Best Hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico

This year, my husband and I moved from Georgia to Puerto Rico, and we spent the first couple months living in hotels. In this post, I’ll cover some of the best hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico that we stayed at as well as the difficulties we experienced at each. I personally believe that we found the best hotel for exploring the San Juan, Puerto Rico area, and I saved the best for last.

Disclaimer: Our budget was around $200/ night at Christmas time. This excludes most San Juan resorts and most hotels in Old San Juan. So, let’s get started!

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Tres Palmas Inn

Located in Ocean Park, Tres Palmas Inn is a comfortable, Spanish-style hotel located right on the water. Although the hotel is technically on the “beach,” in the winter, the water comes close to the road, and is not exactly much to look at compared to other beaches close by. If you prefer smaller, local hotels versus large convention-style accommodations, then you could consider Tres Palmas. The breakfast is simple, but plenty, including cereal, bagels and cream cheese, boiled eggs, fruit, cheese, coffee and juices. The selling point for me was the rooftop hot tub. Cleaned daily, and smelling of chlorine (a very important feature to me), this hot tub was hardly used by anyone else. My husband and I would climb the stairs each night and watch the Christmas season fireworks light up the sky.

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ROOM: Our room was stocked with a mini-fridge, lock box, hangers, a dresser, and a flat screen TV. The room did however lack an ironing board and iron, which was a little inconvenient. Guests can check out beach chairs, towels, and even boogie boards. The first three nights, we stayed in a king room, but on the last night, we stayed in a room with 2 double beds. I preferred the 2 double beds to the king as the room was more spacious. This hotel has a small pool and plenty of seating areas to wind down at night, but most daily activities will be done elsewhere as this is not a resort property.

LOCATION: This hotel is beach front, but it is near probably the least desirable beach in the Condado/ Ocean Park area. Restaurants and pharmacies are not within walking distance, and UBER is necessary for every outing. The good news is that UBER is very cheap in Puerto Rico, making the price of this hotel and the amount of transportation you will use an affordable combination. They also have limited street parking if you decide to rent a car. I loved “living” at this hotel as I loved the style and facilities, but it is probably in the worst location of the three I’m mentioning in this post for a week of vacationing. The immediate area is nice, with impressive beach mansions, it will just require an Uber to get literally anywhere.

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PRICE: The pricing of this hotel is average for the area and fair considering it offers daily breakfast and water-front property.

SERVICE: Each staff member was kind and helpful at this hotel. The rooms were efficiently cleaned each day.

The Condado Plaza Hilton

Right in the heart of San Juan’s vacation hub is the Condado Plaza Hilton. This waterfront hotel has resort grounds that are breathtaking. Two large pools, a hot tub, and beach access with umbrellas and chairs make it easy never to leave the hotel except for maybe a nice dinner. I spent my mornings enjoying my favorite part of this hotel, which was the outdoor seating area where I watched the waves crash against the rocks. It had a Hawaiian lava rock feel, and truly should be made into a post card.

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ROOM: This room was renovated. It was called a “King with Deluxe Bathroom,” and the bathroom truly was exquisite with a large wardrobe and glass shower. The wardrobe had a coffee maker, iron, lock box, and mini fridge. We stayed in the main tower, which appeared to have been updated more recently than the adjacent tower. However, the impressive gym and second pool/ hot tub are at the second tower and are hardly crowded at all. This resort is a great fit if your main goal is to relax by the pool or the beach for the majority of your stay in Puerto Rico.

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LOCATION: This hotel is on the Condado Lagoon and practically on its own small, bay beach. A company on the lagoon offers paddle board and kayak rentals on the other side of the bridge. This hotel has its own parking garage and valet. There are limited food options nearby, including the pricey hotel restaurant called Café Caribe, a 24/7 Denny’s, Starbucks, and La Marqueta. Denny’s is literally at the hotel, and is good, but can be slow. You can order takeout by phone, and pick it up for a quicker option. La Marqueta is a trendy outdoor food court with an awesome vibe. The quesadillas are delicious for lunch, but each vendor tends to run out of food by 5pm, turning this into a better spot for drinks rather than dinner. A 15-minute walk further into Condado will bring you to more food options, but all will be crowded at peak tourist seasons, so be sure to either reserve a table or be willing to wait. 

