Much about The Condado Plaza Hilton has been delivered with an ostensibly organic ease. From its location, as the only hotel overlooking the Condado Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean -— complete with ocean breezes, beautiful sunsets and striking water views to its proximity a mere five minutes from historic Old San Juan, prepare to set this destination atop of your list of ideal weekend jaunts and winding getaways.
On the drive in, I glanced over just in time to catch a glimpse of a couple paddle boarding through the lagoon … on the other side beach bums; I was already thinking about how I could extend my stay. It was a balmy 82-degree day in November … the norm. The climate is as close to perfect as it can get in San Juan, Puerto Rico, averaging 83 degrees in the winter and 85 degrees in the summer. I intended two and a half days of doing nothing but sunning and lounging, and maybe a poolside massage, but the stream of foot traffic around the 572-room, 4-star resort piqued my curiosity. There was an immediate change of plans because I was sure I’d regret not taking full advantage of this tropical weather once back at home. I had to at least walk a few blocks, and I imagine this was the response of every traveler arriving from a chilly winter elsewhere. As always on quick escapes, my expectations were simple — mostly revolving around food, scenery and quality relaxation; All relaxation is not equal. As for where to begin here, other travelers in the entryway of Condado Plaza gave me a hint: first, lighter fabrics.
In my room, I always open the patio door while in a tropical locale. The sound of crashing waves signifies the beginning of everything. And so often, I’m tempted to settle into whatever space I have overlooking the water to soak up the setting and allow the salty air to wash off the residue of getting there. The right view — in this case lushly achieved inside as well as outdoors — can do that. But this time I resisted and hit the city’s streets — wandering briefly, mostly for the absorption of place as I was saving my exploration of the historic district for an early morning walking tour the next day. You do need to be on foot to get a more intimate exposure to the city. Condado is central to popular sites like San Juan Cathedral, San Juan Gate, Castillo de San Cristobal and La Fortaleza - Palacio de Santa Catalina.
A short time later, back on property, the lobby was a magnet in the vibrant and modern entrance to the hotel; being here was altering all of my plans. The sleek design of the hotel makes it the ideal urban retreat for business or leisure travel, with cosmopolitan sophistication that compliments San Juan’s colonial tradition. Open and airy is the theme awash in white, oranges and reds. At any given time of the day, you may have to hover to claim a seat or you could post up in the centrally stationed 360-degree Moon Bar for drinks at noon and beyond. Food-wise, Pikayo, the flagship of acclaimed Puerto Rican Chef Wilo Benet, is a San Juan institution that has been enticing diners for over two decades. Featuring Wilo’s Nu + Global Mix, Pikayo’s menu is a combination of new and classic dishes from Puerto Rico and around the world. However, sushi at Eight Noodle Bar, Condado’s most popular Asian restaurant, my first night on property ruined me for all other options. But, among the five restaurants and Starbucks, there is something for every palate.
Like other guests, I canvassed the property, entertaining myself between one of the hotel’s four outdoor pools – one with saltwater and three with fresh, and on the secluded beach where snorkeling gear could be rented. The was also the option of a game of tennis on the resort’s outdoor court as well as laying back in the whirlpool spa overlooking the ocean. I did, in fact, book a massage on look-out point that fittingly capped the entire experience of The Condado Plaza Hilton. Why leave?
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