El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort Rating: 4.0 Pearls
El Conquistador's reputation tends to precede it. The 984-room cliff-side resort provides some of the most epic views in the Caribbean, and its modern, beach-chic rooms are bright and clean, with plush white bedding, balconies, and sleek, spacious bathrooms. The hotel's beach is pristine and located on a private island (accessibly by a free ferry). But nightly rates are steep, and the remote location makes it hard for guests to venture off-site for cheaper dining and entertainment options. Guests that don't want to spend all of their time on property should consider renting a car.
Condado Lagoon Villas at Caribe Hilton Rating: 3.5 Pearls
The 264-room Condado Lagoon Villas at the Caribe Hilton is the tranquil sibling of its mega-resort sister: The clean, bright rooms are more spacious and the small pool is less crowded. Suites come complete with large bathrooms (many featuring soaking tubs and separate walk-in showers), big balconies and kitchenettes (in some cases with stoves), which can help compensate for the lack of nearby off-premise dining. It shares the sprawling grounds and private man-made beach of the Caribe Hilton, but the beaches are more impressive in Condado and Isla Verde.
San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Situated right on the beach in Condado, the Marriott Resort & Casino is a step above some other hotels in the neighborhood: The grounds and the hotel -- including the pools, the tennis courts, and the spa -- are well-kept, and the upscale rooms feature warm colors, flat-screen TVs, and large bathrooms with granite vanities. Though there is a casino on-site, the hotel also caters to families, with amenities such as a game room, laundry facilities, and a pool with a waterslide. But some have complained of hearing noise from the casino in the rooms on the lower floors, and fees for extras such as Wi-Fi and beach chairs are annoying.
Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa, a Wyndham Grand Resort Rating: 4.0 Pearls
The sprawling Rio Mar Beach Resort, located near El Yunque Rainforest, is an excellent budget-friendly option for families. The big family pool has a waterslide, there's a shallow kiddy pool, and activities include iguana feedings and evening bonfires. Most importantly, the resort is located on a big, beautiful beach. But be warned: Nickel-and-diming is rampant here.
Mayaguez Resort & Casino Rating: 3.5 Pearls
The 140-room Mayaguez Resort & Casino is a kid-friendly choice on Puerto Rico's western coast, with a lovely lazy river pool featuring a rock grotto area with waterfalls, a waterslide, and a zero-entry edge with sand. The on-site restaurants offer tasty, authentic Puerto Rican cuisine as well as international and Caribbean choices -- but items are on the pricey side. Rooms are relatively clean, with tiled floors and dark wood accents, but feel a little bare and worn, and the indoor areas as a whole could use upgrading (carpets smell musty, and we noticed a cracked ceiling in the fitness center).
Embassy Suites San Juan - Hotel & Casino Rating: 3.5 Pearls
The 299 two-room suites in the Embassy Suites San Juan are spacious and clean with flat-screen TVs and microwaves, but pretty standard chain decor. The pool area is attractive (despite the nearby overpass), featuring a waterfall and artful rock landscaping, and the impressive nearby beach offers guest-only lounge chairs and towels. But its location right next to the airport and a major highway is a bit noisy, and Isla Verde offers little besides the beach.