PRICE: For now, the prices of this hotel are excellent compared to resorts nearby. They have waived the resort fee of $30/ day, and I’m assuming that is because repairs are still taking place. But really, the only thing I recognized that was not fully functional were the tennis courts and lagoon deck area at the second tower. The pools, beach, and seating areas appeared to be completely restored. The towers are missing some paint on the outside, but the inside looks back to normal. Parking is valet or self-park in a garage, and is $25 a day.

SERVICE: The front desk service was always kind; however, this hotel seemed understaffed. I would call the front desk, but no one would answer. When they finally did answer, guest services would ask me to call the next morning as they were very busy. Housekeeping was exceptional, and our rooms were always clean.

Tropica Beach Hotel

This hotel truly felt like home after we finished staying here. It is relatively new, a few years old, and I didn’t realize how conveniently located it was until we arrived. Tropica Beach Hotel is also in Ocean Park like Tres Palmas, but the beach it’s near is nicer. This hotel is also more conveniently located to great restaurant options. Ocean Park’s food and bar scene is on Calle Loiza, which is only one street over from this Tropica. From Mexican to Korean Barbecue to local Puerto Rican cuisine, this street has it all.

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BUT, if you decide to stay at Tropica, do try the restaurant right outside your hotel door. Dulcesalado shares the building with Tropica and offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner Tuesdays-Fridays and brunch and dinner on the weekend. They also have a coffee shop to the right of the restaurant as well as a beer garden outside. Our favorite dinner was the Chicken Piallard Salad with the Avocado Salad side. Their Mushroom Soup Burger also has great flavor, and so we rotated between the two dishes. For breakfast, I often would get an omelet with an almond milk cappuccino. They have more elaborate dinner options if you want to splurge such as fried lobster, skirt steak, and shrimp mofongo.

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ROOM: We stayed in the King Deluxe room. This room is literally as big as a studio apartment. It has a spacious closet, seating area, and large restroom. They also moved us to a double room one night while the power was out and the generators connected to the other tower. The double room was still functional, especially for a vacation. Obviously, it was much smaller, but the only notable difference was a clothing rack instead of a closet. The King Deluxe is also very open, as in there is no door to the bathroom or shower. That was no issue for us, but could be awkward to share with a friend. Each room has a Roku TV with Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, etc. as long as you have a subscription. This hotel also offers guests steamers, beach chairs, towels, and bikes for checkout, although I would be a bit nervous to bike anywhere.

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tropica room

LOCATION: This hotel is close to restaurants, a Walgreens, and a Super Max grocery store. Because an UBER to Condado and even Old San Juan is so cheap, I really enjoyed this hotel location. I feel like you get to retreat from the busyness of the city. Parking is valet and $13 per day, but if you are vacationing, it is likely that you won’t need parking.

PRICE: The prices for this hotel are normal for this area. However, it does seem that they are having a “Keep it Tropica Special” right now.

SERVICE: The service here is great. The hotel is fairly small so you will always be able to find guest services to help. They also use Whatsapp to communicate, so you can just send them a text if you need anything.

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Happy travels!

-Katie

D.C. in a Day: Walking Guide & Lessons Learned

This past Spring Break, I took advantage of my precious time off from class and hit the road. My family, boyfriend, and I drove to the Historic Triangle in Virginia, consisting of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown. The most fascinating stories of the first British colonies and the Revolutionary War were told to us by historians at each site. It was interesting to listen to the stories unfold and imagine how they lived during the 1800s. After exploring the primary towns responsible for the formation of America, we decided to do the fully American thing, and drove about 2.5 hours north to Washington D.C.

This post is a compilation of mistakes we made in D.C. as well as some things we really enjoyed. I’ll list the most useful ways of getting around and my favorite parts of our capital. Here’s the map of the walking route we took, which I think covered most of the historic landmarks.

We did not make it to the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Lost Soldier this trip, but that is definitely worth attending.

The Big Mistake:

The entire day before and even on our way to D.C., we were debating whether to search for a parking spot in D.C. or park at a metro nearby and take it into town. On the way there, I read a blog that recommended the metro so we got off at the next exit, parked our car, and took the metro. HUGE mistake!!!!!! Only one metro was working so they combined the yellow and blue line into one route. We spent about an hour and a half just trying to go what would have taken us 15 minutes by car. I recommend taking the risk of driving into D.C. and finding a parking spot. If you can’t find a metered spot, which can now be paid by credit card and phone, pay $24 for a whole day at the Union Station parking garage. Once there, you can buy a metro card for the buses. Plus, if you do want to tour Georgetown or the cute neighborhoods nearby, you can just go pick up your car and drive there.

