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Hotel Plaza De Armas 2.0

Old San Juan, San Juan, Puerto Rico

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This hotel is currently closed for renovations.
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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Historic property with an antique elevator, in the heart of Old San Juan
  • A lobby and spacious atrium lounge with free Wi-Fi
  • Suites have French doors, balconies, and street views
  • Some rooms have mini-fridges, microwaves, and sofa beds
  • Walking distance to restaurants, bars, and top tourist sights
  • Friendly staff for local recommendations
  • Taxi stand and trolley stop just outside

Cons

  • Standard rooms (most) are windowless
  • Rooms are basic and show some wear and tear
  • Luggage storage is in an open, unguarded area
  • No restaurants or bars on-site
  • Drivers will need to pay for parking off-site

Bottom Line

This hotel was impacted by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. We will update our review as soon as we have more information. This 52-room budget-friendly hotel -- a former Howard Johnson -- has just enough character to fit in with the Old San Juan's historic vibe. Rooms (many without windows) have basic wood furnishings, flat-screen TVs, and air-conditioning units. Suites facing the street have charming French doors that open up to cobblestone views. Wi-Fi is free in the lobby and atrium lounge (and will be in rooms soon, too). The hotel does not have a restaurant or bar. There's a free trolley and taxi stand out front, or ask the hotel about its recommended parking garage -- the cheapest in the district. Make sure to experience the 1920s elevator at least once, though stairs are quicker.

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Scene

Draws easygoing budget travelers looking for a place to sleep in a central location

The hotel's attractive pink and white Spanish Colonial building exudes charm on a busy cobblestoned street, where taxi drivers scout for their next fares and traffic inches along. The large arched doorway leads to a slightly more contemporary lobby decorated in mauve and gray hues. Straight against the back wall is the slow, quirky elevator, which dates back to the 1920s; it is more of a novelty than it is useful, and most guests choose to lug their own belongings up the stairs instead.

Next to the front desk are awards and certifications, including one from the former Howard Johnson days. No longer owned by the chain, new owners are working on making this affordable hotel more modern while preserving character. The front desk is usually only operated by one staff member, so depending on the time of day, there might be a wait for service. Early check-ins are not common but guests are welcome to use the main floor until the room is ready. Beyond the lobby, practically hidden from view, is a large, contemporary atrium lounge. There are shelves for self-storage here, and travelers can be found here before they check-in, or between check-out and their flight home. Since luggage is not guarded, guests might feel the need to stay and watch their belongings instead of leaving the premise to explore.

Guests -- mostly families and some business travelers -- are usually out and about rather than hanging out on-site. Since rooms are mostly windowless, it is safe to say that guests tend to use their rooms (and the hotel) mostly for sleeping and showering.

Location

A prime spot in Old San Juan complete with cobblestoned streets and slow-moving traffic

The hotel's name comes from Plaza de Armas, the public, pedestrian-friendly square and fountain just across the street from the entrance. This authentic cobblestoned view is visible from the front-facing suites and balconies, but all other rooms are without windows.

Old San Juan is the 500-year-old historic district within Puerto Rico’s sprawling capital. It is a medieval walled city that is as old as the Spanish conquest, and history buffs will love the numerous sights within walking distance, including Plaza of the Nuns (the city’s second oldest park), San Juan Cathedral, famous fortresses, government buildings, and several restaurants and bars. A walking/running path winds around San Juan bay for photo ops of the walled exterior. Look for the famous Red Gate, where Spanish dignitaries entered the city from their boats in the harbor.

To reach other parts of town, there is a free trolley that stops in front of the hotel, as well as a taxi stand. It only takes 15 minutes to get to the airport, but traffic in San Juan can get bad during rush hour. For those renting a car, parking is challenging on the compact streets. The hotel will recommend the district's cheapest option but it is off-site. If arriving from a cruise, the port is within walking distance from the hotel.

Rooms

Mostly windowless rooms, and a few suites with romantic views

This rare budget-friendly option in Old San Juan has 52 rooms on four floors that loop around an inner courtyard atrium and skylight. The hotel has interesting touches of history, and yet additions over time from previous owners (like Howard Johnson) have stifled some of the character. Standard rooms are simple -- best suited for families and non-romantics -- with tiled floors, air-conditioning units, flat-screen TVs, and older wood furnishings like work desks, bed stands, and cupboard style closets with in-room safes. Beds have white linens and beige blankets. Bathrooms have walk-in showers, eco-friendly toiletries, and decent counter space. Some larger units have mini-fridges, microwaves, and brown sofa beds. Room types include a range of bed types like single twin, double twin, queen, king and triple.

There are a few suites facing front, which are unarguably the best of the lot, with tall French doors opening up to balconies overlooking the Plaza de Armas. Though charming, some doors (due to their age) are difficult to open and having them open allows bugs to come in. Improvements are slowly being made to the rooms, however, and management takes suggestions to heart. For instance, in coming months, Wi-Fi will be free in rooms.

Features

A spacious atrium lounge and friendly staff (though there might be a wait for service)

The front desk staff is limited (usually just one person) but friendly, and can help with suggestions for the area, like where to park for the cheapest overnight rates. As for dining options, the restaurant around the corner is the self-proclaimed origin of the Pina Colada, called Barrachina -- a tourist hot spot especially with daytime cruise ship crowds. It is worth a stop, though, and the Old San Juan institution serves decent Puerto Rican fare in a pretty courtyard.

The large atrium area behind the lobby has several contemporary dining and working areas, as well as lounging sofas for those arriving extra early to check-in. Free Wi-Fi is only offered on the first floor, and there are outlets for charging. This is a good place to get work done, though be mindful -- public restrooms are not available on the first floor.

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Address

202 Calle San Jose, Old San Juan, San Juan 00902-4050, Caribbean

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