There are many, many reasons the El Conquistador Resort, located on the north-eastern side of Puerto Rico near Fajardo, is a great place to spend a few days. The hotel has been around a long time, moving between brands over the years. It is currently operating as part of the Waldorf=Astoria Collection under the Hilton HHonors flag and in just about every way the service provided spoke to the expectations of such a resort. And, despite its age, the facilities seemed to be quite well maintained as well.
The resort property is a sprawling complex atop a cliff overlooking the water. There are rooms in several buildings and the views from just about every angle were top-notch.
We were also fortunate that for most of our stay the resort was quite empty. We pretty much had run of the facilities, with no lines or difficulty accessing the various services. This did come back to bite us on occasion – the spa closed early due to lack of demand one day, for example – but it generally worked out in our favor.
The location of the resort presents a few challenges for guests. First, the multiple buildings can mean long walks between parts of the resort. To get from the spa to the marina, for example, could easily take 30 minutes, with multiple elevators and long walks in between. Getting to the Marina also means a ride in a funicular, which was fun but also got to be a bit of a pain to wait for several times a day. It also meant the non-stop sound of it running audible from our room, day and night. Eventually I managed to tune it out, but it was not at all quiet.
Getting to the beach was an even greater adventure. There isn’t actually a beach at the resort. Instead they have a private island just a couple miles off-shore with a beach as well as hiking and various other activities. The 20 minute ferry ride is only slightly annoying but the limited service – only hourly most of the week due to low occupancy rates – was much more unfortunate. Even the regular half-hourly schedule isn’t all that great. On the plus side, once you get out to the beach, the water was lovely and the facilities both broad and reasonably priced for a resort facility.
The biggest disappointment of the stay, by far, was the food served on the resort. We had one good meal out of five. That’s not the sort of rate you’re looking for when access to alternative dining is so limited. We ate at two of the "fancy" restaurants for dinners, the Italian place and Strip House, the steak restaurant. The steak was great and that whole experience was pretty much awesome. The other meals, not so much. Breakfast in the café was cold, both the first time if was served and the second time after we asked them to try again. Lunch on the island with the beach was limited to three sandwich options because the main restaurant was closed for repairs during the low season. And the one I ended up eating was just mediocre. At least the pina coladas served on the beach were reasonably tasty. Truly disappointing just how bad the dining was. Especially given the ridiculous mark-ups charged.
We got off-property to eat a couple times, too, and that was much better. A few posts about those options will be forthcoming.
Oh, and apparently their version of the business center is stuck in 2002.
There are a couple "bodega" type shops on the property if you want sundries, snacks or self-serve booze and the prices aren’t completely horrible. That said, if you have a rental car it is highly recommended to stock up at a grocery on the way in from the airport. That was definitely useful for us.
Overall the property really is very nice. We were treated wonderfully from the moment we arrived until our departure. And the facilities were lovely. I sortof wish the bad meals didn’t leave me so bummed about the overall experience. Alas, it seems they have. Maybe because the worst of the meals was our last on the morning of departure.