The Holocaust Museum:

Our first stop was to the Holocaust Museum because we reserved a slot online the day before for 1pm. If you have a reservation, you avoid the long line that goes all the way out the door. We scooted on by and showed the front desk our tickets that we printed at our hotel and they let us right through. This tour took us about 2 hours, but you could spend so much longer if you weren’t on a time crunch. It is heart wrenching as you walk through each level and experience the lives of the Jewish people who begin as normal citizens and eventually have everything stripped away from them. For children, the first floor has a walk-through story about a Jewish child whose life is turned upside down by the Nazis. Although still very real and very sad, this portion of the museum is less graphic.

Air and Space Museum:

Even though I had toured D.C. before, this was my boyfriend’s first time ever. I wanted him to get the most out of the small amount of time we had in this incredible place. Growing up, he wanted to be an astronaut and then a military pilot, so we chose to tour the Air and Space Museum as it was 3 pm and we could only choose one Smithsonian before they closed. Once again, in every museum you can spend 30 minutes to 5 hours there, depending on how interested you are in the subject matter.

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The United States Capitol:

This is one of my favorite buildings for two reasons: 1.) The architecture and paintings inside are mind-blowing, and 2.) They give tours. I love tours because when stories are told by historians and tour guides who really love the topic, I get really into it and love their enthusiasm. We had a recent grad student lead our tour group who was an excellent speaker, knew his stuff, and even threw in trivia questions for fun. After the tour, we walked to the Library of Congress. It was closed, but we were still able to walk up the steps and admire just how amazing this building really was. I mean, even the door was made of three-foot thick solid wood!

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Dinner at Union Station:

Union Station should be on your list for sight-seeing even if you aren’t taking a train ride or even eating. It is simply beautiful. It’s ceilings reach all-time highs and it doesn’t disappoint when compared to the rest of the architecture in D.C. We ate at the Shake Shack, which serves overpriced burgers and fries. I would probably recommend choosing something else in the food court like Chinese food or Charley’s Philly Cheese Steaks.

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D.C. at Nighttime:

Go see the monuments at night! Lincoln looks even more gigantic then he already is and the White House is beautifully lit for pictures. We walked from the Lincoln Memorial to the Vietnam and Korean War memorials and then to the WWII Memorial. They were all so much more breathtaking when every name on the wall of fallen soldiers was lit up in honor.

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Transportation Options:

While clearly I had a bad experience with taking the metro into town, others have had great luck. The parking is free, and the metro card is only about $5 each. If you do decide to use it, hopefully both metro routes will be working properly. If you choose to park in the heart of D.C., go for the Union station parking lot. As far as once you’re in the city, you walk and walk some more! The buses will take you to certain landmarks, but we just walked everywhere. As long as you make a giant loop around the city, it’s not a bad walk especially when the weather is nice. If you have more time to spend, take a car to see the outskirts. I’ve read of the amazing eats and cute neighborhoods that I will definitely go see on my next trip there. I live about 9 hours from D.C. so I’ve never flown in except on a field trip with a tour bus. I think renting a car would be helpful if spending a week in D.C. as you will want to see more outside the district.

Places to Stay:

Option #1 (cheapest):

In the city, places to stay will be pricey. I just looked it up on Booking.com and found several hostels available if you are looking to meet new people. Some hostels even serve breakfast. A 3 night stay was around $150.

Option #2 (Priciest):

Hotels on the outskirts of D.C. near Arlington Cemetery are $100/ night. However, you are paying for convenience if you choose a centralized hotel, which could be well-worth the cost if you are only staying for a few nights.

Option #3 (in between):

For families or groups of 4 or more, there is no beating Airbnb.com. More space for less money allows you to cook your meals, or at least your breakfast, and fit more people into one house or apartment instead of in multiple hotel rooms. I just looked and found several Airbnb stays for around $100/ night in neighborhoods close to the White House or Capitol Hill.

Here is my link for $40 off your first booking with Airbnb: Katie’s $40 Airbnb Discount

I hope these tips are helpful in planning your next trip to the capital of the United States of America!

Lovely Travels,

Katie

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Castle Garden

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Smithsonian Castle

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