My 12-year-old son and I just got back from a relaxing trip to Puerto Rico. We'd visited once before during a March school break (which we, along with the rest of NYC, absolutely loved!) but I was curious to see how different it would be in August. Would the humidity and heat leave us cowering in our air-conditioned room? I am happy to report that we were pleasantly surprised with our beautiful week of sunshine and breezy weather. We were invited to visit not one but two resorts, El Conquistador and Condado Plaza. Learn about our favorite things at El Conquistador here, which may leave you wanting to book your next family trip.
El Conquistador in Fajardo is the largest resort on the island and an easy 45- minute drive from the airport. Situated atop a 300-foot bluff on the eastern tip of Puerto Rico, it overlooks the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. If you are looking for a resort that provides you with oodles of family fun, this is one serious contender. They have the Coqui water park and their own private resort island, where you can snorkel, jet ski, paddle board, kayak etc. There is also a marina, multiple impressive pools, an Arthur Hills designed 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, the amazing Waldorf Astoria Spa, game rooms, kid’s scout program, Camp Coqui (for 4-12 year olds), and tons of great dining options.
Accommodations The rooms in the hotel are modern, bright and big enough for a family of 4. Las Casitas is a separate area of the resort that is perfect for families traveling together who want to share a three-bedroom home fully equipped with a kitchen, gorgeous water views, three bathrooms and nice size living room. Las Casitas guests receive their own butler, who will coordinate getting groceries, booking dining and golf reservations, etc. They also offer one-and-two-bedroom casitas. This is a great place to stay if you would prefer to be a bit removed from all of the action at the main hotel. Las Casitas also has a few of its own smaller pools including a gorgeous infinity pool.
Scout About Adventure is a Great Introduction to the Resort A great way to get the kids familiar with the resort is to participate in their Scout About Adventure program. Children receive a map upon check in with points of interest to be visited and checked off. At each checkpoint on the map, kids take a rubber bracelet from the box. Once all of the bracelets are collected, the child receives the special El Conquistador bracelet. My son loved running around finding the points on the map and collecting the bracelets. They had the same program at our second resort, Condado Plaza, and he had fun doing the same routine there. And, behold! I think the he even learned some interesting facts about Puerto Rico!
Dining There are multiple restaurants at the resort, so there are diverse dining options. Chops Steakhouse has an impressive decor with an equally impressive menu. Being a steakhouse, yet always catering to the client, they offer plenty of options for those less enthusiastic about red meat. The pistachio crusted grouper was delicious and don't worry, their filet mignon is pretty dang good too! Don’t miss the 24 layer chocolate cake. I promise it will satisfy your entire table's chocolate craving for a month.
Another evening we had dinner in the resort's seafood restaurant, Stingray Cafe. Our sea bass over lobster risotto was amazing. It's a nice place to relax in luxury while enjoying a fine Caribbean infused meal overlooking the marina. After dinner it's fun to walk down to the lobby and enjoy the game rooms with the kids. There's even a DJ and dance floor for some after dinner entertainment.
Your Own Private Island In the morning we hopped on the ferry and 10 minutes later we arrived at El Conquistador's private Palomino Island, surrounded by pristine turquoise water. Horseback riding, basketball, hiking, water sports and snorkeling are available (some for a fee). They have rafts to rent as well as tons of chairs set out along the beach, including nice shady areas for relief from the sun. There are restaurants that serve casual food as well as a bar. Palomino Island is one of the highlights of the resort. I love how you feel you are leaving the resort for a change of pace, yet everything is still taken care of for you. We enjoyed paddle boarding and snorkeling as well as painting coconuts.
A Splashing Good Time at the Water Park As if that wasn't enough water fun, we then visited the resort's own Coqui Water Park. The highlight for my daredevil son was the 40-foot drop water slide. This mom, however, prefers floating down the lazy river. Coqui is a favorite for all ages. The main pool is 8500-square feet. They have a cafe, plenty of life guards, and you can even get temporary tattoos. Cabanas are available to rent if you want to make sure you have shade. This is not included in the resort fee so be prepared to pay $20 per adult and $15 for each child ages 3-12. Totally worth it.
Arthur Hills Golf Course The Arthur Hills golf course is one of the most challenging and unique in Puerto Rico, with beautiful views from every angle. We tried out their SNAG program (Starting New At Golf) with the director who made this resistant mama golfer open her mind to even the thought of playing golf. We also were introduced to foot golf, the new sport phenomena, that began in Europe about 4 years ago. My son knew all about it and was thrilled we'd get to try. This is the only course in the Caribbean and they hold tournaments about once every 2 months. If you are a soccer family, this could be a new infatuation for you. You are basically kicking the ball, instead of using a golf ball and club, to specific holes on the course.
The Waldorf Astoria Spa The resort’s Waldorf Astoria Spa is no trivial matter. Get prepared for some serious pampering. This 3-floor, 26,000-square foot spa offers a fully equipped state of the art gym, 25 treatment rooms, saunas, a mommy and me spa room, beautiful relaxation rooms, as well as a fully stocked skin care boutique. They even have a full hair salon when nothing but a blow out will do. My son and I enjoyed a mommy and me body salt scrub treatment. My son, who had never been to a spa before (shocking, right?), couldn't stop giggling at the start but soon relaxed into it. I was very impressed with the quality of the spa and love that they go organic and local with their products where they can, like using coffee from the resort for the coffee body scrub treatment.
Fun Fitness After indulging in too many desserts, we were lucky enough to participate in a private parkour pool class with Rita, who runs the health program at the Waldorf Spa. She had us running, jumping and using webbed gloves to create resistance in the water. The kids were totally into it. The spa also offers yoga and meditation classes. As a resort guest you can book a class during your stay. The gym in the spa is well equipped and had me wishing that I'd brought my work out gear. Besides the gym and golf course there are also tennis courts on the resort. Needless to say that there are plenty of ways to stay active while vacationing here.
Explore the Area If you want to explore the surrounding area, you can book a cab (or use your rental car) to take you to one of the great local restaurants not far from the resort. The seafood and Puerto Rican rice and beans are amazing. El Yunque Rainforest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S., is only about 30-40 minutes away. Worth the trip.
I whole-heartedly recommend El Conquistador to families looking for a resort where there is something for everyone. The children have loads of options, mom and dad can carve out "me time" and everyone can have a fantastic vacation!
El Conquistador Resort
1000 El Conquistador Avenue