The first magical feature of Puerto Rico I experienced was the mist. The sun was out and bright, bright, bright, yet the air was dense with moisture following a rainstorm we had just missed, the only rain we came close to encountering during our three-day stay. We had arrived at the Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza resort via shuttle from the airport, stepped out onto our very private balcony and were engulfed by rain-that-wasn’t-rain. It was a bizarre moment to have just been out in the sun only to be enveloped by the heavy mist lounging on our balcony.
And once the dampness left, I noticed a second enchanting feature of Puerto Rico: the pelicans. Gliding in prehistoric grandeur from palm tree to palm tree to ocean and back up to tree level, the pelicans, beast-like yet graceful, provided a soul-fetching experience.
Unlike with many hotels, the website for the Conrad Condado accurately translates the look and feel of the property to the two-dimesional screen through its glittering rotating images and tourist-friendly but true-north descriptions. We couldn’t have had an easier time recognizing the place and its amenities from the website’s depiction. The recognition was far from disappointing.
The resort is tucked in alongside Condado Lagoon and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors may choose either the city view or the ocean view. I highly recommend the ocean view.
As far as I could tell, you can’t get a poor ocean view from any seaside room in the resort. The Atlantic stretches out from you unobstructed to meet large ships and barges in the far distance. From our room, which was situated at the end nearest the lagoon, we also could view the oceanside-edge of the rock-rimmed lagoon, the lush observation area and, farther off, a cluster of neighboring resorts jutting out into the ocean.
The interior of the Conrad Condado is clean and contemporary; it has an electric, hip freshness that can be attributed to the recent renovation undergone by the property. At first blush it might have seemed too young for us. But we quickly noted the wide variety in guests’ ages. The resort also is pet friendly. As an aside, we chatted with a women who had her dog with her. She was a frequent visitor from the East Coast who had in fact adopted her pooch from a rescue in Puerto Rico that relocates dogs from the infamous Dead Dog Beach. (For more information on this effort, check in with Pets Alive.)
Once in the room, the decor and setting are duly lovely and pleasant, but the main attraction is the out-of-doors view. A glass doorway flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows opens out to the balcony; the window space spans the width of the room. It is an experience worthy of deep-breathing contentment to wake up to the sound and sight of surf crashing against the rocks below. Our room’s decor was comfortable, sharply coordinated, clean and well maintained. The bathroom was large, gorgeous and highly functional_an unquestioned spa feeling pervaded it.
Among the resort’s amenities are a pool whose centerpiece is a swim-up bar; a separate saltwater pool, which provides a wonderful natural exfoliation experience; and an exclusive beach, which curves along the lagoon. The property also includes a casino, which seemed to be an afterthought given the appeal of the rest of the resort.
We found the desk staff to be pleasant. We also observed their well-trained patience as we waited in line to check in. Staff took all the time the situations required with guests who seemed to have tricky, unusual problems to be resolved.
The service response time in other areas was spotty. We and other patrons at the swim-up bar waited more than 30 minutes to be acknowledged, then another 20 or so to receive our drinks. Given the lush, warm surroundings, it was tough for anyone to be angry about the lack of attention to service, but we all came away knowing to manage our own expectations next time. Similarly, we made a game of watching to see how long it would take for housecleaning staff to remove a lone, used wine glass from outside the neighboring room_it had finally disappeared when we were preparing to check out of the resort.
We split our time between the Condado area of the city, where the resort is located on Ashford Avenue, and Old San Juan. Ashford Avenue runs through Condado and is billed variously as the Rodeo Drive and the Fifth Avenue of Puerto Rico. You certainly will find the most upscale clothiers and accessories shops on Ashford, but the area, while not shabby, is stark in its attention to storefront appeal. The high-end stores do not stand out from the office buildings, restaurants, service shops and condos that also populate the street. It is nonetheless an interesting, highly tactile avenue to walk along. You’ll also find a charming independent coffee shop, in addition to the Starbucks located next door to the resort.
And then there’s Old San Juan. The color, the light, the vibrancy and the history of the place contrasts with the contemporary urban streets of Condado.