During my last trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, I stayed at a horrible hotel. It was pitiful and subpar (yuck). I won’t go into further detail because that isn’t my style, but like most things there was a silver lining. The experience forced me to reflect on what a stellar stay in San Juan entails. El Convento in Old San Juan floated to the top, easily beating most properties I’ve stayed at on the island.
Keep reading for the property’s lows, highs, and most noteworthy aspects.
The property oozes charm and charisma. Throughout the hotel, hints of a different era permeate each corner. The Hotel’s history dates back to 1651, when it was a former Carmelite covenant. Since then its been remodeled a number of times, but regardless of the updates, charming elements of the property’s former past remain; a refreshing fact in amidst other hotel chains yearning for the same tired aesthetic.
My favorite design element is the open courtyard in the center of the property. Flanked by garden style furniture, lush greens, and a bar, the courtyard sets the stage for a pleasant evening. I had a good time here churning out work, so I could only imagine how fabulous it would be to just sit back and enjoy mojitos, sans legal writing.
I also enjoy the area to the right of the concierge. Its dramatic white and black checkerboard floor are stunning and the most Instagram friendly spots in the property. For more Instagram worthy spots in San Juan, check out my blog post: Photo Worthy Locations in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Whereas the courtyard is open to the public and curious tourists, the rooftop is reserved for guests. It offers views of the cathedral, charming streets of old San Juan, and the little plaza that is across from the property. It’s truly a serene spot. I enjoy coming here first thing in the morning for free coffee (yay, to saving money) and at 6pm for the free wine and cheese during the manager’s reception. During both instances, the ambiance is pure perfection. It’s one of the times I feel like I live inside an Instagram post.
I need to develop a better system of categorizing items within a property that isn’t as binary as high/low. The hotel’s accommodations aren’t necessarily a low, but they are not high either. The rooms are charming, with furniture that matches the aesthetics of the rest of the property, but they lack certain amenities for which modern travelers yearn. For example, during both instances I’ve stayed at the property, I’ve been placed in rooms with desks that aren’t functional. They are either just for show or too rickety to get actual work done in. This may be a personal problem because I used to go to San Juan for work and most tourists don’t need a desk.
The scarcity of the electrical outlets in the rooms also reflect the hotel’s advanced age. I travel with so many things that need charging *sigh* and I acknowledge that I am a prisoner to them, but whatever, I need things to charge. The few outlets that were present were not strategically placed either. For example, it’s annoying not to have an outlet next to the bed because I scroll through Instagram to put myself to sleep.
Sometimes I book hotels because of their gym equipment, but this was not one of those times. The gym offerings are slim and the equipment is outdated. I wish they would just spruce up this part of the hotel! It’s such a nice hotel and the gym should reflect that. At a minimum, there are free weights that can be dusted off for a quick routine, but please don’t lay down to do any floor exercises!
Honestly, the first time I saw the pool I thought it was a water feature. Meaning, a pretty water fountain that could maybe house coy fish?! Ok, now I’m exaggerating.
It’s small and I think the only utility it serves is for people to dip their toes in if they are hot. It could also be refreshing to quickly rinse off in if you are sunbathing and get too hot. Look at the pics below and you be the judge. Let me know if I’m being too dramatic about the size of the pool.
Overall, staying at El Convento is a pure delight. It’s one of those properties where the aesthetics, ambiance, and charm easily outweigh other inconveniences. Lastly, El Convento’s prime location can not be overstated. El Convento’s accessibility to most of Old San Juan’s noteworthy places is unmatched. Check out my blog post, Photo Worthy Locations in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for more noteworthy locations around El Convento.