Need a burst of tropical warmth? No passport? No problem, when you contemplate a getaway to this city-style beachfront resort in sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico.
By day, the San Juan Marriott is just like any ordinary and relaxed resort on a tropical island. Families exit the ground-level elevator with towels trailing and head outside to spend the day relaxing by the pool or on Condado Beach. Adults chat in the lounge, where boutique sellers set up shop to tempt guests with locally made jewelry and crafts. You can hear the occasional ring of the slot machine from the lobby, which is generally low-key (unless it’s during the late morning checkout madness that I experienced during my arrival on a rainy Sunday in May).
Return to this very same lobby after a dinner out, and you’ll find it transformed by the nighttime energy of authentic Puerto Rican culture. One special thing about this Marriott is that it’s where local people from the surrounding neighborhoods come to dance. As a band plays music, sometimes energetic, sometimes smooth and slow, couples salsa, merengue, and bachata. No division between guests and locals here: everyone is enjoying the music, whether just watching or out on the dance floor. Then turn the corner to the elevator, head upstairs, and there’s plenty of peace and quiet for sleeping.
A night like this is exemplary of what the San Juan Marriott offers to its guests — a combination of familiar comfort and local flavor.
San Juan Marriott’s Family-Together Focus
But don’t let the description of a loud dance party fool you. Family travel is a big portion San Juan Marriott’s business. During my stay, I met a bunch of families hanging out by the pool. (Mostly from the US, they were certainly enjoying the fact that no passport is needed to travel to Puerto Rico). The outdoor pools (one even has a waterslide for added fun) are a great place to relax; whereas the ocean in this area is choppy and not great for swimming, both a shallow (maximum depth four feet) and deeper pool are more inviting.
There are also free activities occuring throughout the day. As soon as you enter the pool area, guests will see a big board announcing the day’s schedule. Bingo, beach volleyball, cookie decorating, arts and crafts are a sampling of some of the fun planned events which change daily. Of course, for mom and dad, there is also happy hour at the Beach Bar from 4-6pm. Towels are also available free of charge at the activity hut and bookworms (like myself) will be delighted to find a small lending library.
There’s a low key, family-together atmosphere, and children enjoy special programming during holidays such as Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day, when guests’ weekend getaways are sure to include lots of young family members. But if you want a night out on the town anytime, babysitters are always available.
San Juan Marriott: Stylish Rooms & Restaurants
Accommodations at this AAA 4-diamond hotel are very comfortable. The San Juan Marriott’s recent renovations touched all 513 rooms and 12 suites (located in one of two buildings) with fresh paint and sunny dÃ©cor; plusher, fluffier bedding; rain shower style bathrooms; wireless Internet (which unfortunately, was not in the best working condition during my stay); and flat screen televisions that can connect with laptops and iPods. Corner rooms in the tower are especially great for families because of their spaciousness.
The hotel’s restaurants are great gathering places, each with its own personality. Ristorante Tuscany is the fanciest, offering Italian cuisine for dinner. My group dined on a superb menu from Executive Chef Celso Pinto that featured Insalata di Fiocchi, Fettuccine Michelangelo, Branzino alla Griglia and Scaloppine di Vitello Marsala. Also boasting an extensive wine menu, this is the place where Mom and Dad should dine sans children. La Vista presents buffets for every meal, while La Isla Beach Bar and Grill caters to the sandy feet crowd throughout the day.
Walk into the Marriott’s lobby, and you’ll find the Coffee Merchant and Bake Shop, with plenty of snacks and caffeine. Perhaps the most interesting dining establishment on property is the Wan Chai Noodle Bar, opening at night in the casino and catering to the significant Asian crowd that goes there to work and gamble.
The food everywhere is high quality, plentiful, and there are plenty of “Kidsine” options, as you would expect from a Marriott . There’s also a spotless fitness center and adjacent spa, but don’t let them keep you on property the entire stay.
Exploring Old San Juan by Bike
In addition to hanging out on property, families should take a drive or book an excursion in San Juan. The streets of Old San Juan are lined with souvenir shops and restaurants, but also lead to many galleries in a thriving arts community. In addition, the entire fortification system of San Juan is a National Historic Site and World Heritage Site. Fort San Cristobal and El Morro are especially interesting and convenient to explore, since they have developed exhibits for visitors.
I explored San Juan with a great company called Rent The Bicycle located in the heart of San Juan. Owner Nancy Cruz and her husband guided our group through the sites of the city. A three-hour tour is $27 a person and includes the use of a bicycle with basket, a helmet, water and snacks. It is a fantastic, inexpensive and healthy way to explore; plus the company will even pick you up at the Marriott. Note that young children are not permitted on the tour and all participates must be able to ride a bike unassisted.
Resort Report Card
|Name:||San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino|
|Address:||1309 Ashford Avenue
|Seasonal Rates:||$$ – $$$|
|Choice of Activities:||B|
|Quality of Amenities:||B+|
|Bonus:||The hotel offers different value items every day; make sure to inquire at check-in.|
|Note:||Fitness-fanatics can participate in the poolside Zumba workouts everyday Tuesday and Sunday morning for $8/pp.|
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