We fell in love with the El Conquistador Hotel a decade before setting foot in Puerto Rico. The property’s beauty is undeniable, but the best parts are the romantic and adventurous things to do. While staying at El Conquistador, Puerto Rico, you can experience a vacation where romance meets adventure amid a tropical Caribbean paradise.
El Conquistador was our top choice for our destination wedding, but we couldn’t get the family on board. We also could never escape the dream and allure of the property. When we finally were able to visit, the El Conquistador Puerto Rico exceeded all expectations.
At Coleman Concierge, we write for explorers who want to travel experience and adventure first and then fill in with great places to stay and delicious food to eat. So if you’re considering the El Conquistador Puerto Rico, or even if you’ve already booked your stay at one of the most iconic beach hotels in the Caribbean, stay tuned to hear how to turn a great room into a fabulous vacation.
You can tailor your stay at the El Conquistador Resort however you like, from staying in, relaxing, and enjoying the resort amenities to venturing out and exploring eastern Puerto Rico, all while having a stellar home base to return to.
Enjoy the View From Your Room
We always feel like the room is the most important part of any stay. It’s where you’re going to retire for the night and the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning. Really, it sets the tone for the day. There’s no such thing as a bad room at El Conquistador; The Las Brisas wing is on top of a 300′ cliff overlooking the ocean, and you’re right at water level in La Marina Village.
We loved getting a snack platter delivered to the room and dining out on our patio overlooking the ocean with a cool breeze blowing over us. One evening, we watched a storm blow in from the sea and saw the harbor engulfed in an ominous fog. However, what we liked most of all was waking up with the curtains open to a kaleidoscope sunrise over the Caribbean blue ocean.
Dine at the Resort Restaurants
El Conquistador has enough restaurants that you could find a new place for dinner every night and never leave the property. What’s more, they’re all consistently excellent and consummate with the price point.
Bono Restaurant was our favorite dinner at the resort. We had intended to eat seafood at Ballyhoo by the water, but storms forced us inside. We were immediately enthralled by Bono’s elegance which evoked memories of dining in the Tuscan countryside. Our culinary adventure continued with classic Italian favorites and a wine list to match. We’ll have to come back to try Ballyhoo and the new restaurants being added for the 2022 season.
Swim in the Outdoor Pools
Some hotels have a pool. El Conquistador has an oasis. There are three pools by the main hotel, not to mention the Coqui Water Park down by the marina. On any given day, the vibe can ebb and flow as you find your aquatic hideaway.
Swim, splash, or soak in the hot tubs. There’s no wrong way to enjoy your pool time. There’s even a swim-up bar to optimize your time in the water.
Drink a Mango Mojito by the Water
There is no shortage of places to get adult beverages at El Conquistador. Every restaurant has a full bar, and you can even grab an adult popsicle at Palett America in the lobby. However, our favorite drinks were their signature Mango Mojitos, which are best enjoyed by the water.
We first experienced these sweet sensations at the aptly named Café Bella Vista, overlooking the main pool and the Atlantic Ocean. Frozen decadent mango pulp blended with a hint of mint epitomized the tropical scene with just a touch of fresh ocean breezes. They were so good that we ordered them at almost every opportunity, including the hotel bar at the private beach on Palomino Island.
Ride the Funicular
Funiculars are always fun. It’s in the name. However, the funicular at El Conquistador is particularly breathtaking. It travels from the bluff top down to the waterfront, where you’ll find the Coqui Waterpark, Ballyhoo, and the Marina. It’s worth taking a scenic ride on the funicular, even if you don’t have any pressing business down below.
Splash in Coqui Waterpark
The Coqui Waterpark is fun for both children and adults. To be fair, it’s hard to find a body of water that kids don’t like playing in, but with over 362,080 gallons of aquatic adventures, Coqui Water Park is big enough to make everyone happy.
For starters, there is the 253′ tall El Yunque Tower with three thrill-inducing slide options: Huracan, El Gigante Dormido, and Marohu. El Gigante Dormido, the sleeping giant, is a high-speed body slide with a vertical 40-foot drop. Huracan, named after the Caribe storm god, who in turn is the namesake of the word hurricane in English, is a winding body slide that twists and turns like a tropical storm. Marohu, named for the Taino God of clear weather, is a tube slide that delivers a 26-foot descent in one or two-person inner tubes.
When we were ready to take it down a notch, we enjoyed the 9,000 square-foot infinity-edge pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Palomino Island. We also had no problem finding a lounge chair on the expansive 25,554 square-foot sunbathing deck. After a little relaxation, we were ready for the 800-foot-long lazy river that flows surprisingly fast through jungle vignettes and cascading waterfalls around El Yunque Tower.
Take the Ferry to a Private Beach on Palomino Island
If you’re looking for the ultimate, exclusive amenity at the iconic El Conquistador hotel, look no farther than Palomino Island. The hotel operates a private dock and remote resort on the south end of the island with everything you need for island time. Shuttles run back and forth from the hotel marina all day long, transporting you to a perfect piece of paradise.
