Discovery will be the theme for your family vacation at the El Conquistador Resort. Its 500 acres of property is made up of distinct villages with extensive grounds and it even has a private island that your family can explore like the conquistadors did in the 15th century.
Perched dramatically on top of a 300-foot cliff overlooking the Atlantic ocean, it’s easy to see why the El Conquistador Resort is the most preferred hotel in the Fajardo region of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico.
Once a playground for the rich and famous in the 60’s and 70’s, the resort declined, along with Puerto Rico’s economy, until it found new owners and underwent an expansion and an extensive renovation. With all the black leather and steel decor gone, it’s now one of the most popular family resorts on the island.
What to Know Before You Go
The El Conquistador’s cliffside location is bordered by a rugged coastline, which means that it does not have a beach on the main property. In order to provide guests with the best of both worlds it acquired its own private tropical island. Palomino Island is truly la isla bonita with approximately 102 acres of sandy beaches, recreational areas and nature trails to explore.
The island has a relaxed atmosphere with lots of activities and games for families. Guests can swim and relax on the beach, enjoy water sports, go for a horseback ride or hike to the top of the island to experience sweeping views of the ocean and the surrounding islands.
To get there guests take a 10 minute ferry ride from the marina at the base of the hotel. Palomino has everything a guest requires for a day at the beach including a restaurant with beach service, an amenities and gift shop, restrooms and complimentary beach chairs and towel service.
The resort has four main pool areas that are open to all guests at the hotel and include a jacuzzi, a swim-up bar and a lap pool. It also has a separate water park that is small enough to keep an eye on your children but large enough to keep older children entertained for hours with its four water slides and meandering lazy river.
TIP: When booking check for packages that include free entry into the water park, otherwise there is an additional fee.
How to Choose Your Accommodations
When it comes to choices, this resort has every family dynamic covered. It offers a number of packages depending on your particular interests.
For families that like their privacy (and are willing to spend a little extra), the two Las Casitas Villages have private villas with one, two or three bedrooms. These accommodations include a butler to stock your fridge and fully equipped kitchens. Each village has its own pool that only village guests can use.
For those who prefer convenience, La Vista Wing is the closest to all of the amenities in the main building as well as the tennis courts, golf course and spa. Guests here also have easy access to the main pool complex with the swim-up bar and cabanas. Here, visitors can choose rooms with a view of the ocean or ones that look out onto the lush grounds and the El Yunque Rainforest.
Located halfway between the main hotel building and the marina, the Las Olas Wing is dramatically set in the cliffside and offers rooms with ocean views and some with private balconies. It has its own swimming pool and is convenient to both the hotel restaurants and the ferry but with less hustle and bustle than the marina or main complex area.
For families that love the beach, La Marina Village overlooks the marina and provides easy access to the catamaran to Palomino Island. The Coquí water park is close by and there are several casual and fine dining options to choose from in this area.
My family stayed in the V-shaped Las Brisas Wing. With individual balconies, these well-appointed rooms have undoubtedly the best views in the resort. This wing also has easy access to the amenities and restaurants in the main building.
Waldorf Astoria Spa
The 26,000 square foot spa features two double rooms, 15 dry rooms, five wet rooms, five facial rooms and the full service Edouard de Paris salon. It offers a treatment menu that is inspired by the local environment in its selection of skin products.
Ki’ Spa — The children’s spa program is designed to introduce relaxation and healthy living practices to its youngest visitors. The program is separate from the salon so the atmosphere promotes relaxation and well-being rather than improving physical appearance (but don’t worry, girls can also be treated to a mani-pedi at the salon if you choose). Mommy/Daddy and me treatments are offered for kids who may feel nervous being alone during their treatment. The only drawback: getting pampered can be addicting and they may expect it on every vacation after their experience at the Ki’ Spa.
Activities for children here also include a trip to the hotel’s organic garden where kids learn how natural ingredients can be used to both fuel and heal the body. Afterwards, kids get to make a sample of their own body scrub to take home.
Other Things for Families to Do on the Property
Ultra Lounge: Located inside the main building, this spacious lounge has entertainment for all ages. Parents can relax with a cocktail in the main lounge or play a game of billiards while keeping an eye on their children who can have fun playing air hockey, arcade games or showing off their moves on the dance floor.
ScoutAbout: Is a resort-wide scavenger hunt where children can learn about the island’s indigenous creatures and plants when they use their ScoutAbout map to locate several Points of Discovery throughout the resort and collect multi-colored wrist bands. Children who persevere and earn all the bands get a special completion band from the front desk.
Golf & Tennis: Never played golf? Try a SNAG (Starting New at Golf) lesson or try something new, like FootGolf (a cross between soccer and golf). Beginner tennis lessons are also available for all ages.
Weekly Activities: These are scheduled by the resort and vary each week and may include making s’mores, outdoor movies, arts & crafts, water volleyball and even Spanish lessons.
Nature Walks: Too many desserts? Take a leisurely walk or a vigorous hike on the main property or on Palomino Island where your children can learn about the island’s unique flora and fauna. Ask the front desk for a garden guide and see if your kids can identify a calabash tree or find a tiny Coquí frog.
Funicular: Just saying funicular is fun and I’ll bet your children have never been on one. This cable car provides great views as it brings visitors from the main building to the marina in just a couple of minutes but be sure to hang on!
Dining for All
The resort has too many restaurants and cafes to name and review here. Most are casual and have menu options for children but if you want to dress up for a night out there is no need to worry, all the resort’s fine dining restaurants are also family-friendly. If you are a fan of seafood (and I am) the Stingray Café has Caribbean- inspired dishes and decadent desserts like their chocolate lava cake.
There are also budget-friendly dining options at El Conquistador as well. My family eats a light breakfast and we don’t want to pay for a full-priced buffet for my daughter to have a piece of toast. The resort’s grab and go restaurants offer light breakfast options and snacks for your kids who eat like birds.
Things to Do Off-Property
In the unlikely event that you don’t have enough to do and want to explore beyond the resort, the Fijardo municipality has plenty to offer and many excursions can be booked through the hotel at the marina.