Inspired by a great last-minute rate and an abundance of JetBlue points, my family and I decided to take a short 2-night trip to the El Conquistador, a Waldorf Astoria resort in Fajardo, Puerto Rico over the winter.
When we landed in San Juan, we took a taxi from SJU to the resort, stopping for lunch along the way at a local Puerto Rican restaurant. The ride from the airport to the resort took about an hour and change.
Aside from a great $99 rate we were able to secure, I knew it would be a great value-weekend away because I am a Hilton Diamond member, and there were also several AmEx Offers for Waldorf Astoria for additional savings.
We arrived at the resort in the early afternoon and were able to check in to a room with a great view rather quickly. Here are some things to know in case you’re interested in planning a similar trip:
Free Nights Are Possible
Hilton recently changed their Honors program to a variable award chart, rather than a fixed award chart. This means that the price in points will vary, but the absolute maximum award price for a hotel won’t increase. This gives members a fair shot at a potentially cheaper free night, especially during off-peak times.
When I did a quick search, room rates were $262.71 ($204 room rate, taxes & fees, plus resort fee of $36.77), or 48,000 Hilton Honors points and $0 per night.
Great Resort for Families with so Much to Offer
This resort is a great spot for families traveling with kids. Aside from incredibly-vast resort grounds, there is a game room (former casino), ice cream shop, an on-site water park with a wave pool (for an additional fee), and my favorite – the resort’s private island with activities and beautiful beaches. If you’re traveling with young children and crave quiet time alone one evening once the kids are sleeping, the resort also offers in-room babysitting for a reasonable charge.
The Private Island is Amazing
A unique feature of this Hilton resort is that all guests have access to the resort’s private Palomino island, and it was a daily hit for us! To access the island, you’ll have to take a steep tram car ride down the cliff to the marina.
Once you are down at the marina, you’ll hop on the large resort ferry, which runs every 30 minutes, and you’ll take a 20 minute ride to Palomino island.
We thought Palomino Island was great, especially for our young kids. With beautiful and calm beaches, beach restaurants, and all kinds of fun games and activities for everyone, we really enjoyed spending a large portion of our days here.
Plus, if you’re a Hilton Diamond member, you get 2 free drink coupons, which you can use at the rum bar on the island for a nice mojito or rum punch ;).
Hilton Diamond Benefits Are Great… But With a Few Inconsistencies
Overall, I thought the Hilton Diamond benefits at the resort were quite generous. The buffet breakfast each morning was very good, plentiful, and we always had amazing service. On one of the days though, I saw an additional charge for a cappuccino on my folio, even though we had cappuccinos every morning. I had no problem getting that charge taken off, but I am really not sure if it’s standard here for a cappuccino to be extra (it was never disclosed).
A benefit I really loved was complimentary usage of the full spa as a Diamond member. It was nice to be able to unwind in the steam room, sauna, and jacuzzis without an additional fee.
The only real issue I had here was an awkward conversation about a late-check out benefit, which lead me to write this post. Other than that, I found the Diamond recognition and benefits to be great.
Rooms are Starting to Show Age
Before I go into details about the room, let’s first talk about this gorgeous sunrise view from my balcony:
The interior of our room was fine for the 2 nights we were there. It was a spacious king room with a couch that converted into a pullout bed. The design is starting to look outdated, and it may be time for a renovation.
Though I had no issues with the room – it was basic and clean, some might argue that it is not up to par with what might be expected from a Waldorf Astoria property, especially the bathroom.
As you can see below, the bathroom has definitely run its course, and yes, that may in fact be mold on the ceiling. There’s also something about that shower curtain and tub that gives me motel vibes.
Overall, what matters most to me is a room that is clean, and ours was. I just think a renovation needs to be in the cards soon, or this property may lose credibility as a “luxury” resort.
Our short trip to the El Conquistador resort was definitely a memorable one. I think it’s a perfect place for families with young children to escape the hustle and bustle of San Juan and to enjoy some great beaches and fun activities. I also found the food at the resort restaurants to be tasty and reasonably-priced. My favorites included the fresh fish and mofongo (I’m slightly obsessed, actually).
Have you had a chance to visit the El Conquistador with your family? If so, how was your experience?