We took the ferry over for lunch and quickly found an empty palapas with shade and four loungers. We got some beach towels from the attendant and set up camp. Before long, we had our order in for hamburgers and pinchos cooked fresh from the grill and, of course, a round of mango mojitos. Erosion from the last round of storms made the Sand Slide dive site hard to reach from the beach, but we still enjoyed snorkeling in the grassy shallows and seeing what we could find.
Play Golf or Tennis
The El Conquistador is a true resort, complete with guest tennis courts and an 18-hole award-winning Arthur Hill golf course. The course challenges you with plenty of elevation change and rewards you with sweeping ocean and mountain views with course lengths varying from 6746 yards on the Black Tees to 4939 yards from the Green Tees.
You can best tell how well the golf course is integrated into this beautiful property from a map. We’ve included one below that has all the El Conquistador Resort amenities we discussed included on it. Feel free to click around and see how the El Conquistador is more than just a hotel; it’s a vacation unto itself.
Party Down on an Island Excursion
If you’re looking for a private island, exclusive bar, and quiet patch of shade on a secluded stretch of beach, stick with Palomino Island. However, if you want to rock out with fifty of your newest best friends enjoying a kicking soundtrack and free-flowing rum, check into East Island Excursions trip to Icacos Beach. Their short cruise gets you out to the Fajardo Cays, then the swim deck opens, and it’s party time.
You can swim to shore, slide down the slides, paddle SUPs, kick around in kayaks, float on a ‘party mat,’ and much more on your rocking party boat. The crew will prepare lunch in a bit, and there’s always plenty of rum drinks, snacks, and fun to be had. It’s a full energy way to enjoy a day on the water.
Take a Snorkeling Cruise to Culebra
Isla Culebra is 18-miles off the coast with amazing snorkeling and beautiful beaches. People come to Culebra to snorkel with the frolicking green sea turtles and colorful coral reefs. You’ll want to bring your own mask and snorkel (or buy one there) because of new Covid regulations, but as of April 2022, East Island Excursions has resumed their hot lunch service. Plus, they’ll always have plenty of snacks and free-flowing rum drinks. However, you might want to hold back on the rum until after snorkeling, and start the boat party when you get out of the water.
If the weather cooperates, you might even get to swim in the turquoise waters and white sand of Flamenco Beach, which stretches for a mile around a sheltered horseshoe-shaped bay. You can discover for yourself why Flamenco consistently gets ranked and included on many of the ‘World’s Best Beaches’ lists. The Culebra charter is half party boat, half eco-tour, and all-day fun.
Book a Private Snorkeling Tour
If you’re more interested in seeing sea life than living la vida loca, consider booking a private snorkeling tour with Simpatico Charters. Instead of docking off a beach, they focus on exploring the Arrecifes de la Cordillera Natural Reserve (Cordillera reef system) just off the Fajardo Coast.
Their snorkeling tours feature in-water supervision and guidance from Ruthie, a certified PADI and swimming instructor. They’re very family friendly and help anyone who is anxious about snorkeling in the ocean. Ruthie’s patience and calmness can help anybody work through fears and have a life changing experience. They also have fantastic homemade meals and drinks, go snorkeling on amazing reefs, and they offer gear, instruction, and cocktails on the way home to Villa Marina In Fajardo. They have extremely competitive prices with other snorkel tours if you can book the trip with five of your friends, and they’ll never have more than six customers on any trip. If you’re serious about snorkeling, take a serious snorkeling trip.
Go Scuba Diving
Of course, if you’re serious about exploring underwater, you should go scuba diving, and Simpatico Charters is the place to do it. For starters, you’re in warm, clear Caribbean water floating over coral reefs and blowing bubbles with green turtles. But Simpatico Charters takes it to the next level. They’re only two miles from El Conquistador and can provide instruction and transportation for anybody interested in certification. If you want to make the most of your vacation time, you can try a Discover Scuba program or study at home and do your checkout dives at Simpatico.
Ruthie, the owner and dive instructor, loves being in the water and will take you and up to five of your friends through her favorite sites. Plus, since they don’t mix snorkelers and divers on the same boat, you will never be stuck diving a shallow snorkeling reef (or vice versa, stuck floating on the surface snorkeling watching bubbles come up from below).
They run their charters smoothly and efficiently with plenty of time for play and socialization. Plus, their captain, Scotty has 31 years of extensive experience as a Master Captain working on boats in the seas in Puerto Rico. Simply put, Simpatico is good clean fun in the sun with an outstanding and professional staff of owner/operators.
Hike El Yunque Rainforest
The El Yunque Rainforest is the only tropical rainforest in the National Forest System, and despite its small size, it’s incredibly biologically diverse. Come to hike waterfalls, swim in crystal clear water, and discover spectacular lookouts.
You must obtain an El Yunque reservation before arrival that’s good for a two-hour entry. A typical visit could be a short ~1-mile hike to the Juan Diego waterfalls and then climbing the Yokahu Tower on your way out. If you have time and can find a parking spot, you could stop at Coca Falls on the way out.
