I’m starting the New Year with a blog post on the gorgeous Hotel El Convento in San Juan, Puerto Rico, as this is where we brought in the New Year.
Hotel El Convento is located in the beating heart of Puerto Rico’s capital city, Old San Juan. The past week has been filled with indulgent breakfasts and lazy days wandering the cobbled streets of Old San Juan. We’ve tried pina coladas, mojitos, empanadas and loved every moment of the warm and friendly Puerto Rican atmosphere.
Part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Hotel El Convento, is steeped in history. From 1646 to 1903 it served as a Carmelite convent, commissioned by King Phillip IV of Spain. Vacant for a decade, the abandoned building served as a retail store, a dance hall, and, for the next 40 years, a flophouse without running water, sanitary facilities, or electricity.
In the 1960s, it was restored to its former glory, opening in 1962 as El Convento Hotel, offering a peaceful, European-style alternative to the glitzy hotels lining the Condado strip.
Entering the hotel from the colourful and chaotic streets of Old San Juan is incredible. The old school glamour of an era gone by is instantly felt through the impressive checkered floor entrance hall with sweeping domed ceilings, and the most fabulous festive decorations. The luxury feel extends to the impeccable service of the front of house staff and the concierge. Their welcome is friendly, informative and we are made to feel at very home.
Our pad for next four nights was a Queen Vista room, high up on the fifth floor, with dramatic views of San Juan Bay. The room is small but extremely comfortable, with all the modern facilities you’d expect such as coffee making facilities, a hairdryer and lovely Aveda toiletries in the bathroom.
Outside the bedrooms, the hotel is not short of public spaces to lounge about in. Little tables and chairs line the corridors outside the rooms, all looking out into the courtyard, and the Herb Garden on the third floor provides another place to relax.
On the fourth floor, a plunge pool, jacuzzi and sun patio area can be found, with more stunning views over the bay. Teas and coffees, fresh fruit and water is available 24/7 on the third floor terrance. And as if all that wasn’t enough, at 6pm each day the hotel hosted a Managers Reception on the terrance, with a selection of delicious cheese and wine to graze on.
Breakfast is served in one of the hotel’s two restaurants, Patio del Nispero. The absence of the usual buffet-style hotel breakfast is refreshing, and the a la carte menu does not disappoint. The courtyard beautiful and serene. Completed sheltered by huge trees (much needed, as even at 8am you can already feel the heat in the sun) you would never guess you are surrounded by some of the old town’s busiest streets.
Most days we breakfasted early, and like kings! Trying a little of most things on the menu over the course of our stay, it was all delicious. Fresh fruit plates, bran flakes with a selection of toppings and stacks of pancakes rivalled hot dishes such as Eggs Benedict and La Mallorca – a traditional Puerto Rican breakfast sandwich with ham, cheese and eggs.
The second restaurant, El Picoteo, features traditional Spanish tapas, and is split over two parts on the second floor. A separate entrance from the street means it is popular with non-hotel guests as well. With the rare smattering of rain one afternoon, we took shelter at the bar and enjoyed fried calamares, jamón and some vino.
We could have checked in to El Convento and never left, but the charms of Old San Juan were calling. Find out what we got up to.