas - We did the breakfast buffet here one morning. There are tons of options in the buffet, so something for everyone. The food overall was standard breakfast buffet food, but not bad at all. Some of the items were very good. We paid about $26/person here (but I ate well).
The Sweet Shop - We just got some cookies here, but I thought I'd mention it, because it's another relatively cheap option for breakfast. You could get breakfast sandwiches, omelets, etc here for $6-8. Probably one of the better deals on the resort.
All in all, I'd give 4+ stars for the restaurants (combined quality, quantity, choices, and setting).
Rooms: This is where I would ding the resort, but only slightly. Our room was spacious, and clean, but certainly not five stars. The bed was large and comfortable. The bathroom was huge, but very standard in quality. The television was nice, and had a good programming package. There was plenty of closet and drawer space. The carpet was well-maintained, but they should definitely go with tile flooring when they redo the rooms. Tropical environments are not conducive to carpeting, being more humid, so the room itself did feel a little damp (we were right on the water though). The balcony was really nice for relaxing in the mornings and evenings. Overall, it was a pleasant room, but more like a 3 star Holiday Inn room than a 5 star Waldorf room. 3+ stars here.
The grounds: The grounds were spectacular! The landscaping is absolutely beautiful here, with incredible attention to detail. We found everything to be well-maintained. It's just a pleasure to stroll around a property like this. 5 stars for the grounds.
Other: There are so many things on this resort, that you'd have to be here for a while to get bored. While it was just my wife and I staying, I thought it would be an excellent family resort. There are five total pools on the main property (plus 1 or 2 more in Casitas). The upper level pools (three in all), were large, rarely overcrowded, and one did have watersports during the day. They also will give you a 1-hour scuba lesson there, if you've never been scuba diving, then take you out to the open water. Can't beat that.
Las Olas seemed like the quietest place on the resort. It has it's own pool and hot tub, but not much else there, so not many visitors outside those staying in those rooms. If you want the quietest stay possible, that's probably the place.
The waterpark was great at the end of the day. You spend only $5/person to get in after 4PM, and it's well worth it. It has three fun slides, with fairly short waits for all of them, and a lazy river. It also has an infinity pool, and activities for the kids, as well as a restaurant.
Shops - There is a lot of shopping here, both indoors and out. We browsed, but didn't buy. We did make use of the convenience stores (there are a couple of them) to get snacks for while we were out and about. The convenience stores also sell hot dogs and sandwiches, if you're looking for cheap meal options on the go. There were also several ice cream shops and sweet shops on the resort, if you have a craving for something sweet.
Activities - There are kids camps and activities happening all over the resort and island all day (but out of sight, and out of the way), so plenty for the kids there, without disturbing the adults. They also have two arcades on site, and one teenage club running in the evenings. There are also a couple of adult bars, and one of them had nightly entertainment. They had dive-in movies almost every night we were there, which was fun. They also offer dance lessons, water sports, and other activities during the day and early evening.
We did not golf, but the course looks beautiful and challenging, and that's the review I got from the people I spoke to who golfed as well.
Funiculars - We actually enjoyed them. They are running constantly, meaning you never really have to wait more than a few minutes for one. And they offer a beautiful, scenic, panoramic view of the resort and Atlantic Ocean during your ride, so enjoy it!
Palomino Island - We loved it! The ferry leaves for the island every half an hour, so if you just miss one, another will be along shortly. They actually dock about every 10-15 minutes. The ride is only 8 minutes, so very quick, and very enjoyable. The island itself is beautiful. The sand is great, and the waters are quite calm, even on a windy day! I heard some people complain about rocks. I was barefoot the whole time I was there, and didn't have a problem. There is a 2-foot section in the water, where the waves gently roll ashore, that has coral fragments. They are all rounded, and not sharp. Anything before that stretch, or farther out into the water, is almost entirely sand, and very easy on the feet.
They rent a lot of equipment there, from basic inner tubes, to larger family ones, to kayaks, sailboats, and wave runners. Most of the pricing there seemed reasonable. There's also a volleyball court and small basketball court there, as well as a restaurant and separate bar. We rented kayaks, and paddled to the small island that was featured in the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It was just my wife and I. It's an easy paddle (less than 10 minutes over unbelievably crystal blue waters), but when we got there, we felt like we were in a world of our own. We stayed on the island for 2 hours, just the two of us, and loved it. The resort only charged us for an hour, so thanks again, El Con!
We also did horseback riding on Palomino Island. We did the first tour in the morning (around 1030). We were the only two people on the tour, so it was another private tour for us! The guide did a great job of leading us around the island, up to the highest point, and then along the white, sandy beaches. He took time out to take our picture several times as well. Great tour, and you don't have to know anything about horses to participate and enjoy it.
I give this resort 5 stars for activities, pools, Palomino Island, etc. If you're looking for a place to spend a few days, and not have to go off the resort to be entertained, this is a great option.
Outside activities - The resort tour desk makes it very easy to book outside activities. I won't review the actual activities here, other than to say they were enjoyable, and worth the money.
One suggestion. If you are a morning person, or if you don't mind getting up in the mornings, get up and watch the sunrise from a hot tub, pool, or lounge chair on top of the cliff in the morning. This is a sleepy resort, that doesn't really wake up until after 9AM, so those first couple of hours in the morning are wonderfully peaceful and relaxing. I highly recommend taking advantage of that.
Sorry to be so wordy, but there is so much to do here at this great resort, and some people have really short-changed it. I wanted to provide some reality behind the story. Hope that helps. Enjoy your stay! I know we did!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Award-winning oceanfront resort perched atop a cliff, overlooking Caribbean Sea on one side & Atlantic Ocean on the other. Check out the dramatic views, the private island, relaxing spa golf course or the water park - it's all part of this Caribbean paradise. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- El Conquistador Resort, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel Fajardo
- Waldorf Astoria Fajardo
- El Conquistador Hotel Puerto Rico
- Conquistador Hotel Puerto Rico
- El Conquistador Puerto Rico
- El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort Puerto Rico/Fajardo