by Christine Koubek
Note: This resort has suffered damage in the 2017 hurricane season and is not taking reservations through Dec. 31, 2017.
El Conquistador Resort is set on a cliffside overlooking the sea on the northeastern tip of Puerto Rico, near El Yunque National Forest, and 4 miles from downtown Fajardo and Las Croabas (home to popular Bioluminescent Bay tours). There is so much to experience on property at this resort — a water park, private island, kids program, poolside movies and more — you’ll want to budget your time away from it wisely.
As of 2016, El Conquistador Resort offers an all-inclusive package that includes three meals, select alcoholic beverages, and admission to the onsite water park (admission is not included in standard rates), plus access to the resort’s other fantastic amenities and activities.
The resort first opened in 1962, when it debuted as a small, elegant 84-room resort. The resort was expanded to a 388-room property in the late 1960s and had a nightclub named “Anything Goes at Sugar’s,” which included a 1932-style bathtub, a rowboat, an electric chair and a Volkswagen. The resort’s grand re-opening at the time was attended by more than 200 luminaries and journalists including Angie Dickinson and Omar Sharif.
After the mid-1970s oil embargo and recession, the resort closed. Williams Hospitality Group, Inc. of San Juan (the company that had revitalized San Juan’s Condado Plaza Hotel & Casino and the El San Juan Hotel & Casino) restored the reputation and glamour of El Conquistador and reopened the property on October 27, 1993.
Las Casitas Village was added to the property in two phases, the first opening in 1994 and the second in 2004. The entire property received an extensive $120-million renovation in 2008, which was the last major refurbishment for El Conquistador. Minor updates to the property have been made since. A lobby update is scheduled for this year.
Both El Conquistador and Las Casitas Village became part of Hilton Worldwide under the Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resort flag in 2009.
Our Editor Loves
- Water park
- New Ki' Children's spa program
- All-inclusive package available
- All Inclusive Rates
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
Connecting rooms are available, as are one- and two-bedroom suites, for larger accommodations. All rooms offer bathtubs with the exception of handicap accessible rooms, which offer roll-in showers.
While lovely in decor, there are signs of wear and tear in many of the guest rooms, from small stains to chips on furnishings. The buildings in the Las Olas section look the most worn with water, rust and dirt stains on stucco walls, and empty public spaces. In addition, you need to ride the funicular, or take a long staircase, to reach restaurants and amenities either at the waterfront or up at the main property from the Las Olas section.
Rooms have at least 400 square feet of space and private balconies overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, or the El Yunque National Forest in the distance. The decor has a contemporary feel with white furniture and nautical artwork, and the rooms include complimentary Internet access, an iHome stereo/alarm, plasma TV's, DVD players, safes, mini-fridges, and either one king or two queen beds. There are no kitchenettes; microwaves can be provided upon request for $25 per day.
The majority of standard guestroom categories are from garden views to partial and full ocean views.
La Vista Ocean View Rooms
The slightly larger La Vista Ocean View rooms are located near the golf course and spa and have 575 square feet of space that includes a sitting area with a day bed. Las Brisas Ocean View rooms are also larger, with 560 square feet of space that includes day beds.
La Marina Ocean View Rooms
The La Marina Ocean View rooms are at the waterfront level, adjacent to the Coqui Water Park. Most have 595 square feet of space and either a balcony or patio, as well as a sitting area with a day bed. This area also has a more residential feel with a bit of lawn space where kids can play.
The reason there is no availability at this resort is because it has not opened after the hurricane. It looks like it was a beautiful resort, but there are just a few workers and security guards at the place. We stayed next door at the Marina Lanais, a condo. It felt quite deserted with the resort next door closed. The town of Fajardo is a ways from the marina.
My husband and I picked this place for a staycation. We are diamond members and when we checked in we were not offered any upgrades. We had a Mountain View room but it was more of a view of the parking lot. The rooms are a little outdated. The service at the pool was attentive, a little annoying with the kids running around screaming but was fine.
Breakfast was included with an uocharge for the hot meals. Food was good and we especially liked the posole.
The main pool complex has an upper pool with a Jacuzzi and swim-up bar, a lap pool with lanes and an activity pool with basketball and volleyball. Pool depth for all three is no more than 3.5 feet. Though there is no gradual entry, there are wide stairs to wade and sit on.
The Las Olas Village section of El Conquistador has a swimming pool, as well, but there is rust on adjacent buildings and it looks like the area hasn't been renovated in some time.
