Review: El Conquistador Resort
Perched on a three hundred foot cliff overlooking the Caribbean, El Conquistador Resort definitely satisfies the requirement for incredible views. El Conquistador is a Waldorf Astoria Resort, which also means it's part of the Hilton Honors program. The resort is located on the island of Puerto Rico about an hour west of San Juan's airport. You can arrange roundtrip ground transportation by contacting the resort before your stay.
El Conquistador is designed to be an all encompasing resort complex where you never have to leave for anything. With that said, the town of Fajardo is nearby, but not within walking distance. The resort property includes multiple buildings accommodating guests in a variety of room types. I stayed in an ocean view room in the Las Brisas wing. I was on the fourth floor and the view was unobstructed and amazing. The resort also features one and two bedroom suites as well as the Las Casitas Villas, which are one, two and three bedroom rental properties.
Wear comfortable shoes because getting around the resort can take some time. When you first enter the property you pass through the 18 hole Arthur Hills designed golf course. The property is gated which is a nice security feature. When you finally arrive at the main reception building you enter a vast lobby that's a mix of indoors and outdoors. During the day live tropical birds keep visitors entertained in cages throughout the space.
As I mentioned, the resort is designed to included everything you could possibly need on your vacation. In addition to the rooms and golf course, the resort features seven restaurants with everything from Sea Food and Steaks to Asian cusine. There is also a Starbucks and small food market in the lobby. You can easily stay a week and eat something different each night for dinner. While it's a bit on the higher end price-wise, I do recommend the Strip House, which Waldof Astoria also has at some of their other properties. If you don't feel like leaving the room, there's also room service.
One of my favorite features at El Conquistador is the private island. Palomino is a 100 acre private island located a short boat ride from the resort. The resort runs a couple of catamaran ferry boats on a regular schedule daily. The ride takes about ten minutes. When you arrive you will find a tropical paradise. The beach is what you would expect from a caribbean destination. White sand, clear warm water and plenty of space to stretch out. The side of the island facing the mainland tended to be the best place to snatch up a beach chair. The wave action was a bit more fierce on the other side of the island.
Your resort fees include the ferry rides, beach chairs and towels. One big tip, remember everything you will need for the day and bring it to the island. There is a gift shop on the island that does sell sunscreen if you forget it as well as restrooms, a casual restaurant and a shop that rents water toys and snorkel gear. If you have your own snorkel gear bring it. Tropical fish, coral and other sea creatures are a short swim off the southern short of the island. Also, keep an eye out for the iguanas. They are all over the island.
If you're looking for something different, the resort also has horse stables on the island and you can take a guided tour on horseback. When you need a break from sitting in the sand, grab a bottle of water from the bar and take a hike on some of the islands hiking trails. Bring water! I can't stress that enough. It gets hot and you'll be glad you have it. The main hiking trail goes up a steep hill before falling back towards the coast again. Trust me, the view from the top is worth it. The eastern side of the island is unspoiled and the views are fantastic. On a clear day you can see the island of St. Thomas.
You can spend your entire day on the island before heading back to the resort to rest up before dinner. If you get tired of the beach, not sure how that can happen, there are plenty of activities back on the mainland. In addition to golf, the resort features several pools and a water park. Word of warning, the pools are free the water park is not. If you are making resort reservations ask if they are offering any deals that include the Conqui Water Park. At last check admission was about $20 per adult and $15 per child. If you want something really relaxing check out the spa.
To summarize, El Conquistador is a destination resort. Don't go expecting to explore the surrounding community. They've designed the property to keep you happy on property. The concierge will arrange excursions, but for the most part everything you would need is at the resort. You are not close to Old San Juan and some of Puerto Rico's historic sites so keep that in mind. The resort is both couples and family friendly. U.S. citizens do not need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico and flights to San Juan are usually reasonable in price and frequent.