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mjz Jul 6th, 2005 06:40 AM

Puerto Rico - Just Bank
 
I just returned from a 5 night vacation to Puerto Rico and wanted to post a few comments on our trip. Overall, the trip was fine, but Puerto Rico is my least favorite island desitination thus far.

We stayed the first two nights at the Hilton Caribe in San Juan. Our room was a king deluxe on the Executive floor. The room was clean and well appointed with a great ocean view. Access to the Executive lounge was nice for continental breakfast, snacks, cocktails, etc. I found the service at the hotel to be average - completely lacking at the pool. The beach and pool were average and very busy - it was a Holiday weekend. The location of the hotel is between Old San Juan and the Condado, which was no problem. We took a cab into old San Juan a few times and paid between $8 and $12, which I thought was cheap.

This was my second visit to Old San Juan and we did some of the typical touristy stuff. While in San Juan, we had two excellent meals at Dragon Fly and Baru, with Dragon Fly being our favorite. I highly recommend both.

Next, we rented a car and headed out to the Westin Rio Mar. I liked this hotel and thought the beach was quite nice for Puerto Rico. Upon check in, we were upgraded to a corner, ocean front room which was clean, spacious, well appointed and provided excellent views of both the ocean and mountains. For you SPG Gold's and Platnium's, the Club Lounge was closed for renovations. Overall service was good - a little slow at times. The pool area looked nice, but was absolutely packed and we steered clear at all times. They seem to easily run out of towels at the pool/beach which was annoying.

We had breakfast at the hotel which was pretty good, MANY drinks and dinner at Cactus Jack's which was average. We ventured off the grounds for dinner two of the nights - one night at a Mexican restaurant called Lulita's - which was good and the other at a Puerto Rican restaurant down the road from the hotel - which was average.

We tried to explore other area beaches such as Luquillo and Seven Seas, but they were packed with Puerto Rican families celebrating the Holiday weekend. Finally, we gave up and settled for the beach at the Westin, which again, was nice.

Our trip to the Bio Bay in Vieques was cancelled, which was disappointing. I'm sure this would have been a highlight of the trip. The El Yunque rainforest was pretty cool.

I've been all over the Carribean, Pacific and Mediterranean and can safely say that this will be my last trip to Puerto Rico unless I'm using San Juan as a gate way to another island. However, I am very intrigued about the new "W Hotel" being built on Vieques and will definitely plan on visiting when it's open - plus take a daytrip to Culebra.

Feel free to ask question.

doug_stallings Jul 6th, 2005 08:08 AM

mjz: The "new" W Hotel on Vieques isn't really new. It's the existing Wyndham, and it's on the north shore---not on the best beach on the island (though a mediocre beach on Vieques is still not half-bad). The rooms are getting a complete overhaul, and there's going to be a new (or at least expanded spa). I suspect the restaurants will be revamped. But the basic resort will be the same.

tom42 Jul 6th, 2005 09:12 AM

mjz - is it possible to walk to either Condado or Old San Juan from the Caribe Hilton?

Also, could you describe what type of snacks were available at the executive lounge?

Thanks!

mjz Jul 6th, 2005 11:31 AM

Yes, you could walk to either, but it would be a lengthy walk.

For snacks, they had fruit, muffins, etc. throughout the day. Continental breakfast, evening appetizers (fruit, cheese, meat, vegetables, hot item) and then later evening dessert.

MIM04 Jul 6th, 2005 11:44 AM

Sorry your trip was not great.

Dragon Fly is a fantastic restaurant!

tom42 Jul 12th, 2005 09:20 AM

thanks mjz.

lisabees Jul 12th, 2005 12:19 PM

I stayed at the Vieques Wyndham in February - had a lousy experience. Service was bad, beach was unusable because water was too rough.

But, with that said, I would go back to Vieques knowing what I know now. The beaches are just gorgeous - just go with no expectations from the natives (or from the Wyndham) and if some pull through, you'll be pleasantly surprised. And go knowing that you must make the effort to do the exploring and discovering yourself.

Lisa

ChutinClifton Jul 12th, 2005 12:58 PM

mjz,
we, too, were in Puerto Rico for 5 nights (7/3-7/8) and have to agree with you that this island is our least favorite island (compared to Grand Cayman, Cancun, St. Thomas, St. Marteen, Aruba, Curacao, Jaimaca). We stayed in San Juan Marriott and Stellaris Casino. Check-in was long since it was a long holiday weekend the hotel was packed. The beach is mediocre, chair and umbrella service was poor. My ocean view room has the mildew, rusty, old carpet smell. La Vista is fine for breakfast. That's the only part my family enjoyed. Overall, we were disappointed at the poor service and condition of the room. I didn't particularly like the cigar smoke in the lobby since the casino and lounge are right there. It's funny how you mentioned that you went to Luquillo beach. Was it on the 4th? We went on the 5th and we were so shocked when we got there. The whole place was full of trash. We could not believe our eyes. The big picnic area, parking lot, beach, were covered with soda cans, dirty trash. We felt sorry for the people who had to clean up the mess.

We did the Sail & Snorkel with East Wind to a small island called ICacos. IT's beautiful. The sand there looked very much like the white sand with pink specks of coral from Rum Point, Cayman Island. We got lunch and all you can drink on this 62' catamaran. This was our best one day trip of the stay.


Tuxedocat Jul 13th, 2005 06:55 PM

I always get two completely divergent views regarding Puerto Rico. I have heard people tell me they love it so much... the best place... and others who hate it and would never ever go back like pulling teeth... It's curious how it seems to be one of those places you either love or hate, no in between.

lisabees Jul 13th, 2005 07:14 PM

tuxedocat, I have family on the island, so I occasionally visit. Other than seeing my grandfather and other relatives, it certainly isn't my island of choice. With that said, there are some beautiful parts. And people. You just have to do the exploring yourself!

Unfortunately, many tourists visit San Juan. And that is not the true Puerto Rico.


Lisa

mjz Jul 15th, 2005 06:37 AM

ChutinClifton,

Luquillo was absolutely packed on July 2nd, 3rd and 4th. It looked miserable with all the people, food stands, blown up cartoon characters. I can only imagine the trash on July 5th after the masses departed.

Oh well, at least we both returned from Puerto Rico rested. I'm now excitedly planning for Tuscany in November and Australia in February. I can't imagine my life without frequent traveling and am grateful for any travel experience...even Puerto Rico!

Statia Jul 15th, 2005 07:06 AM

mjz, I can relate. I wasn't impressed with Luquillo, either. We weren't there on a holiday, but the beach was still packed to the hilt and I found the water to seem dirty.

RAB Jul 15th, 2005 08:39 AM

We were there the last weekend in June, and thought it was quite nice. Busy but not really crowded.

tom42 Jul 18th, 2005 10:13 AM

tuxedocat - I've had the same experience. Personally I love Puerto Rico and in particular the San Juan area - probably the best nightlife scene in the Caribbean and a very good restaurant scene. Add to that its decent beaches, friendly people, and historical and natural points of interest. Can't wait to go again (in two weeks).

On a side note - it makes me crazy when people say that San Juan is not the "true" Puerto Rico. That's like saying New York City isn't the true US. Of course it is. San Juan is one part of Puerto Rico just as true as any other part.


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