I’m a little embarrassed to say that I had never been to Puerto Rico before accepting the invitation of the San Juan Marriott to visit for a few days to explore the property and the city itself. I’m embarrassed because Puerto Rico is extremely easy to get to and is an amazing Caribbean destination.
I think most people realize that Puerto Rico is part of the United States, sort of. It’s one of several territories, the remnants of old wars and forgotten conquests. Unlike Samoa or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands though, Puerto Rico is close and very easy to get to. Americans don’t need a passport to enter the territory and it’s only two hours from Miami and four hours from New York City.
At first, Puerto Rico wasn’t what I had expected. Before landing in San Juan, my experience with the Caribbean was with small islands featuring more palm trees than tall buildings. San Juan though is a large, modern city that still manages to embrace both the beauty and spirit of the Caribbean. This is especially well done at the San Juan Marriott.
The San Juan Marriott is located in the upscale neighborhood of Condado and enjoys a prime position on the ocean. Given the amazing location, the site on which the Marriott now sits has been host to a variety of hotels since the 1960s. In 1995 Marriott completely refurbished the property though and the result is the stunning San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino.
The hotel is in the middle of a massive renovation of its central lobby area which, when it is completed in late 2011, will be a chic, modern and comfortable space featuring everything from all-day light snacks, a bar and plenty of areas to rest, recharge or have an impromptu meeting. This active lobby concept is the new hot thing in hotel planning, and in my opinion it’s a welcome change. As a frequent business traveler, I like the idea of checking email and having a cocktail with other people, rather than being holed up in my room, no matter how great the views.
And the views were indeed stunning from my spacious room at the Marriott. A large balcony jutted out from my tenth floor room, offering an amazing panorama of the beach and neighboring resorts. There’s truly nothing better, or more Puerto Rican, than starting the day with a cafe con leche and watching the waves crash as gulls caw high above.
The resort does a great job of catering to a wide variety of travel styles. There’s a large tropical pool featuring an all-ages waterslide, along with a poolside bar and restaurant offering stunning views of the ocean. There’s also easy beach access for those of us who like to dip our feet in the warm waters of the ocean and feel the grit of sand in between our toes. There’s no charge for beach chairs and umbrellas, and hotel staff are always on hand to help set them up. Not every resort is so thoughtful, and it really improves the overall beach experience.
Puerto Rico surprised me in a lot of ways, from the rainbow of colors in the Old Town to the exciting adventure sports just a short drive away. What surprised me most though was how easy it is to travel there and enjoy the Caribbean without sacrificing style or modern amenities. The San Juan Marriott reflects this unique personality as well in a marriage of travel comfort and elegance that transforms a trip to a real vacation.