puerto rico

Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TMOM

Anytime you stay at a new hotel, even if it is within a brand you know and love, there is an element of surprise. And Renaissance Hotels are playing up that surprise with the Discovery Doors program. This online game launched in New York in August, with a family finding CeeLo Green in their hotel room.

But we discovered hidden surprises with our own recent stay at La Concha Resort, in Condado, Puerto Rico. The luxury hotel, part of the Renaissance chain (itself owned by Marriott), is on a picture perfect sandy beach, yet across the street from a cute café where the owner makes a delicious espresso and sandwich. It is ideally situated for those seeking both beach and local access.

The strip of beach has several hotels and restaurants, along with boutiques, bars and parks.

Pool at La Concha Resort, Puerto Rico

Pool at La Concha Resort
Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TMOM

The traffic on the narrow street was a misery, so we were happy to just walk out and find places to eat. And what great places they were. Right next door, we had lunch at Pure and Natural, which had plenty of healthy vegetarian choices. We tried falafel, veggie burgers, portabella wraps, tuna sandwiches and filling smoothies. Had we thought ahead, we could have gotten dinner to go for our plane ride home; the San Juan airport is a culinary wasteland (note: if you want to bring food, allow plenty of time; they are a little slow).

We also had an excellent dinner right in the sand at Pamela’s Caribbean Cuisine, next to Numero Uno Guesthouse. Even the salads had a tropical twist, with avocado, plantain chips and guava vinaigrette and a yummy conch salad with papaya. We had the incredibly fresh local fish, too.
We had unnecessarily rented a car and drove it into Old San Juan, where parking was non-existent. We brought the car back to the hotel and walked back into town, a much better option (you can also take a bus or cab). There are several nice restaurants clustered around La Fortaleza, plus a brewery.

Lounge at La Concha, Puerto Rico

Lounge at La Concha
Credit: Judy Antell / Vegetarian TMOM

We chose Puerto Rico because it’s such a quick, inexpensive flight from NYC and we were on celebrating our anniversary without kids. In fact, it was the one time the whole summer where we didn’t have to drive a kid, pack a kid, take a kid to the doctor or supervise summer homework assignment. Of course, as fate would have it, our puppy got sick and I had to rush her to the vet before going to the airport.

And La Concha works whether you are traveling with or without children. The resort has 3 pools, and even the ‘kid’ one was pretty mellow – it has 2 levels, with a waterfall, and if you stayed on the upper deck, near the hot tub, it was quiet. Mid-day, someone walked around with chilled towels, a welcome touch.

We didn’t spend time in the beach pool, since the warm ocean water and soft sand was so inviting. But the infinity edge adults-only pool (ages 15 and up) was a great place to hang out. It is in front of the lounge that is open to gold Marriott members; you can get free a breakfast and appetizers here on weekdays. This is a great perk for families.

The family friendly 2-room suites in the newly renovated Ocean Tower (above the lounge) have a bathroom between the 2 rooms and a small kitchenette. And although the resort has a casino and a fabulous lobby bar that was rocking all weekend, the rooms were quiet.

So while we didn’t discover a rapper in our room, or win a week’s vacation, we did experience a hotel that we’d return to with or without children. And that may be the greatest discovery of all.