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San Juan

Source: Hilton / Curio Collection

Let me cut to the chase and tell you this article is written for all the women who have ever come back from a vacation feeling like they needed a vacation after their vacation. In many of our younger years, getting away was all about going out and doing the most, which is great when you’re 1,000 miles from home feeling young, wild, and free, dancing on top of a table at a club on a Saturday night with your girls. It’s not so great, however, for that return to work Monday morning when you realize you’re actually more tired than you were when you left and you kind of wish you’d taken a moment to sit down somewhere while you were away.

I’ve had way too many trips like that but, thankfully, my most recent was the perfect balance of turn up and turn down. Hilton’s Curio Collection team invited me to experience El San Juan Hotel in Puerto Rico for three days and, to be honest, it was the first time I’ve ever spent time at a resort outside of the 50 U.S. states and didn’t feel the need to leave the property. I’m the girl who loves to mix with locals and experience everything a new city has to offer, but El San Juan Hotel, with its rich history and even lengthier list of guest experiences and amenities, completely brought the essence of Puerto Rico’s capital to me right from within its walls —  and the 19,000 sq. ft. of poolside and beachfront space situated right across from Isla Verde.

So while this review isn’t so much a guide to San Juan as it is El San Juan Hotel, trust me you and your girls will find plenty to do during your next getaway here. And I’ve thrown in a few options should you wander into El Viejo San Juan as well.

Where To Stay

San Juan

Source: Hilton / Curio Collection

The charm of El San Juan Hotel immediately greets you as soon as you step through its sliding glass lobby doors. To the right, you’ll find the Rum bar which has the largest collection of rum on the Island. In the immediate center is a step-down bar illuminated by the third largest chandelier in the world — we’re talking 7,000 crystals and a weight of 4,000 pounds. And to the left is the rotunda-shaped wine bar, serving a vast selection of whites and reds by the glass. All this beauty and bubbly and you haven’t even gotten to the check-in desk yet.

When you do reach the reception area, you’ll have no choice but to appreciate the architectural detail of the 61-year-old hotel which only reopened its doors six months ago following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017. Those beautiful dark chocolate wood-carved tiles you’ll see along the ceiling of the interior all had to be taken down, counted, and replaced before the hotel could reopen its doors.

San Juan

Source: Hilton / Curio Collection

On the journey to your room — I recommend the villas which overlook the pools and allow for amazing views of Isla Verde Beach from your balcony–you’ll see how modernity and old-world charm complement each other in a welcome way at El San Juan.

San Juan

Source: Hilton / Curio Collection

You’ll pass yet another bar, this time outdoors, and the calmest of the many pools on the property, and won’t help but notice the massive 300-year-old Banyan Tree, which is a landmark figure. A few yards away, you’ll be greeted by the natural light shining through your airy villa whose decor has the type of contemporary simplicity that’s befitting of a beachside resort.

San Juan

Source: Hilton / Curio Collection

A villa with two queen beds will provide plenty of space for you and your girls to stretch out (and pass out on the plush Stearns & Foster® mattresses made specifically for the hotel). And there’ll be no fighting for room in the spacious bathroom which has a private toilet, stand-up shower, a large bathtub, and double sinks with plenty of cabinet storage.

Where To Eat

San Juan PR

Source: Brande Victorian / BV

With 16 restaurants, bars, and lounges on the property, there’s no shortage of dining options so I’ll narrow this list down to my favorites.

San Jaun PR

Source: San Jaun PR / BV

CAÑA by Juliana Gonzalez

Let me be the first to warn you that it’s easy to get carried away by all of the authentic Puerto Rican delights Juliana Gonzalez will bless your palette with at CAÑA. I literally had to wave my white flag once the mofongo arrived, but that’s only because I’d stuffed my face with Bacalaitos, Pulpo en Escabeche, Chicharron, Camarones del Pais al Ajillo, Churrasco Encebollado, and Tostones before that dish hit the table. And don’t worry if you don’t know what any of those dishes are, just know they’re all delicious. Dining outdoors on the covered terrace as the lights bounce off of the nearby pool’s blue water only adds to the magnificence of this dining experience.

