A November 2004 trip
to San Juan by FSO_Michael
Quote: For Thanksgiving 2004, we embarked on a new tradition: sun, sand, and surf in beautiful Puerto Rico. An amazingly short four hours away from New Jersey, we enjoyed relaxation and recreation at the Wyndham El Conquistador Resort and Spa - a little piece of heaven on earth.
Old San Juan - Once you enter Old San Juan, you feel like you’ve stepped into a Colonial Spanish town, which is what San Juan started as nearly 500 years ago. You can walk the narrow cobblestone streets and enjoy a stunning architecture from the 16th and 17th centuries. Our favorite activity in Old San Juan is shopping. We particularly enjoy the various arts and crafts stores, such as Olé, located at Calle Fortaleza 105, with its Panama hats, santos (saints hand-carved from wood), silver, and more. Another highlight for us is to gaze at the cruise ships that dock in San Juan – on most days, you can see ships from all of the major lines – Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Princess, to name a few. The ships are amazing feats of engineering and a helpful boost to the local economy.
Luquillo Beach - Rated as one of the nicest public beaches in Puerto Rico, this gem is located about 30 miles east of San Juan and is very close to Fajardo and El Yunque (the only rain forest in the U.S. National Forest system). As an added plus, the fee to get in is nominal (a few dollars) and there is a wide array of food stalls located on the premises.
El Morro - A fort located at the entrance to San Juan Bay, a short walk from the center of Old San Juan, is a fantastic structure built by the Spanish. While parts of it are nearly 500 years old, other sections have been added as recently as WWII. It is possible to tour the fort from 9am to 5pm in November. It is well worth a visit for adults and kids alike.
If you book a resort, look for packages with inclusions or discounts: meals, spa treatments, golf, water sports, 4th or 5th night free, etc. This will help extend your travel dollars and give you a chance to splurge on activities you might not otherwise partake in.
Take time to enjoy Puerto Rican hospitality. The locals tend to smile often and really appreciate efforts to speak to them in Spanish, even though nearly all can speak English.
Hotel | "El Conquistador Resort and Golden Door Spa"
CHECK-IN: As a Wyndham By Request member, the express check-in took a total of 5 minutes, including time waiting in line. For a busy holiday weekend, I thought this was great!
THE ROOM: We booked a deluxe ocean view room with balcony and requested either the Las Brisas or Las Vista wing so we could be close to the restaurants and pool. We got a room in Las Brisas on the 3rd floor – the same level as the main pool area. The room condition and furnishings were okay. This was more than compensated by the large bathroom with Spanish tile floor, walk-in closet, and spacious balcony with outstanding views of Palomino Island. We reserved the Family Getaways By Request special which gave us a 4th night free, 2-for-1 spa services, and free kid's meals at most restaurants.
PALOMINO ISLAND: The hotel doesn’t have a beach on-site; they have something even better – their own private island. We went on the first full day around 10am in the morning. The hotel has a funicular that you take down to the marina level where the ferry to Palomino Island is. Taking the funicular down to La Marina was quick and efficient. In the four days we were at the hotel, both funiculars were in working order and we never waited more than 3-5 minutes in any direction. The ferry ride to Palomino took about 20 minutes. Once at the beach, it was easy to find an available palapa and relax beachside. I rented a pedal bike for me and my son for an hour ($30) and pedaled our way to a tiny atoll about 1/2 mile away from Palomino. It was a fun little open sea adventure and great exercise!
POOL AREA: My son went to the pool area every day and loved it. He particularly liked the kiddy slide and would spend an hour or more on this alone. We were always able to find deck chairs with tables and umbrellas, which allowed us to alternately sun and shade.
GOLDEN DOOR SPA: I had a 50 minute Golden Door massage ($110), which was just phenomenal. Of course, I've only had three massages in my lifetime, but nevertheless, this was the best. My wife had a facial for $115 and she said it was okay (not the best she's ever had), but worth the price, considering my massage was free of charge.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 17, 2005
Waldorf El Conquistador Resort and Golden Door Spa
1000 El Conquistador Avenue
Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Restaurant | "Isabela's Steak House"
The food was well-prepared, and the presentation was spectacular. For the cold buffet, there were multiple prepared salads, as well as peel-and-eat jumbo shrimp, grilled asparagus, and more. For the hot buffet, there was turkey (of course), but with special Puerto Rican touches, such as tropical salsas and other spices that made it a little more than just a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. There was also a roasted pork that was absolutely delicious.
While the meal was no doubt pricey ($55 for adults, $25 for our 5-year-old), it was worth it in terms of the quality of the food. It was a perfect family meal during the holidays.
Isabela's Steak House & Grill
El Conquistador Resort & Country Club
Dorado, Puerto Rico 00646
Restaurant | "Blossoms"
For anyone not familiar with teppanyaki, it is an experience not to be missed. Half of the meal is all about witnessing the chef's skill in chopping, slicing, dicing, cooking, and presenting each person's meal. We all found this to be hugely entertaining, particularly a "volcano" made out of a stack of onion slices.
For my meal, I had the filet mignon, my wife had scallops, and my son had a half-order of shrimp, which was free because of our resort package. My filet was tender and melted in my mouth. My wife's scallops were firm, yet tender. To accompany the main dishes were fried rice, grilled vegetables, miso soup, and for dessert, ice cream.
Total cost was $93 and completely worth it, for both the quality and taste of the food, as well as the entertaining preparation.
Blossoms at El Conquistador Resort
1000 Conquistador Avenue
Fajardo, Puerto Rico 00738
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico