Children are easy to please during vacation. Give them a pool, French fries and some space to run and they have a good time. And then one day you find yourself on a vacation with tweens, and they’re bored! The El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo, Puerto Rico has everything tweens want and parents approve.
The El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, caters to families of all sizes and ages, but for this trip we were traveling with two tween girls. Even though there were times that baffled us, like when our tweens wanted to stay in the room to watch reruns of “Friends” on Netflix, we never heard a complaint out of them when we persuaded them to join in on our activities. Here are some of the reasons why:
1. Coqui Water Park
While younger children are happy to splash around in a regular pool, tweens desire a little more excitement. This 2.4 acre water park, located in the marina area of the resort, overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.
The park’s three slides appeal to all levels of bravery for kids and parents, but the 40 ft. drop on the El Gigante Dormído slide is not for faint of heart. A lazy river winds around and under the slides surrounded by lush flora and beautiful orchids. Kids will love the many lizards and bugs that peek out of the plants to say hello. Parents will enjoy its tranquility – but don’t get too comfortable, because there are two waterfalls ready to drench you as you go by.
The park is spread out enough for tweens to seek out adventures on their own but not so large that you can’t find them when it is lunch time.
2. Adventures in a Rain Forest
Day trips from the resort are the best way to avoid boredom complaints from tweens. The El Yunque rainforest is less than an hour’s drive from the resort. It is the only rainforest in what is technically the United States forest system. My tweens were learning about sustainability and conservation in school and there is nothing better than experience-based learning.
The El Portal Rain Forest Center was built to give visitors an introduction to the rain forest. Exhibits at the center focus on the plants and animals of the rain forest, the importance of rain forests around the world, and threats to rain forests and efforts to conserve them.
Hiking in the rainforest can be as easy or as difficult at you like. There are many trails with resting gazebos and some restroom facilities. Highlights include sweeping views from the Yokahu Observation Tower, La Coca waterfalls, and most popular with tweens, swimming in the cold but beautiful La Mina Falls.
The hotel can connect you with touring companies but we opted to rent our own car from Enterprise, located right at the hotel. The park has many places to park and you can come and go at your leisure. Remember to wear comfortable shoes, bring rain ponchos and dress light because the temperatures are consistently warm between 70 and 80 degrees. Bring water and snacks because there are no restaurants in the rainforest and tweens with low blood sugar are not pleasant hikers!
3. Game Room & Recreation Rooms
Our tweens spent a good amount of time at the game room located in the main building of the resort. There are pool tables, air hockey and old school video games for kids to play. At night, a DJ plays dance music to give it a lively atmosphere while still being a family-focused area. Also near the games room was a small theater where they showed films each night or had other entertainment.
This recreation area was close to our room off of the main building. Our kids could easily go back and forth between our room and the game room or join the grown-ups for s’mores (purchased at the hotel cantina) in front of the fire pit outside in the garden area. Parents can have a cocktail in the lounge knowing that their children are nearby.
4. Palomino Island
While the island is part of the resort, taking the ferry out there makes it feel like a day trip. Tweens love Palomino Island because it has a whole new set of activities from the resort. Tweens can snorkel off the beach, kayak, paddle board and engage in other water-based activities. Land activities include mini-golf, oversized chess and general island exploration.
Our tweens felt a sense of independence paddling a clear-bottomed kayak on their own (with parents not far behind) out to one of the tiny islands from the shore where they looked for lost treasures.
5. Some Safe Unsupervised Time
What our tweens liked best about the El Conquistador Resort is that it is big enough with several pools, a water park and the island that there are a lot of activities, but still small enough that they were allowed a certain amount of freedom to have adventures of their own, even if that only meant going off to get ice cream at the Café Caribe.
As parents, we enjoyed the fact that tweens are old enough to order room service and watch a movie in the room while we went down to experience the fine dining at the Stingray Café in the marina and know that we were only a cell phone call (remember no roaming charges in Puerto Rico!) and a funicular ride away.
Tips from Parents and Tweens
- The marina rooms close to the water park and ferry to Palomino Island and the 4th floor wing facing the ocean (adjacent to the game room) are very convenient for families with tweens
- The Ballyhoo Bar & Grill has good baked potatoes with all the toppings for non-meat eaters
- The pizza by the main pool restaurant, Café Bella Visita, is pretty good (and that from a New Yorker)
- The little café called Sweet Heaven has good inexpensive coffee and breakfast options
- Blossoms restaurant is not cheap but even the surliest of tweens and teens enjoy teppanyaki and our server was particularly entertaining and nice. We went here on a rainy night because it is located in the main building