Sometimes, the unexpected decisions turn out to be the best ones. As summer began, our family travel plans were looking like a visit to New York City and a few days at a beach along the U.S. Gulf Coast. But funny what can happen when I sit down with a map and start exploring possibilities. Puerto Rico is what can happen, and out of that unexpected decision came a beach vacation gem: the San Juan Marriott Resort.
When we made the decision to travel to Puerto Rico, I had nothing in mind other than experiencing the culture of San Juan and its food, music and drink, all while relaxing in a beautiful tropical setting. I wasn’t sure if we would spend a couple of days in San Juan before moving to other parts of the island or staying put in one spot all week.
Earlier this summer, I had a great experience at a Marriott resort in Puerto Vallarta, so when I started looking at hotels in Puerto Rico I decided to start with Marriott. And when I discovered the San Juan Marriott Resort, I looked no more.
I’m a big believer in reviews, and this hotel could do no wrong on TripAdvisor. But then, I realized my travel blogging friend Erin of The World Wanderer? had stayed at this hotel back in the spring. When she wouldn’t stop gushing about the San Juan Marriott and how she thought our son would love it, I decided to anchor ourselves to one spot for our week in Puerto Rico. And I’m so glad I did.
I should make one thing clear: we’re not resort people. We prefer cities where we can experience fantastic restaurants, shopping, museums and local culture. And that’s what drew us to San Juan. Being at the San Juan Marriott Resort allowed us the opportunity to relax at the beach, but be a short cab ride from Old San Juan and literally across the street from the fantastic food scene of Condado.
Condado is billed as a fashionable, upscale neighborhood alive with nightclubs, restaurants and boutiques. Yes, it’s definitely fashionable and filled with restaurants. But I didn’t see anything that would make this pedestrian-friendly neighborhood seem too upscale in price or vibe.
The restaurants we ate at off property were exceptional and all with with friendly service. And, most importantly to us, our son was always welcome. We don’t seek out kid’s menus, but we do want restaurants with creative menus that do have something our picky son will eat.
The main drag of Ashford Avenue goes east-west, parallel to the beach. Basically, it roughly stretches from the airport about five miles to the east and Old San Juan a few miles to the west. And all along both sides of the street are restaurants, bars, boutiques and hotels.
What set the San Juan Marriott apart?
It wasn’t just one thing. The rooms were spacious with great views of the Atlantic Ocean. The property had so much going for it with two pools, a waterslide, a pool bar and a great beach, not to mention a staff that I’ll be raving about for years.
I don’t pay attention to service. I really don’t. As long as a property’s staff isn’t rude or cheats me on a bill, I’m good. But these guys went so far above and beyond. We usually ate breakfast at the property’s restaurant. That’s where we came across two wonderful servers, two men who went above and beyond to make us happy. Yes, it’s their job. And yes, they worked hard to make all the other diners happy, too. But I’d go back to this hotel just to have breakfast with Angelo as our server.
But the great service didn’t just come in the form of the restaurant’s wait staff. Toward the end of our trip, we went shopping the Condado neighborhood. After getting back to the hotel Stacey realized her sunglasses were missing. She searched everywhere, checked with lost and found. No one could find the sunglasses. She was pretty upset about it.
The employees at the front desk and the host at the restaurant went above and beyond to try to locate these sunglasses. One final attempt the morning we checked out saw a front desk worker call one of the boutiques Stacey had been shopping in, and managed to discover the sunglasses had been dropped outside.
You just don’t understand how these missing sunglasses became such a downer on the final night of our trip and then ended up being the best news of the week as we were checking out. It was all made possible by the persistence of the staff, who even shared hugs with Stacey at the discovery of the sunglasses.
Arriving at the hotel from Luis Munoz Marin International Airport was easy. The cab ride, which cost around $20, took about 15 minutes or so. We pulled in to the property’s drop-off area that is adjacent to the entrance to the parking garage that is available for anyone who decides to rent a car for their stay.
We arrived about 3:30 p.m. and had a short line to wait a few minutes in, where we discovered our room was not ready. Since check-in was at 4 p.m. I was expecting as much, so we left our luggage and walked out to the beach and had our first pina coladas in the land where they were invented.
After a short wait our room was ready and we headed up to the fifth floor for our oceanfront room, where we were welcomed by a beautiful view of the beach below.
