While searching for a place to stay during our recent trip to San Juan, I came across several affordable boutique hotel options in the Condado district. Intrigued, I decided to do my research before â€œbooking without looking.â€ Most tourist sites will tell you that the Condado is comparable to Miami Beach or even the Vegas Strip. Though there are casinos in large, decadent hotels along the waterfront, the inland part of the Condado feels down right â€œneighborhoody.â€
Itâ€™s the perfect stomping ground for pedestrian tourists who are fond of great restaurants, trendy boutiques, green spaces with public art and plenty of beaches.Â Even at the height of spring break season, the streets and restaurants never felt too crowded (this could have simply been the effects of the flagging U.S. economy, however).
There are plenty of luxury options along the water. If youâ€™re going to go that route, go big and stay at the world-class La Concha Resort (http://www.laconcharesort.com/). The stunning â€œbeach-modâ€ interior and impeccable amenities are sure to please even the pickiest of travelers.
For a more laid-back (and affordable) boutique hotel option, I highly recommend Coral Princess Hotel (http://www.coralpr.com/). Tucked away on a residential side street less than two blocks from the water, the Coral Princess features clean and classy accommodations (art by local artists in each room add a sophisticated touch), a small pool, a rooftop lounge and hot-tub (fantastic after a long day of sight-seeing), and a much better than average continental breakfast.
Where to eat:
The Condado is home to one of San Juanâ€™s most established upscale restaurants, JosÃ© JosÃ© located on the residential Magdelena Avenue (conveniently right across the street from Coral Princess Hotel). Chef JosÃ© Abreuâ€™s entrÃ©es range from fresh seafood to meat options such as lamb potage with mashed white plantains. The wine list is comprised mostly of Spanish wines, a large section of reds, whites and champagnes to wash down the decadent cuisine.
Also located on Magdalena Avenue is the trendy Il Postino (1106 Magdelena Avenue, Condado, 787-729-7799). The restaurantâ€™s cutting-edge interior and intimate outdoor eating area are filled most nights (so a reservation is recommended). Il Postinoâ€™s moderately-priced menu features a variety of Italian dishes, and youâ€™re sure to find the perfect pairing on their international wine list.
What to do:
- If youâ€™re not staying there, take a walk through the lobby of La Concha and The Conrad (further down Ashford Avenue, toward the Old Town) and have a mojito at one of their bars.
- Check out the plaza next to the Hiltonâ€”there are frequently outdoor concerts and mini-festivals held in here.
- Browse the upscale shops along Ashford Avenue.
- Swim and lounge. All of the hotels have lovely beaches, or there is a public beach, Playita de Condado, located right next to The Conrad. The small bay is protected by a reef, so the water is much calmer than other public beaches in San Juan (La Ocho, for example).
- Stroll the neighborhood streets and stop for a cocktail and light fare at one of the many small independent eateries youâ€™ll find along the way.