Coqui Water Park
For more water-oriented thrills, visit the 2.4-acre Coqui Water Park. The park is in the Marina Village area of El Conquistador. This well maintained park has high-speed flume slides (for those 38 inches or taller), a lazy river, Oasis Bar & Grill snack bar, lockers, a one-foot deep kiddie section with plenty of sprays and several relaxing and shady seating areas. Full-day admission is about $20 for adults and $15 for children age 3 to12 and half-day admission is about $13 for adults and $9 for children age 3 to 12.
Las Casitas and El Conquistador's children's program, Camp Coqui, is for children ages 4 to 12. It offers numerous recreational and educational activities, from kayaking over coral reefs and snorkeling, to sand sculpting, scavenger hunts and more. Half days ($45 per child), full days ($75 per child and includes lunch) and night sessions are available. Children must be potty-trained.
For a day at the beach, hop on the resort catamaran (complimentary) for a short ride to Palomino Island, the resort's private island. On the island you can go snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, paddle-boarding, use wave-runners and sail boats, or play mini-golf, basketball, volleyball, horse shoes and corn toss. There is also an oversized chess set, and plenty of beach chairs and umbrellas.
The water's sandy bottom is full of rocks and shells, so water shoes or waterproof flip flops help.
In 2014, the island's Palomino Stables became a working rescue stable. The horses are brought to the island to receive care and once they return to health, they're trained to give rides to guests. There are currently 18 horses that range in age from 1 month to 26 years old. Even if you don't want to ride, it's worth visiting the stable for a tour. A 50-minute, 4.5-mile scenic trail ride travels up the mountain and across the top, then down to the beach. Children, teens and adults age 10 and up and under 210 pounds are $69 per person. You can also book a 50-minute "walker trail ride" for ages 5 and up, where a guide walks with and controls the horse, for $30 per person. Twenty-minute guided pony rides are available for ages 10 and under and cost $25 per child. Reservations can be made through the concierge or by calling 787-208-6883.
The island's Iguana's CafÃƒÂ© serves basic burgers and pizza. Two shops offer beach supplies and souvenirs. Ferries run from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with the last ferry to the island typically at 3 p.m., and the last returning ferry departs at 5:30 p.m.
Both the water park and the private island ferry can be reached via the resorts' funicular -- a cable car suspension system that transports guests from bluff-top to seaside. Leave plenty of time to catch the ferry.
Stop by the concierge desk to check the week's activity and movie schedules, which include pool game times and a listing of movies that are shown in the theatre, as well as poolside. Also, pick up a "Scout About" map, which details 13 points of interest, from discovering Tamarind trees to finding a miniature horse. Collect a colored band to receive the "Hall of Fame band and have your photo added to the "Scout About" Wall of Fame.
The Arthur Miller designed 18-hole golf course has views of the ocean and El Yunque National Forest in the distance. It's also kid-friendly, with three tees --one for pros, one for regular folks and a junior tee for kids. The course also has something quite unique -- foot golf, in which you kick a soccer ball into soccer ball sized holes. Game times are typically 4 p.m. or later. Reserve a time in advance to guarantee availability.
Tennis, including private lessons and kids' clinics, is also available, on both clay and hard courts.
Game rooms (one located off the main lobby and the other across from Cafe Caribe) are open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to midnight.
There are more than 20 restaurants, bars, and lounges, including two ice cream shops and a Starbucks at El Conquistador. The quality varies considerably.
Cafe Bella Vista
A favorite casual lunch and dinner place is Cafe Bella Vista. It's outdoors, has a circular low bar that you can sit at and watch a sporting event on TV, or you can snag a table on the terrace overlooking the pool. The service is always friendly and prompt. The menu includes pizzas, Paninis (huge!), burgers, fish tacos and Puerto Rican specialties like Carne Fritta, made from pork, rice and garbanzo beans. Meals on the kids menu are around $7. Choices include whole wheat grilled cheese, pasta and sauce and chicken tenders.
Chop's Steakhouse is one of the highest rated restaurants at the El Conquistador. The food, service, signature martinis and elegant art deco decor are all top notch. Menu items include an excellent lobster bisque for $12, seafood pasta with shrimp and mussels in a tomato cream sauce for $36, filet mignon from $38 to $44, and crab mac n' cheese for $11. There are six different sauces offered including bÃƒÂ©arnaise and Chop's signature barbecue. If you're a chocolate fan, be sure to save room for the decadent Molten Lava Chocolate Cake. It's big enough for four.
