About four hours from a major U.S. city by plane is a perfect vacation spot for beach-lovers to get their sun fix. You can experience a destination filled with incredible nature, rich history, and fantastic food—not to mention amazing beaches, bars, and barrios. And as a U.S. citizen, you do not need a passport to experience this American tropical Caribbean island. My beachfront hotel El San Juan Fairmont Hotel, is located about 10-minutes from Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU). El San Juan Fairmont Hotel is a part of the Hilton Curio properties. This unique individuality hotel brand is designed to be reflective of the destination and locals.
El San Juan Fairmont was built in the 1950s by Pan American World Airways or "Pan Am." It opened its doors in 1958 to tourists, offering guests authentic Puerto Rican hospitality and entertainment. Then the strongest hurricane ever hit Puerto Rico, September 2017, and in 2018 with a $65-million budget, this iconic resort got a renovation and upgrade. In this blog, I'll walk you through my experience at this charming and sophisticated accommodation during my stay in June 2021.
This hotel sits on 15 acres and is cradled between the renowned crescent-shaped Isla Verde Beach and Isla Verde Avenue. Pre-pandemic, this would be the perfect location for nightlife, i.e., Club BRAVA and Ultra Lounge, and Vivo Beachclub. However, due to the curfew restrictions in Puerto Rico, I did not get to participate in San Juan's nightlife. But I still needed a piece of the nightlife, so just before 9 PM, I went out for snacks at the nearby Walgreens and CVS for snacks, don't judge; I was being creative.
Check-in & Property
While I was waiting to be checked in, I took note of the lobby. The lobby felt like Old World elegance with its plush textures and eclectic touches throughout. The center of attention is the dramatic oval chandelier! The chandelier makes it the best hotel lobby on the island; it's also the third-largest chandelier of its kind in the world! By the time I was done gazing around this classy hotel, I was done with check-in, then off to my room with a "city view" on the ninth floor. I was looking forward to my city view room, but boy was I disappointed. What I got instead was a room that overlooked the rooftop of the hotel's property and a glimpse of the beach and city.
As usual, I dropped my luggage off in my room and went on to scope out the property. The first stop was, what are my eating options? Whoa, was I pleasantly surprised if I didn't want to leave the property? My choices were Italian to Asian, local dishes, and fresh seafood. Restaurants include steakhouse Meat Market Miami, Caña by Juliana Gonzalez, El Bistro, and Trattoria Napoles. The hotel has seven bars to top off the eating experience, i.e., Chandelier Bar, which was closed due to COVID restriction, and the beautiful beachfront El San Juan Beach Club, which was also closed due to the COVID restriction.
The property features four pools, villas centered around the pool, outdoor space, and the Well & Being Spa. A three-level Fitness Center with pool and beach views. The hotel was on top of its mandated COVID Regulations, and I really appreciated it. The cleanliness and mask enforcement was a significant concern of mine, and El San Juan Fairmont did not disappoint me in this area.
The second most appealing feature exclusive to this hotel is the famous, 200-year-old massive banyan tree. Images of this tree are a perfect piece of art in your home, and it's most definitely Instagram-worthy.
The service was definitely a hit or miss. Some are friendly, and others just flat out gave me the impression that they just didn't want to serve me. To be honest, that was my experience even outside of the hotel, like with my Uber driver. Perhaps this nonchalant attitude is the culture I do not know. Still, it was the first time in all my travels that I visited a location, and the locals were not always hospitable.
Now with that said, I still would definitely recommend staying at this hotel for now because it's so beautiful. I'd also encourage everyone to write a review of their experience. More thoughts about the service will force management to improve their service or risk a decline in reservations.
Now again, I visited during a time of covid restriction. Thus, I did not experience any beach activities. However, there are myriad water sports. You can go kayaking or parasailing, and there's a tennis center onsite, too. Finally, the El San Juan Fairmont hotel delivers three essentials: beaches, bars, and by-the-airport.
Here's the question, if you've visited this hotel what was your experience? Leave us a comment below and don't forget to subscribe to across N abroad Travel blog so you're the first to access curated travel updates and inspirations and follow on Instagram.