Ride an ATV or Horse Through the Jungle
Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park features over 600-acres of farmland on the foothills of El Yunque National Forest. They combine well-managed natural resources with fun and modern amenities for an incredible natural adventure.
You start your tour at the headquarters, which also has a legit good bar and grill. From there, you travel through farms to fields as you penetrate deeper into the jungle. Pretty soon, agriculture gives way to nature, and you have a deep jungle experience. There’s even an option to ride all the way to the beach, so you travel from farm to jungle to beach and back again.
Buzz Down a Jungle Zipline
Rainforest Zipline Park is another adventure you can have in the foothills of El Yunque. It’s a series of eight zips through the trees that will give you a new perspective on the forest.
The first six zips are a warm-up for the final two. Once you know the ropes and let go of your fear, you’re ready for the real adventure to begin. The park’s ultimate ride comes on line #7- the Jump of the Braves. It’s a 2,600′ long, side-by-side ride through the canopy and the longest zipline in the area.
Kayak in a Bioluminescent Bay
Bioluminescent bays are extremely rare, with only seven year-round lagoons in the Caribbean. Luckily, three of these are in Puerto Rico, and one, Laguna Grande, is right next to El Conquistador. Kayaking in a bioluminescent bay is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but you have to set your expectations correctly to enjoy it.
Paddlers access Laguna Grande from a mile-long, 20′ wide canal through the mangroves. You’ll find a lot of novice paddlers on the tour trying to navigate a narrow channel in the dark, with paddlers heading out the other way on their tour. It’s bumper boat madness, which is why we loved our chill guides at Pure Adventure. They led a decent paddling introduction and kept a positive attitude all during the experience.
The bioluminescence comes from tiny plankton that use it as a defense mechanism. If a fish comes in to eat them, they light it up for the other predators to see. It’s a super cool phenomenon but best viewed on a moonless night. However, on any given night, the guides at Pure Adventure find a way for you to see the glow, whether it’s dipping your paddles in on the dark sections of the canal or splashing under a blackout tarp in the lagoon.
Search for the Best Mofongo in Puerto Rico
I fell in love with mofongo during my time in Puerto Rico. Not only did I want to experience those flavors and textures again and again, but I also tried to find the best mofongo in Puerto Rico, which I might have at Pasion por el Fogon.
Their mofongo started with that traditional bowl of crushed starch, usually plantains or cassava. I would describe the texture as something like extra lumpy mashed potatoes with some bits that required a bite and others that melted in your mouth with creamy goodness. The starch is loosely formed into a bowl to hold the meat and sauce; this is where Pasion por el Fogon exceeded all expectations. Their filing was succulent and flavorful, with enough moisture to blend into the dish. Only, be warned, after trying the mofongo and Passion por el Fogon, you might be disappointed if you eat it at any other place.
Eat and Explore at the Kioskos de Luquillo
We loved staying at El Conquistador. It was the perfect escape from the chaos of Puerto Rico, where everything is held to the highest standard. However, they’re times when you want to feel the energy of the street and the passion of the people. When we wanted an immersive, authentic experience, we headed down to the Kioskos de Luquillo to check out the scene.
You’ll find around 60 family-owned kiosks selling food, drinks, and souvenirs. It’s hard to say which one is the best, but the collective experience of so much energy and so many options is undeniable. The good news is, that you don’t have to have a firm plan when you visit. Come down and let your senses find the rhythm of the street. Soon, that Boricua energy will come to you and guide you to where you need to go.
Experience a Chinchorro
What is a Boricua, you ask? It’s a native of Puerto Rico or a person of Puerto Rican descent, and there’s nothing more Puerto Rican than a Chinchorro. A Chinchorro could be considered a dive bar in its simplest form, but it goes beyond that. It’s a place where people gather to share energy and community — where you can feel the vibrant culture flowing through the room. And at the same time, it’s a sanctuary preserving food culture and culinary traditions for generations to come.
We visited El Chinchorro de J, situated right on the Fajardo waterfront. We were immediately welcomed into the fray and greeted by friendly faces. The recent rain kept the party down, but we heard stories about the dancing and vivacious energy we’d find on any Saturday night. Or at least a night without rain, lol.
Wrapping Up Our List of Things to Do While Staying at El Conquistador Puerto Rico
We hope, by now, you’ve realized that the El Conquistador Puerto Rico is more than just a room. It’s a full resort experience and the gateway to a beautiful part of Puerto Rico.
There aren’t too many resorts in the world that have a championship golf course, water park, and private island. There also aren’t too many destinations with tropical coral reefs, deep rain forests, and bioluminescent bays. You get all of that, plus that welcoming Boricua hospitality that will entice you to return to the El Conquistador again and again. We’ve even included an interactive map below of everything we discussed in this article to make it easy for you to have the vacation (or vacations) of a lifetime.
Disclosure: A big thank you to Discover Puerto Rico for hosting us and setting up a fantastic itinerary! For more travel inspiration check out their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts.
Also a big shout out to Ashley at Wild Hearted Blog for helping us to supplement some of our images for this post.
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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