The waterfront Stingray Cafe is another excellent option for dinner, a bit more casual than Chops and overlooking the dock and waterside, so a bit more people watching entertainment for kids. It serves fresh, tasty seafood, pasta and steak, including a garlic shrimp risotto, filet mignon and scallops. Dinner entree prices range from about $29 to $45.
Dockside Ballyhoo Bar & Grill
Dockside Ballyhoo Bar & Grill is a great spot for sitting outdoors and having a drink, but the food -- wraps, sandwiches, burgers and dogs -- is average at best, and pricey, too, from $9 for a hot dog to $14 for a grilled chicken Caesar wrap with wilted lettuce.
For lunch, dine at the water park -- prices range from $5 for a hot dog and $7 for a burger.
Some of the restaurants offer Wikki Stix for children to play with and Virgin Burger (by the main pool) has binoculars on the table for kids and parents to explore the views of the nearby Virgin Islands.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Babysitting services can be set up through the concierge in advance, or once you arrive at the resort. A sitter can care for up to three children. The cost is $20 per hour for the first child and $4 per hour for each additional child with a three-hour minimum. There is an additional $10 per hour on holidays, and a cancellation penalty of $60, if not terminated more than four hours in advance.
Waldorf Astoria Spa
The Waldorf Astoria Spa is gorgeous and has a spacious fitness center to rival any at home, including TRX, treadmills, bikes, a weight area and a movement studio that is home to yoga classes and much more.
The Ki' Children's spa room at the El Conquistador Resort, for ages 14 and under, is done up in purples, pinks and lime greens down to the blankets and shag carpeting. Treatment options include a 25-minute head, neck and shoulder massage and a 25-minute coconut sugar scrub facial. Mommy and Me and Daddy and Me packages are available, too.
The fitness center is free if you've booked a spa service for that day, but will cost you $25 if not. Access to El Conquistador's fitness center is free, however, it's not much of a center. It's two very small worn-out looking rooms that have rusty equipment and dirty glass walls.
In addition, there are a handful of stores off of El Conquistador's long lobby, selling everything from snacks and personal items, to bathing suits, clothing, shoes, sunglasses and a nice variety of arts and crafts.
The Art of Smart Timing
El Conquistador's busiest season is mid-December through the end of April, when rates are highest. You'll find lower rates from May through early August, and in October and November.
Year-round packages and specials are offered, too, including an all-inclusive package that covers three meals per day and access to the onsite water park. Kids under 12 eat free, plus you receive a nightly resort credit with the Family Escape Package. The Coqui Water Park package includes daily breakfast for four at Las Brisas (located over at El Conquistador), four daily Coqui Water Park admissions and round-trip motor coach transportation for two adults and two kids.
In addition, the resort goes all out to celebrate holidays. For example, during Easter, you'll find egg decorating, photo ops with Mr. & Mrs. Easter Bunny and egg hunts, including a soaking egg hunt in the pool. Teens can partake in an evening egg hunt, speed-slide competition or have a Honey Bunny spa facial. A special Easter Sunday mass is held in the Grand Caribbean Ballroom and parents can make arrangements to have the Easter Bunny deliver baskets to kids.
All of the resort's facilities are open year-round. Puerto Rico's weather is fairly consistent with highs in the mid to upper 80's, and lows in the 70's. Dry-season typically falls around early spring.
Luis Munoz Marin International Airport is approximately 55 miles, and an hour drive from the resort. Round-trip motor coach transportation is available for $74 per adult, $54 per child (12 and under). For private transportation you can book a luxury van for $234 each way, or a sedan car (for up to three people with luggage) for $215 each way. Think through how often you'll want and need to leave the property and if you'll book excursions that include transportation when determining your rental car needs. Las Casitas Village guests are allowed one complimentary parking spot per villa as part of their stay. Additional vehicles and guests of El Conquistador have either self or valet parking available for a fee of $16.06 (self) or $21.40 (valet) per day, unless included as part of a package.
If you think you'll only need a car for one day, there is an Enterprise Rental Car facility on property. Note that Bioluminescent Bay tours, one of the most popular excursions in this area, are only a 10- to 15-minute walk from El Conquistador's back gate.
For Mom and Dad
For alone time, try the spa's Paradise for Two Package, which includes a full-day spa pass to the gym as well as a 50-minute massage and beverages for sipping while you relax on the ocean-view terrace. In addition, dinner at Chop's Steakhouse and a long stroll through the beautifully landscaped grounds makes for a great date night.