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Where to Stay in San Juan
San Juan offers a hotel experience for every budget and any sensibility, but most of the accommodations are situated close to the coast along a roughly seven-mile stretch. Five major neighborhoods constitute the areas where you can search for cheap hotel deals in San Juan: Isla Verde, Santurce, Condado, Puerta de Tierra and Old San Juan.
Isla Verde, farthest to the east, is considered by many to be home to the best beaches on the island, thanks to its calm waters and availability of rentals like beach loungers, snorkeling equipment and recreational watercraft. Santurce is largely a business district and is generally ignored by tourists, though there are a few affordable hotels and hidden shopping destinations there. Just past Santurce is Condado, a beach-centric district similar to Isla Verde but with many more dining destinations, nightclubs and luxury boutiques. Puerta de Tierra is home to many of San Juan’s government buildings, and while it is not especially popular among tourists, it has some nicer business-oriented hotels and the scenic Third Millennium Park. Finally, Old San Juan, the west-most point on the city’s coast, is a historic port area filled with well-restored villas and landmarks, fine dining restaurants, intriguing museums and a few charming hotels.
San Juan Hotel Tips
Visitors seeking fun in the sun usually stay in Isla Verde or Condado, where the accommodations are dominated by towering beachfront resorts. Many of these options in both neighborhoods are loaded with luxurious amenities, though a few of them are designed more with budget travelers in mind. If you prefer classic luxury or historical inns to the beach resort scene, there are several such options in Old San Juan. Though beach access is minimal in this district, the fine quality of these accommodations keeps their rates on par with many of the biggest oceanfront hotels. More affordable hotels in Santurce may have fewer amenities, but they’re conveniently located between the two best beaches.
San Juan Hotel Recommendations
If the city’s great history is what inspired you to book your flight to San Juan, Hotel El Convento is where you should book your room. What began as a convent in 1651 is now the most famous hotel in Old San Juan, and it’s not simply riding on its historical legacy. A charming courtyard, stunning rooftop pool and nightly wine and cheese reception are among the reasons why travelers love this place.
The Caribe Hilton in nearby Puerta de Tierra is one of the island’s most fabulous luxury resorts, with accommodations that range from standard rooms to oversized villas. It has one of the city’s most famous hotel bars, a dramatic infinity pool and the island’s only private beach.
The Condado area’s La Concha Resort was one of the neighborhood’s most popular hotels when it opened in the 1950s, and a comprehensive 2008 renovation has put it among the most modern on this busy beachfront strip. In Condado’s rival beach area, Isla Verde, the El San Juan Hotel & Casino is one of the top destinations on the entire island. Some of San Juan’s finest dining, gaming and nightlife converge at this sweeping palm-lined property at the edge of the city’s finest beach.
If you’re doing San Juan on a budget, look into the Tres Palmas Inn. While the rooms are not magnificent, some of them include convenient kitchenettes. Amenities are better than you might expect from such a small and affordable inn; they include a courtyard swimming pool and a rooftop sundeck with two hot tubs. Located in a quiet area of Ocean Park near Santurce, the Tres Palmas Inn is a short ride from the beaches of both Condado and Isla Verde.
San Juan Transportation
It’s easy to rent a car at the airport and at other points throughout San Juan, and the area is equally simple to navigate. If you’re planning on taking time to explore faraway reaches of the island, this might be the best approach. But if you’ll be sticking to San Juan, you should understand that rush hour congestion can be heavy and parking can be both difficult and expensive near Old San Juan, Condado and Isla Verde. If you don’t feel like dealing with that hassle, you can likely rely on taxis for the same amount or less.
Taxis are easy to find in San Juan and most charge flat rates based on zones of travel. When traffic is an issue, this usually works in your favor. If you find you’re having trouble hailing one on the street, ask the nearest hotel front desk staff to call one for you.
Buses with cheap fares are operated by the Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses, or Metropolitan Bus Authority, but some bus stops can be hard to spot. If you think you’ll be using this form of transportation, study the routes and service hours in advance by consulting the authority’s website. Note that the website’s information is written in Spanish, which you can translate using online tools.
When in Old San Juan, all points of interest are within easy walking distance. There is, however, a free trolley that patrols the area throughout the day. This trolley picks up and drops off passengers at designated stops, but you can also hail it if you see it passing by.