Some of the older rooms and common areas need an update
Noise can be an issue in some of the rooms
Fees for parking
The 984-room El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is perched on a hillside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, a 15-minute drive from Fajardo. With 23 restaurants serving everything from upmarket Asian to casual Puerto Rican grill fare, plus seven pools, two spas, and a 24-hour fitness center, amenities are beyond generous here. Rooms are spacious and mostly modern, featuring flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers, and oceanview balconies in many. Still, bathrooms look a little dated, as do some common areas. Two game rooms, private beaches, and the Coqui Water Park draw lots of families, and guests looking for a more intimate vibe might consider Las Casitas. It's this property's sister resort connected to El Conquistador by a shuttle, offering all of the same amenities but at a consistently higher price tag.
Vibrant resort that's modern and dated, with a lively social scene both day and night
The Waldorf Astoria brand inspires plenty of feelings in people -- most of them images of luxury and elegance. While El Conquistador is one of the more upscale resorts on the main island of Puerto Rico, it doesn't quite live up to the brand's luxurious reputation. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, El Conquistador has a sophisticated vibe, though it's a bit lively for a high-end resort, perhaps in part due to its perennial popularity with families. To be clear: This is a massive resort that is the definition of sprawling. As such, there are tons of places for guests to hang out, get wild, or relax. Unfortunately, the style throughout isn't consistent, and while the hotel's lobby is busy and pumping pop songs throughout the day, the decor is dated and includes low ceilings, older terra-cotta tilework, and a forced beachy style.
Most guests are here to take advantage of the tropical outdoors, though, and those facilities are quite nice, despite a frequently bustling vibe. During the day, Palomino Island, Coqui Water Park, and the main pool complex are the social hubs, and these areas are frequently overrun with kids. By night, some of the fine dining restaurants and lounge areas open up, and there are quieter, more intimate spots like the upscale Chops Lounge, polished Drake’s Martini Bar, and modern Twenty-One. The resort is huge, so there are plenty of areas for guests to head for some quiet, but the main lobby and lounge area (including the shops) can be expected to be busy and loud. Guests from across the spectrum come here, from families to boisterous groups of friends to retirees.
On the ocean outside of Fajardo, a 35-minute drive to El Yunque
El Conquistador is perched on a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, which means spectacular views of the sunrise in the mornings. Palomino Island is a 10-minute water taxi ride from the resort, and features stables and trails, water sports, beaches, and an eatery. Otherwise, the resort isn't within walking distance of anything, and downtown Fajardo -- which features a few shops and restaurants -- is a 15-minute drive away. Ferries to Vieques also depart from Fajardo. The main entrance to El Yunque Rain Forest, a popular tourist destination in eastern Puerto Rico, is a 35-minute drive from the hotel. Travelers should allow over an hour to get to the Luis Munoz Marin Airport in San Juan, though there is an airport shuttle available for an additional fee.
Mostly modern and spacious rooms, many with private balconies overlooking the Atlantic Ocean
Picking your room at El Conquistador means choosing how close to the main lobby (and hub of the action) you'll be, which is a blessing or ... less of a blessing. La Marina rooms are farthest away from the main lobby, ensuring a quieter, more peaceful atmosphere for guests. However, the majority of rooms are located in the main area of the resort, and some noise will be heard. Across all categories, rooms have a mostly modern charm, with bright, beach-inspired decor. Expect to see blonde wood furniture with retro and contemporary lines, contemporary white couches with patterned throw pillows, and colorful abstract art. It's worth noting that some rooms do look a little more weathered than others, with older fabrics and carpets plus less on-trend furniture (we saw wicker pieces in some rooms during our visit).
All rooms feature flat-screen TVs, air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi, safes, coffeemakers, iPod docks, writing desks, and king or queen-size beds with padded headboards. TVs have the capability to connect to personal Hulu and Netflix accounts, with some able to stream video games as well. Rooms also feature balconies or terraces, many overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Bathrooms are well-appointed and spacious, but not entirely attractive across the board. Despite marble accents and contemporary fixtures in some bathrooms, the tilework often looks older and we spotted some grout that needs a deep cleaning. Most bathrooms feature a shower/tub combo, though some have walk-in showers or jetted tubs. They also include roomy vanities, Peter Thomas Roth toiletries, spacious closets, plenty of towels, and hairdryers.
Seven pools open 24 hours, Coqui Water Park, two modern fitness centers, and a spa
Like any good high-end resort, El Conquistador offers plenty of features to keep guests busy. Seven pools are scattered throughout the resort and are open 24/7, including the main infinity pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It also features the poolside Splash Bar. Each pool is ringed by plenty of white lounge chairs or private cabanas, but expect the main pool to be busy with families during the day; it's quieter in the mornings and at night. Coqui Water Park features a tubing river and several twisting water slides plus a cafe.
Wellness options are abundant here as well, and include two fitness centers. The main gym is open 24 hours and also features a free-weight room and modern equipment. The other fitness center is located at the spa and has limited hours, but offers a few movement classes. The Waldorf Astoria Spa provides Thai massages, rainforest organic facials, ocean detoxes, and aqua therapy. There are also beach spa services and small boutique that sells clothes, skin products, and yoga mats. The resort has its own golf course as well.
The main lobby area features plenty of shopping, including clothing stores, souvenir shops, and jewelry stores. There are more shops down by the marina and throughout the rest of the resort. The two game rooms have plenty of arcade game options, and there's moderately sized business center with plenty of room to sit. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel, but both self and valet parking come with fees.
A dizzying array of dining and drinking options, from casual to elegant
With 23 restaurants, there are plenty of options to choose from, including fine dining, casual spots, outdoor cafes, and even prepared food markets. Blossoms, Chops Steakhouse, La Piccola Fontana, and Stingray Cafe are the main upscale restaurants, and all are only open for dinner. Cuisine at these outlets ranges from Asian to American, Italian, and Caribbean. Many have outdoor seating.
Las Brisas Restaurant is only open for breakfast and features typical fare with Caribbean and Latin American twists; expect to see huevos rancheros, coconut Mallorca french toast, and Belgian waffles. Cafe Caribe also offers breakfast in a casual, diner atmosphere, as well as a contemporary Puerto Rican lunch and dinner. Other lunch and dinner options include the outdoor Cafe Bella Vista overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and Ballyhoo Bar and Grill overlooking the marina. There are also a few cafes and markets offering prepared to-go items. Starbucks and La Marina Cafe are open during the day as well.
All restaurants offer specialty cocktails and drinks as a part of the menu, but Chops Steakhouse also has an intimate and sleek lounge area. Drake’s Martini Bar and Twenty-One both have flat-screen TVs, pool tables, and plenty of cocktails to choose from while hanging out and socializing. The poolside Splash Bar is open only during the day.
Private beach on Palomino Island, a 10-minute water taxi ride away
The beaches at El Conquistador are located on Palomino Island, a 10-minute water taxi ride from the main resort. The main beach has plenty of blue lounge chairs on the white sand, and there's a smaller side beach a five-minute walk away, with a few blue lounge chairs and plenty of trees for shade. The island features plenty of water sports like kayaks, snorkeling, and wave runners. An outdoor games center is set up adjacent to the beach and features a mini-golf course, life-size chess board, ping-pong table, and pool table. Stables are available for horseback rides, and there's a cafe as well.
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