We recently spent two nights at the Condado Plaza Hilton in the Condado Beach area near San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was the final stop on our energetic 8-day tour of Puerto Rico’s north coast, which you can read about by clicking here. Puerto Rico as a vacation destination has something for everyone: shopping, fine and casual dining, history and spa time. But I was ready to relax and decompress and this Hilton is a great choice.
The Condado Plaza Hilton is a sprawling hotel that spans both sides of Ashford Avenue, connected by a walkway. To feel more connected with the resort proper, book a room in the ocean tower. Decor is art deco style: cool, minimalistic and stark white with bright splashes of color. And the beds? It was the most comfortable mattress of the whole trip.
Here are eight reasons to stay at the Condado Plaza Hilton on your next trip to San Juan:
Reason #1: A great pool scene. Not in a night clubby, be-and-be-seen sort of way. Although I’m sure it can be that too. We found it to be a comfortable, casual and unpretentious way to spend a few hours while the kids played in the pool and on the waterslide, just steps from the beach.
Reason 2: A fun swim-up bar. While this could technically be part of #1, it deserves its own place on the list.
Reason #3: The view. For the best views, reserve an upper-floor oceanfront guest room in the Ocean Tower; you’ll have the easiest access to the facilities you’ll use most. Then grab a drink and sit on your balcony. Oceanside rooms afford ocean views and modern room decor.
Reason #4: The Vegas-style casino. I’m generally a non-gambler but I found it a fun way to spend an hour one evening. I won $200 in the slot machine so I may be a bit biased.
Reason #5 – The Condado Plaza Hilton has what every Las Vegas Hotel and Casino is missing: a beach. Not a fake, manufactured beach but an honest to goodness real beach.
Reason #6: The dining scene. We didn’t eat at any of the onsite restaurants, but it would take a couple of days before you worked your way through the various dining options. The choices range from casual chain restaurants (Denny’s and Starbucks) to gourmet (Pikayo, known as being one of the best restaurants on the island) and everything in between.
Reason #7: The location. I’ve been resisting comparing this stretch of Ashford Avenue to Miami’s South Beach, but the resemblance is there. Ashford Avenue can go from glamorous to run down all in the same block so use common sense and caution. Think pricey retail shops mixed in with abandoned buildings. Still, we felt safe walking around at night.
Reason #8: Kids love it! The hotel boasts a small, safe stretch of beach, adjacent fitness playground, water slide and activity pool. This means there is plenty to keep the young ones entertained and occupied. And the kids are drawn to the fish tank in the ultramodern lobby.
Tips and pointers:
- The Condado Plaza Hilton doesn’t have a dedicated spa, but massages are available poolside.
- Rooms could be a bit cleaner, especially the bathrooms.
How to spend your visit:
- Drive into Old San Juan where parking in multi-level decks is fairly easy to find and plentiful. If a cruise ship is in port you’ll encounter some crowds but also a more festive atmosphere because the city rolls out the red carpet for cruisers. Wander around the famous blue cobblestone streets steeped in history and abundant shopping. Take the free green trolley (not narrated) to get where you’re going quickly or to get out of the heat. Make a stop at El Morro for unforgettable vistas, cool breezes and rich history of the port city. Have a late lunch at Lupi’s Mexican Grill for a fusion of Mexican and Puerto Rican cuisine.
- Spend the late afternoon and early evening hours lounging at the main pool area and float up to Aqua Bar’s swim-up bar while the kids play on the water slide. Stroll down Ashford Avenue in search of dinner at one of the many restaurants located within walking distance of the hotel. Later enjoy a wide variety of gaming in the large casino. This is better than a Vegas vacation when you factor in the beach!
- Return to your hotel late afternoon and spend some time along the tiny stretch of beach behind the Condado Plaza Hilton. As the sun begins to set, move to the bar for last call – that is, the last cocktails of this trip. Stay poolside in the fun, tropical atmosphere until everyone is tired of swimming and declares hunger. Dinner is anywhere you want on Ashford Avenue or at one of the many dining outlets at the hotel.