Since Puerto Rico is a popular destination for both leisure and business travelers, as well as Americans visiting friends and family, it has an attractive array of options when it comes to lodging — from unique paradores (inns) to sophisticated city hotels. There are plenty of vacation rental properties too for travelers seeking more space. Compared to other Caribbean and beach destinations, the island doesn’t offer as much in the all-inclusive segment, but there are a few options for those seeking that type of getaway too.
Keep in mind that Puerto Rico is much more than just San Juan. You’ll find the largest concentration of hotels in the capital city, of course, but look beyond and you’ll discover lots of interesting options in beautiful settings.
Puerto Rico Full-Service Hotels
Numerous major U.S. hotel companies have some sort of presence on the island. Most of them are spread around several neighborhoods in the metropolitan San Juan area, and many offer direct beach access.
Nearest to San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport is the area called Isla Verde, where options include the InterContinental San Juan, a 398-room beachfront property that completed a $22 million renovation in 2014. The hotel has multiple bars and restaurants, including a sushi place called Momoyama and a Ruth’s Chris steakhouse. Among the most luxurious choices in Isla Verde is the Ritz-Carlton, which has a spa, kids’ club and casino.
A few minutes away by car is the Condado neighborhood, which is a good spot to combine beach time with strolling, shopping, dining and nightlife. Among the most luxurious hotel choices here is the Condado Vanderbilt, set partially in a building that first opened in the 1920s. Its handsome lobby bar and pricey restaurant are certainly worth a splurge.
A good choice for families and adults is the Condado Plaza Hilton, which sits on a quiet end of the Condado strip at the mouth of the lagoon; it has multiple dining venues as well as swimming pools and direct access to one of the calmest stretches of beach in Condado. For a more budget-conscious option near the beach, consider the Holiday Inn Express San Juan Condado, which offers extras like free Wi-Fi, a pool and sun deck, as well as a fitness center.
Located just across the mouth of the lagoon, headed toward Old San Juan, is the Caribe Hilton. This centrally located resort-style property has hosted lots of big names in the decades since it opened, and according to some stories it was the birthplace of the pina colada cocktail (others credit a bar in Old San Juan). Its attractive grounds and near-private beach make it an excellent choice for both families and couples.
Historic Old San Juan’s narrow streets and landmark-protected architecture don’t offer much space for large-scale hotels, but the Sheraton Old San Juan is one such place.
Elsewhere on the island, the most upscale choices include the Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, which is located to the west of San Juan, with beachfront accommodations as well as three gourmet restaurants and a poolside bar. The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, set on the grounds of a former coconut plantation, has a spa and lots of amenities, as well as activities including a cooking class.
Also on the posh side is the W Retreat & Spa, located on Vieques Island. Rooms here have private patios or balconies, with inspiring views of the Atlantic Ocean and nearby Culebra Island. In Puerto Rico’s northwestern region is Royal Isabela, a lovely hotel with casitas that have their own private pools.
Puerto Rico Boutique Hotels
Among the most beautiful smaller hotels in Puerto Rico is O:live Boutique Hotel, which is located in the Condado district and offers lagoon views. This 15-room property (which was featured on the TV show “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”) is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, and exudes sophisticated style, with decor elements from Morocco, Spain, Italy and France. There is no swimming pool, but it’s a short walk to the beach, and the elegant restaurant and rooftop club are among the city’s most attractive hotel hot spots.
In Old San Juan, top choices include El Convento — also a member of Small Luxury Hotels — which is set in a beautifully renovated 17th-century convent. Attention to detail is apparent in the elegant furnishings and the lovely central courtyard. A less expensive choice nearby is Villa Herencia, set in a building that dates back to 1885.
On Puerto Rico’s west coast, one of the most luxurious choices is the Horned Dorset Primavera, which is an adults-only oasis on an uncrowded beach in Rincon. For a more modernist interpretation of the boutique hotel experience, head to Vieques, the paradisiacal island just off of Puerto Rico’s coast. Here one of the newest hotels is El Blok, a stylish property with eye-catching architecture, dramatic views and a noteworthy restaurant.
Puerto Rico Boutique Hotel Resources:
Puerto Rico Paradores
Puerto Rico is home to a network of small, independent inns called paradores, part of a program called Paradores of Puerto Rico, which is run by the Puerto Rico Tourism Board. All are located outside of the San Juan area, and some provide especially unique, attractive and affordable alternatives to larger hotels.
Among the more interesting choices is Guanica 1929, which is set on a former sugar plantation in the southern coastal town of Guanica. The property, which dates back to — you guessed it — 1929, offers a rare opportunity to stay in an example of American tropical architecture on the island, with original hardwood features. At Hacienda Gripinas, guests stay on a coffee plantation founded in 1863 in the scenic hills of Puerto Rico’s interior. And in the town of Lajas, Parador Villa Parguera sits on the water and offers beautiful views, as well as access to day cruises and nighttime excursions onto one of Puerto Rico’s famed phosphorescent bays.
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Puerto Rico Posadas and B&Bs
The Puerto Rico Tourism Company oversees two additional programs that designate special categories for accommodations: posadas and bed and breakfast properties.
The Posadas Program, which launched in 2014, is a network of small hotels in urban areas throughout the island. Set in historic buildings that have been remodeled as hotels, these properties offer a variety of locations and themes. Member properties include the budget-priced Hotel Colonial, set in a former 1920s convent in the western city of Mayaguez, and Da’House Hotel, an artsy property set above the popular Nuyorican Cafe, a live music venue in Old San Juan.
Bed and breakfast properties in Puerto Rico include Casa Sol, which is set in a historic Spanish colonial home in Old San Juan, and Dos Angeles del Mar, a beach house with five rooms located on Puerto Rico’s west coast near Rincon.
Puerto Rico Posada and B&B Resources:
Puerto Rico is an ideal place to rent a home or apartment. All of the main rental sites — such as Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO — have a wide variety of listings on the island, especially in the San Juan area. Most are condo-style apartments, but it’s also possible to find entire homes for rent.
When comparing vacation rental options, be sure to check the exact location of the property and determine which part of the island interests you the most. In San Juan, the most popular spots for vacation rentals are Condado, which is great for beach bumming, shopping, dining and nightlife; Isla Verde, which isn’t as walkable but has a slightly better beach; and Old San Juan, which makes up for its lack of beaches with lots of historic sites, restaurants and other activities.
Puerto Rico All-Inclusive Resort Hotels
Completely all-inclusive hotels (the kind you find in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico) simply don’t exist in Puerto Rico; since it’s a U.S. territory, operating costs make this concept less profitable for hoteliers. But there are at least a couple of options if you’d like to have some of your food and beverage included.
When planning your trip, you may want to check some of the larger beach hotels — such as the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa, located east of San Juan — which sometimes offer special all-inclusive package promotions. They aren’t available year-round but can provide extra value when available.
In addition, some smaller hotels — such as the Parador MaunaCaribe in Maunabo and Villa Cofresi in Rincon — offer somewhat all-inclusive packages for certain stays, which include most, if not all, meals and drinks (there may be restrictions about minimum or maximum length of stay for these packages, so check with the property when you book).
Puerto Rico All-Inclusive Resort Resources:
Puerto Rico Camping
You won’t find too much in the way of developed campgrounds in Puerto Rico, but there are camping-friendly places around the island; among the most memorable locations is El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. Forest Service. You can set up your home base in designated areas with a permit, and enjoy proximity to the magnificent natural beauty of the region, including waterfalls, exotic birds and lush vegetation.
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–written by Mark Chesnut
Editor’s Note:is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc., which also owns FlipKey.