Sign Up for Our Monthly Caribbean Newsletter
It’s not every day that you get to see Channing Tatum twerking from the balcony of your hotel room. Last month, I had this incredibly rare, terribly entertaining sighting while staying at the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, where the sequel to the film “21 Jump Street,” starring Tatum and Jonah Hill, was being filmed. From my balcony, I sipped on a Medalla beer and watched, almost in awe, as the cast danced wildly to tunes curated by Diplo, an internationally renowned DJ and producer. While this wasn’t an average day at the San Juan Marriott, it certainly amplified my experience at the recently upgraded four-star property.
In early December, the resort completed an $8 million renovation to all 525 guestrooms. New decor combines wooden furnishings with fresh splashes of color, reflecting the hotel’s “Caribbean cosmopolitan” design concept. Guestrooms also feature new artwork, 47-inch televisions, balcony furniture and sandy textured carpeting. I loved the overall clean look of the room — its bed dressed in a plush white duvet, complemented with gigantic pillows — as well as the free Wi-Fi access that even worked on my balcony.
The recent refresh is part of the hotel’s ongoing effort to stay relevant in a competitive environment. A $2.2 million overhaul of the lobby, with the addition of the Red Coral Lounge, took place in 2012, and updates to La Vista Latin Grill and the La Isla Beach and Pool Bar were completed just two years prior. More facelifts, including upgrades to its meeting space and the Ocean Club fitness center, are in the pipeline for 2014 as well.
The San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino is located in the trendy neighborhood of Condado. // © 2014 San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
The on-site Stellaris Casino features table games, video poker and a late-night Chinese restaurant, Wan Chai Noodle Bar. // © 2014 San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
Guests can enjoy complimentary appetizers and stellar views in the Executive Lounge. // © 2014 San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
La Vista Latin Grill serves local cuisine including sancocho stew and mofongo, the island favorite made with mashed green plantains and a flavorful broth. // © 2014 San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
The property features two pools, one of which offers a swim-up bar. // © 2014 San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
The crown jewel of the Red Coral Lounge is a wooden coral reef sculpture designed by Neftali Malonado. // © 2014 San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
All 525 guestrooms were upgraded as part of an $8 million refresh. // © 2014 San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
Oddly enough, I spent much of my time in the lobby, listening to music and conversing with guests at the Red Coral Lounge. The lounge was one of the happening spots to drink handcrafted mojitos (try the dragonberry mojito), meet locals and other guests and dance to a live salsa band, which plays every Friday and Saturday night from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. The casual atmosphere, accentuated with metal and indigenous wood sculptures, was rather seductive, and I found myself ordering sushi or light appetizers there before enjoying a night out on the town.
“Our hotel is located in an incredible location — in the middle of the trendy and upscale neighborhood of Condado,” said general manager Hans Georg Roehrbein. “We have a prime beach location, and there are more than 120 restaurants within a 15-minute walk of the hotel.”
Roehrbein encouraged me to venture off property and discover the neighborhood on foot, and I was floored by the range of restaurants I encountered. For example, across the street from the hotel is Bar Gitano, a Spanish tapas restaurant helmed by “Iron Chef America” contestant Chef Roberto Treviño. The chef owns another knock-out restaurant nearby, Budatai, serving contemporary Asian cuisine with a Puerto Rican twist. Another favorite, Yantar, overlooks the Condado Lagoon and is ideal for couples who don’t mind splurging on an unforgettable meal.
Everyone who stays at the San Juan Marriott should take a short walk to La Placita, an open-air market that turns into a mild street party around 5 p.m., when the after-work crowd waits out rush hour traffic. On the outskirts of the market is one of the city’s finest restaurants, Santaella, which sources its ingredients daily from La Placita.
Those who prefer the comforts of the hotel will not go hungry. La Vista Latin Grill serves local cuisine including sancocho stew and mofongo, the island favorite made with mashed green plantains and a flavorful broth. La Isla Grill offers ocean views, pina coladas and casual American fare, while Wan Chai Noodle Bar, located inside the Stellaris Casino, offers Chinese food and Asian fusion cuisine late into the night. Whether you want to eat your way through San Juan or simply let your hair down for a bit, the San Juan Marriott is ready to indulge you.