Meat Market

The Meat Market is the definition of steakhouse glamour. Book one of the private rooms for you and your girls to have the ultimate upscale feast. And though I am rarely one to recommend sharing, the options here are so plentiful — and the taste so exceptionally fulfilling — that you’ll be mad at yourself if you don’t at least have a nibble of the oysters, crispy brussell sprouts, truffle mash, kale caesar, mac and cheese, sea bass, and porterhouse or filet mignon, complete with your choice of steak butter (I recommend the marrow) and creative sauces.

San Jaun PR

Source: San Jaun PR / BV

Aquarelle On The Beach

After a couple of nights of heavy eating, Aquarelle is the perfect option to satisfy your hunger without feeling stuffed. Introduce your mouth to the wonders of water-to-table dining with the fresh seafood dishes imagined here by Executive Chef Gonzalo Rivera. The view of the sun setting over the beach’s waves is the only ambiance you need as you sip on inventive cocktails with refreshing fruit concoctions.

What To Do

San Jaun PR

Source: San Jaun PR / BV

If all you and your besties want to do is lounge at the poolside cabanas each day and sip mojitos, I support you. Should you be in the mood to explore — or to kick up the Rs in R&R, consider these activities on and off the premises.

San Juan PR

Source: Brande Victorian / BV

Book a Spa’rty

You don’t even have to come up with a cute name or hashtag for your spa day, El San Juan has already done it for you with its signature Spa’rty offering which allows groups of five or more to book individual 50-minute massage, facial, or body treatments and enjoy a complimentary lunch as you and your ladies woosah together. You’ll have access to the spa pool, fitness center, sauna, and other amenities. And if your wellness game is on 100, you can even throw in a group fitness class like Hatha Yoga or Beach Body Boot Camp. Allow me to suggest you add the Champagne Toast to your itinerary or you may leave the resort with more enemies than friends.

San Jaun PR

Source: San Jaun PR / BV

Chico Cabaret

One of my favorite things to do when I visit Spanish-speaking countries is hear live music, and at El San Juan you don’t even have to leave the property to do so. Chico Cabaret has live entertainment Wednesdays-Saturdays. And from the footwork I saw both nights I ventured down to the intimate enclave, I recommend you take advantage of the salsa classes that are offered on Tuesdays if you plan to step foot on the dance floor.

BRAVA nightclub

Yes, this hotel has an entire nightclub behind its doors, one that’s frequented by many locals I might add. Behind the velvet rope to the club’s entrance is a moderately spaced venue with a dance floor, VIP seating area, and a full bar. You and your friends might be presently surprised by the music which I found to be a perfectly executed mix of top hip-hop tracks, reggaeton, and salsa and bachata.

San Juan PR

Source: Brande Victorian / BV

Rum Tasting

Test the sophistication of your crew as one of the award-winning mixologists at the Rum Bar invites you to experience all of the different notes of the islands signature liquor during a tasting. I promise you will never look at a Mai Tai or Manhattan the same way again.

El Yunque Rainforest Hike

More nature walk than hike, El Yunque Rainforest is a must for even the least adventurous among you. The opportunity to see various wildlife and plant species is worth the trek alone and once you get a glimpse of La Mina waterfalls or take a dip in one of the springs, you’ll be very glad you came.

San Jaun PR

Source: San Jaun PR / BV

Flavors of San Juan Tour

To put it dramatically, it’d be criminal to travel all the way to San Juan and not see the historic glory of the old city. The Flavors of San Juan Tour allows you to eat and drink as you explore, taking you to staple locations within the heart of Old San Juan. The coffee at Cuatro Sombras just might change your life and you will never forgive yourself if you don’t eat the alcapurria at Café El Punto. You can cool down with a popsicle at Señor Paleta and when the tour guide tells you to eat the cheese and chocolate together at Casa Cortés ChocoBar just do it. I promise.

San Jaun PR

Source: San Jaun PR / BV

Sold on San Juan so far? For more info or to book your stay, click here.

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