Each time we fly into Puerto Rico, I marvel at how green it is. On approach, huge green hills suddenly appear out of the miles and miles of blue ocean. While we’d been to Puerto Rico many times, we’d never ventured outside of San Juan, typically staying in Old San Juan for a day or so in route to another Caribbean island. This time was different, as we were heading to Fajardo on the eastern coast of the island and our destination was the El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort.
El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
A huge resort on a 300-foot bluff above the ocean, El Conquistador Resort has it all: 23 restaurants, bars and cafés, a private water park, 7 pools, a spa, a golf course, a private island, shops, and five areas of hotel rooms across the El Conquistador, and the adjacent sister property, Las Casitas Village.
El Conquistador Resort: Getting there
We took advantage of the hotel’s shuttle from the airport ($78 pp roundtrip, reservations required). It saved us the car rental, the parking fee at the hotel and greatly simplified our arrival and departure. Since the resort is about an hour away from the hotel, we didn’t have to navigate across the island and, once we arrived at the hotel, we didn’t think about leaving once during our three day stay. However, if you want to venture out, car rentals are available at the hotel, in addition to day tour excursions.
We had an ocean view room in the Las Vistas wing, near the golf course & spa. Accented with tropical touches, the large, well-appointed room included a couch, desk, large flat-panel TV and refrigerator.
The bath also was large, with a nice sized closet and a large safe.
From watching the resort quietly spring into action each morning as the sun began to rise, to the bustling activity at the main pool complex throughout the day, the view was spectacular.
El Conquistador: The resort
Strolling around the sprawling resort’s 500 acres is an activity in and of itself, with a different, stunning view waiting around every corner.
Leading to the back of the resort, where the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea meet, the boutique-lined Promenade level walkway provides amazing photo opportunities.
At the end of the promenade, a tram provides easy access to La Marina Village, where additional rooms, shops, restaurants, the water park and access to the ferry to Palomino Island are located.
Not a resort that shuts down with the sun, the seven pools are open 24 hours a day.
El Conquistador: Activities
A short, ten-minute ride across waters once sailed by Spanish conquistadors, the resort’s private island, Palomino Island, awaits with a wide variety of activities.
Even the ride on the boats over to the island is a big adventure for children staying at the resort. Overheard on one of ferry rides to the island – the little girl sitting in front of us asked her mother, “So, where are the fairies?”
From an array of water sports to horseback riding to shopping, or relaxing on the beach with a beverage in hand, Palomino Island is one of the resort’s most popular attractions.
Coqui Water Park
Located at La Marina Village, Coqui Water Park is 2.4 acres of water adventures.
Named after Puerto Rico’s Coqui frogs, whose loud mating call can be heard each night, the Coqui Water Park has slides, a lazy river, pools, a restaurant & bar, and other fun activities, such as getting a temporary tattoo. Appropriately, I got a coqui frog (it lasted a little over a week).
Arthur Hills Golf Course
Designed by Arthur Hills, the El Conquistador golf course is an 18 hole, par 72 course with rolling terrain and beautiful rainforest views.
Want to improve your game while in paradise? Get in some practice at the three-tier driving range, improve your short game at the putting green and chipping area or take a private lesson from a PGA instructor. Equipment rentals and golf attire are available at the Golf & Tennis Pro Shop.
Game, set, match. El Conquistador has seven tennis courts, four clay and three hard surface, for guests to enjoy. Equipment rentals and private lessons are available through the Golf & Tennis Pro Shop.
Waldorf Astoria Spa
Achieve tranquility and rejuvenation at the Waldorf Astoria Spa, which offers a wide range of spa treatments and packages, a traditional Japanese bath, and a fitness center. Located next to the spa, the Spa Labyrinth invites guests to take an introspective journey “to the balanced centered part of ourselves, leading us to peace and inner knowledge.”
El Conquistador: The restaurants, bars and cafés
With 23 restaurants, bars and cafés ranging from casual to elegant, there’s something for everyone and every taste. Our favorites…
Café Bella Vista. We ate at Café Bella Vista the night we arrived and returned multiple times. Excellent service by Ramón and the shrimp mofongo was amazing.
Starbucks. Located in the main lobby and one of the more economical spots at the resort, it was great to be able to pick up a chai in the morning or stop by for a cappuccino.
Las Brisas Restaurant. Albeit a bit pricey, Las Brisas serves an amazing breakfast buffet with a huge assortment of foods from hot to cold.
The Bar at Chops Steakhouse. Always fans of eating at bars in upscale restaurants, we thoroughly enjoyed an evening at Chops. For beverages, the Lemongrass Drop (vodka, St. Germain, lemongrass syrup, fresh lemon juice, pineapple juice and mint leaves) and the Secret Kiss, basically a French Kiss with vodka, Chambord, and pineapple juice) were divine. The lobster bisque is killer and, of course the Waldorf Salad is a must. Great service and grown-up atmosphere.
El Conquistador: Nearby things to do
The only rain forest in the U.S. National Forest Service, El Yunque Rain Forest has 24 miles of hiking trails, allowing visitors to explore the exceptionally diverse forest with hundreds of plant and animal species.
Camuy River Cave Park, is one of the largest cave systems in the world. The network of limestone caves features an underground river, the Río Camuy.
One of Puerto Rico’s three Bioluminescent Bays is located near Fajardo. A Bio Bay contains micro-organisms which glow in the dark, emitting a blue light, when agitated. Kayak tours to observe the phenomenon are available most evenings.
Know before you go
Puerto Rico is a U.S Commonwealth. The currency is the U.S. dollar and U.S citizens do not need a passport.
El Conquistador is very family-oriented. With the water park and many children’s activities, El Conquistador is great for families.
WiFi. Internet access is available throughout the resort and is included in the resort fee.