Sign Up for Our Monthly Caribbean Newsletter
A beach resort has a tone of its own: wide open spaces, sea vistas, fresh air and a laidback, ambience. A city hotel also has its own vibe; the best have a mix of determined energy, up-to-the-minute technology and a sense that business is getting done. It’s rare that you can find a hotel that combines the best features of a city hotel with those of a beach resort. The San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino is one of the few properties that can stake claim to this distinction.
The 21 floor hotel has 513 guestrooms and 12 suites. Rooms offer a combination of sea, mountain and city views.
“The higher the floor, the better the view of the mountains,” said Julian Cable-Treadwell, the hotel’s director of marketing. “The Ocean Pool View Cabana rooms are a great choice for families with children, since it gives them straight access to the pool.”
During a recent stay, I was booked into one of the Penthouse Suites on the 21st floor, where I had superb views of the city that stretched all the way down to Old San Juan, as well as mountain and ocean views.
The property’s beach fronts the Atlantic Ocean, and the waves keep things interesting. It’s perfect for boogie boarding. The beach is also popular with locals, which adds another layer of authenticity to the experience. Another option is the huge pool, with a heated Jacuzzi and swim-up bar.
The hotel functions as a destination in itself, with a number of restaurants and shops, a spa, a casino and ample meeting space.
“Our beachfront restaurant is informal — we didn’t want our guests on the beach or at poolside to feel they had to go up to their rooms to change,” explained Treadwell.
The Condado neighborhood where the hotel is located offers travelers a lot of variety when it comes to shopping and dining.
“We looked around and there were 50 restaurants nearby,” said Treadwell.
Shopping runs the gamut from Walgreens to high-end brands such as Gucci and Cartier. Old San Juan is a $15 dollar cab ride away.
Red Coral Lounge
Last December, the San Juan Marriott unveiled its newly renovated lobby lounge, renamed the Red Coral Lounge. The lobby’s bar was traditionally the focal point of the hotel and is still the central area of the new lobby. It is surrounded by individualized zones that allow for both socialization and intimate conversation and is a good example of Marriott’s Living Social concept.
“Our new lounge is a work-in-progress and we’re still defining the concept,” said Treadwell.
The resort lobby incorporates designs from the island’s top local artists and sculptors. The focal point of the entrance to the lobby is the wooden “Coral Reef,” commissioned by renowned wood sculptor Neftali Maldonado. The large carving also serves to set the lounge off from the lobby, an important consideration. Treadwell confirmed that the former layout of the lobby sometimes led to a slightly noisy check-in process for guests and reception staff.
In its earlier incarnation, the lobby was a popular scene for both locals and hotel guests, with live salsa and merengue playing on the weekends.
“It was very inclusive,” said Treadwell. “But we’ve shifted to a 50/50 mix of music, adding hits our guests from the U.S. will find familiar and that will make them feel more comfortable. Our customer is 35 and up, and we’re marketing to that crowd.”
When I dropped by the lounge on a weekday evening, the DJ was spinning a mix of 1970’s disco and hits from the 1990s. The lounge made a convivial setting and the bar staff was a great source of insider information about the merits of local restaurants and nightclubs. You can also order a meal at the bar, which is a great option for those traveling alone. If you’re feeling adventurous, definitely try the lounge’s signature drink, the Jalapeno Mojito.
The lobby renovations complete the San Juan Marriott’s extensive overhaul of its property that included a $35 million investment in upgrading its guestrooms in 2007 and a $2 million makeover of the resort’s restaurants, La Vista Latin Grill and La Isla Grill and Pool Bar in 2011.
The hotel will debut the new Cafe Tapas in February 2013. There are also plans to transform the Wan Chai Noodle Bar by opening up the space and installing a show kitchen.
“In 2014, we’ll undertake a soft renovation of the rooms,” added Treadwell.
Another plus is that visitors from the U.S. don’t need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico. This becomes an especially important detail for those planning a destination wedding or for a business looking for a site for their next incentive or business meeting.