This Average Joe had the opportunity to stay at the La Concha Resort Condado for an extended stay and this is my review and recommendations of the area.
Hotel Lobby – The hotel lobby is a large space that combines the duties of the front desk, with space for their primary hotel bar, along with a sushi bar, a coffee shop and a casino entrance.
The lobby is designed to bring all of these guests together into one space, and as such, it means it can be crowded and loud within this area. The foyer has a white marble flooring, so the sound of the assembled throngs simply resonates throughout the area. I checked in late on a Saturday evening, and the bar had such loud music blaring, I literally could not hear the front desk clerk. I had to walk around the desk so he could yell into my ear.
Casino – The casino is smaller when compared to its Vegas cousins, coming in at about 15,000 square feet. But, you will find most of the current table games as well as very sufficient supply of newer slot machines. In an odd quirk, I only saw two poker machines. If you are a poker player, you might want to wander down to the Marriott Stellaris, which, is just about three blocks east of La Concha.
Table minimums are generally very low, often just a $5.00 minimum bet. There was a version of Texas Hold ‘Em, and the table minimum for that game was $2.00. I do not play much anymore, but, I hung out watching the action and I thought the table crews were some of the friendliest I have seen in years.
Beach – The hotel is beachfront, and the staff to an excellent job maintaining the beach. I saw staff manicuring the sands, picking up trash, and generally doing an excellent job keeping the area clean. Chairs and umbrellas are available. There is a public park adjacent to the hotel, so, the beach area does have a number of local people that come in for their beach time. I never thought it was too crowded.
Pools – The hotel has multiple pools which allows for the guest pressure to be equally distributed among them. I normally used the adult pool. Which is not really big enough for swimming laps. Normally, we all just sat in it and talked as we stared at the ocean in Nirvana. The kid’s pool area does not have slides or other fun amenities that kids would normally enjoy playing with while enjoying their pool time. But, the pools seem are heated just enough to take the chill out of them which was nice.
My one peeve here at the adult pool, it seemed wait staff never came and checked on us. I mean, I am sitting out on a lounge chair, you know you need a frozen drink in your hand, Right?
Rooms – The La Concha has three towers. Only one faces the ocean directly. One has a city view. The third has both ocean and city views. I had a suite room overlooking the ocean. The suite came with a refrigerator, and stove top (no oven) a dining table, and sleeper couch. I really liked the room. However, the nightly noise, especially on weekends, would roll up and literally wake me up several times a night. This seems to be a common complaint among others that I talk to. I made a lot of use of my white noise app on my phone during this stay.
Washing Machines – The La Concha has TWO washing machines and dryers. These were in constant high demand and was my one very frustrating issue while here.
Hotel Restaurants – The La Concha has several restaurants on site. Here are my thoughts on them-
Delicias Restaurant – Located on the second floor, this restaurant has both over the pool seating, beach view seating and indoor seating they do breakfast, lunch and dinner. They offer a full buffet breakfast buffet ($27.00) with an extensive selection of items. But, I found the menu items far more fascinating. I like beet juice, and Delicias offers a phenomenal beet juice called the Iron Man (beet, orange, carrot and ginger) that became my go to drink during my stay.
Local Restaurants – La Concha is situated right within the tourist area and there is literally an overabundance of restaurants in either direction if you do not want to eat at the hotel. A strong Asian influence dominates in this area with many noodle, rice, and sushi choices available. Directly across from the La Concha, is a 24 hour take out Chinese restaurant, a Puerto Rican Restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, and a sit down Chinese restaurant. You will have no problems eating here, but be prepared to spend some money!
There are very few chain restaurants in this area. There is a Burger King and Chili’s east of the hotel on the main street about three blocks down. The local restaurants tend to be very small in this area. I have no doubt they are all family owned.
If you check Google maps or other maps of the area, many restaurants and clubs are noted within the area, but, numerous ones did not survive Hurricane Maria. Just be prepared to be flexible with your plans. On another note, also be flexible on your time. I really noticed the wait staff seems to move quite a bit slower than their counterparts do stateside and meals always took longer (and costs more) than I expected.
Here are some of the local restaurants that I ate at and my thoughts on each:
- Café de Angel – Directly across from the La Concha, the restaurant offers both open air and air conditioned seating. The restaurant offers Puerto Rican influenced dishes. I had the churrasco steak and thought it excellent. They advised, but, I have not tired it yet, the whole fried snapper as their specialty.