Our room had two beds, and enough floor space for a family of three to move around.
The entertainment center had a TV that remained tuned to Cartoon Network, a special treat for our son considering we don’t have cable TV at home. Of course this also helped him discover “The Regular Show,” which has been his obsession for the past month since we arrived home (thanks Netflix and YouTube).
Below the TV is a refrigerator, which really comes in handy if you want a cold beverage or three to carry down to the beach. In fact, I might recommend walking up the street to Walgreen’s and buying canned beverages to keep in the room. I carried down a couple to the beach in a bag of ice daily.
The balcony at the San Juan Marriott Resort had plenty of space for the three of us to relax with the sights and sounds of the crashing surf below, while also having space to dry our beach clothing. And the greatest part of this balcony was it provided Stacey and I a spot to have privacy while Colby slept inside.
When enjoying a tropical vacation, sun, water and sand tend to be important. When we decided to visit Puerto Rico, the need for a beach vacation was at the top of our list. In addition to all the great reviews I read about the property and the good price, the main reasons I chose the San Juan Marriott Resort was the pools and expansive beach.
Our son is finally figuring out how to swim. Since last summer he’s grown much more comfortable in the pool. So having a pool that he could enjoy playing in while also having a water slide to play on was great.
Even better, this pool had plenty of chairs spread around as well as a pool bar to enjoy while Colby played.
There are two pools, one somewhat above the other. The higher-level pool is great for young children while the lower-level pool is meant for the older kids and adults. It’s not terribly deep, but there were a few places where our 7-year-old son was a bit too short to stand and keep his head above water. The water slide does empty into this pool on the end where the water from the upper pool spills in.
The opposite side of the pool is where the swim-up bar is located. It’s open until 6 p.m.
The beach is wide and offers complimentary chair and umbrella set up. If it’s your thing, servers come around all day on the beach and at the pool serving food and drinks.
Speaking of food, the San Juan Marriott Resort features a few restaurants, bars and a coffee shop. La Vista Latin Grill is a bit more upscale and offers a really good breakfast buffet. I don’t eat breakfast, but I’ve learned when traveling with a child that breakfast is vital. I also don’t like buffets, but the food on this one was well prepared. This was always a great start to our day, especially with the complimentary mimosas. One day early in our week, it began raining as we were eating breakfast. So instead of being in a hurry to get to the beach, we lingered over several mimosas. That was the day Angelo served us, and he served us well.
We never ate an evening meal on the property, always leaving to check out the great dining scene in Condado and San Juan. But I understand that La Vista serves a number of traditional Puerto Rican dishes, including mofongo.
Outside was one of our favorite dining experiences. The La Isla Grill & Pool Bar is a more casual outdoor dining experience. We had lunch here several times where we would typically order a seafood sandwich of some sort, which was big enough for Stacey and I to share. The food at La Isla Grill is also what can be ordered at the pool bar or on the beach.
I never visited Wan Chai Noodle Bar, which is located in the Stellaris Casino (another amenity we never visited).
Red Coral Lounge is inside the lobby part of the massive lobby bar. Red Coral Lounge had live music playing at times during our stay, but since we were there with a child we never stopped in on our way up to the room after dinner.
A welcoming and friendly staff, clean and spacious rooms, a large and fun beach, a couple of pools that the whole family could spend the day in, and the fact that outside the resort’s front door is an abundance of local dining options and boutiques made the San Juan Marriott Resort a great option.
The resort’s rooms are priced in the upper $100s to low $200s per night, depending on the view your room provides (city, pool or ocean). Considering we visited Puerto Rico just a few weeks after New York City, I was ecstatic at how affordable the San Juan Marriott Resort is. We paid probably $30 or $40 more per night to stay in a tiny hotel room in Manhattan, so the price, room size and amenities made the San Juan Marriott Resort so refreshing.
We absolutely loved Puerto Rico. We enjoyed walking the streets of Old San Juan, eating our fill of mofongo, discovering wonderful Cuban food, hiking in our first rainforest, and just enjoying the beautiful people of this wonderful island. This visit to Puerto Rico was a combination of family beach vacation and 15th wedding anniversary.
If staying in a reasonably priced property on a beautiful beach that’s really close to the fast-paced action of Condado and the historic feel of Old San Juan, the San Juan Marriott Resort gets my thumbs up for any family.