On a trip to Puerto Rico last fall, I wanted to stay at a luxury resort with all the amenities. Though I would have opted for the Ritz Carleton (they were booked), I found a pleasant deal at the El San Juan Hotel and Casino. My stay was there was during the week and I came to realize that the El San Juan is predominantly booked as a weekend hotel. San Juaneros and East Coasters often come to the El San Juan for a Puerto Rican version of a Vegas weekend. Complete with a few night clubs and five or so restaurants in the hotel, you don't really have to go anywhere else to find a scene.
The pool is laid out in a lagoon shape with two-person shaded and cushioned cabanas surrounding the pool (a luxury I very much enjoyed). Because I was at the hotel during the week, I never had a problem securing one of these spots, but other reviews suggest that you need to get down to the pool by 7:30am on the weekend to get a cabana. Regardless, another great place to go is the beach, where a hotel staffer will gladly grab a couple deck chairs for you and place them wherever you want to recline. The Isla Verde beach is beautiful and you can go for a stroll for at least a couple miles along the ocean.
If you're an experienced gambler or just happy to play, the casino is on the first floor and always happily awaiting your donations. They have a huge selection of slots and a decent number of tables for craps, roulette, or blackjack. I recommend taking advantage of the $25 “matched bet coupon” they give you for the tables when you check in.
My overall experience of San Juan was positive, but expensive. The El San Juan Hotel was no exception. Though my room rate was a great deal there are quite a few “extra” charges that made it add up quickly: 17% resort fee tacked onto your per night room rate, $20/night parking for your rental car, $10/day WiFi charge for your room, and the $25/one way cab fare if you want to go to Old San Juan. And unfortunately, the food and the drinks are very pricey. There is no way to have any meal there without spending at least $100 for two people. I recommend attending the happy hours at the restaurants and fill up on more reasonable priced apps and drinks.
The El San Juan was recently acquired by the Waldorf Astoria group and aims to ramp up their game to match the brand name. I would argue that they're not quite there yet, but I'm always a sucker for any place where I can lay out in 80 degree weather alongside a pool/beach.
· Rooms are relatively large compared to many hotels I've been to and are contemporary, clean and colorful.
· The poolside shaded cabanas are the perfect place to enjoy the Caribbean sun.
· The beach immediately off the hotel property is picturesque and great for walking.
· The casino, restaurants, and shopping in the hotel provide endless entertainment.
· The weekend is crazy crowded, you have to have your hotel key card on you for security to not hassle you.
· The street-side of the hotel is not very attractive and you’ll want to request/pay for a view of the ocean to avoid looking at it from your room balcony.
· The hotel is not very close to Old San Juan (where all the fun places to eat and shop are) and cabs can be pricey.
A unique hotel in its variety of amenities and outstanding pool scene. This is a great stay for couples on vacation looking to relax, but who want to have entertainment options at night.