- Kabanas – Focusing on tacos and burgers, this restaurant is just across the street from La Concha, but in the east bound lane (behind Café de Angel). A very limited menu is offered. I had the tacos (chicken, beef and pork) and liked them immensely.
- Tayzan Bar and Grill – A very popular Asian restaurant, they offer a mish-mash of Chinese, Japanese, sushi and Puerto Rican dishes. This restaurant is very popular with the late night crowds. I had the sweet and sour chicken and thought it very good.
- Lupi’s Mexican – This is in the Isla Verde community. A popular restaurant with the tourist community.
Transportation – Getting to the La Concha from the airport required a taxi. Uber is not allowed to pick up at the airport. The Taxi was $23.00. Once at the hotel, I used Uber to get everywhere that I wanted to go. You can easily walk the area around the hotel.
Listening too many of the quests, the La Concha is popular with the cruise crowd who fly in a day or two before heading out to the cruise. I would estimate the cruise terminal is about a 15 minute drive from the hotel with traffic and current road conditions.
There were always several taxi’s at the hotel and there is an overabundance of Uber drivers in the area if you use the La Concha as your base, do not worry about trying to get around. That was easy. If you follow my link you can read my more in depth review of Uber in Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Damage – As of this writing, a lot of the city infrastructure still has damage from the devastating Hurricane Maria, which knocked out the islands power grid for months. Many of the private homes and business still have extensive damage. Many have been abandoned. If you are coming to Puerto Rico on vacation, please take this fact into consideration that the recovery process has been much slower than anyone wants and as such your patience and understanding will go a long way.
Things to See – Here are a few of the sights I visited during my stay and my thoughts on each:
Castillo San Felipe del Morrow – The crown jewel of the Spanish Empire was Puerto Rico. Trade winds brought ships to their front door from the Old World in need of repairs and fresh provisions before moving on to the New World. And, ships laden with gold and silver from South America passed their front door on their return home. In Monopoly parlance, Puerto Rico was both Park Place and Boardwalk, and it was loaded with hotels.
Castle del Morrow is fortress of staggering strength and endurance. Impenetrable walls, clear fields of fire, a dry moat, and bristling with 450 cannons, those who assaulted her, would come to regret their career choices in life. The fortress was never captured in direct battle.
As trade flourished, San Juan which sits just outside of the fortress became a wealthy city feeding off of the ships and crew that passed through the city. As such, San Juan was a much softer target of attack and easier to assault. And, so it was. In response, the Spanish began to fortify the city as well, building an impressive line of bulwarks, fortifications, city walls, and battlements.
The fortress is open to visitors as it is now a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can walk the battlements and venture back 500 years in time. If you want more exercise, take the Paseo del Morrow National Recreation Trail which starts to the right of the fort (as you are facing the fort), at sea level. Here you can look up at those walls and see how intimidating the fortress was to the attackers. The trail is not complete, but you can get a good walk in and enter the city of San Juan from the Red Gate. Which is how the welcomed guests of the Spanish arrived hundreds of years ago.
Old San Juan – If you want to wander Old San Juan you will find a charming 500 year old city build to old world standards: cut stone streets, narrow streets, brightly colored homes atop of one another. Cafes and small hotels are quaint. A central plaza is a gathering place for the both tourists and residents alike. And, many shops are catering directly to that crowd. When cruise ships are in port, there can be quite an increase in the local foot traffic. Watch for cars as you cross the streets! For a cold drink and snack, I stopped at Starbucks.
El Yunque Rainforest – Located on the eastern side of the island, the forest preserve took a real punch from Hurricane Maria and as such at the time of this writing much of the park is closed. The Visitor Center is closed for the next two years according to the staff, and a temporary one has been built in a small plaza in the village as you begin your ascent towards the preserve. It is easy to miss so pay attention. La Coca Falls and the Observation tower are accessible. La Angelito trail is partially open.
I had friends who rented four wheelers and took a tour through the forest and enjoyed it immensely, and I think an organized tour might be the best way to see the forest at present. I can’t stress that pre-planning is critical here to avoid a disappointing visit.
Average Joe is traveling the world and earning money while he does it. Using everyday apps and arbitrage techniques, he is teaching others how to have thousands of more dollars in their pocket so they too can travel and live a more rewarding life.
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