This past Easter, my family had a long overdue reunion…in Puerto Rico. On the last Thursday in March all 22 of us on my dad’s side of the family headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico. For most of us, this was our first time heading to Puerto Rico. My dad actually did the bulk of the planning and arrangements. He was able to get all 22 of us on the same round-trip JetBlue flights in and out of Boston. The flights were direct and it was only an added bonus that Jetblue is my favorite airline. Dunkin Donuts coffee offered onboard, a menu of free snacks to choose from and the first bag flies free promise definitely win over my heart. Also, because we were flying as a big group, we were able to receive a group discount.
We arrived in San Juan, where my father had arranged for ground transportation to the hotel. Naturally, all 22 of us easily filled a small bus. The hotel was about a half hour from the airport which was truthfully a little further away than I was expecting.
However, when we finally pulled up to the hotel (which felt like a lifetime because I was so excited/ anxious to get there) I found that the wait was 100% worth it. We pulled up to the Gran Melia Resort just before dusk. The hotel was beautiful. Palm trees
lined the entire driveway leading to the lobby. The lobby had a very open floor plan and was very beautifully decorated. There was a white cockatoo at was in a large and elaborate cage outside the lobby that repeated different words and sounds people made around it. It was really funny to watch and hear it repeat what onlookers had said to it. Fountains and a man made “mote” surrounded the lobby building and the restaurants that were connected. The “mote” was filled with bright orange and white Koi fish.
The Gran Melia Resort had a unique set up that I had never experienced before. After we retrieved our respective room keys from the desk, we left the lobby and went outside. At the entrance to the lobby, there was a constant flow of golf carts that dropped of guests and picked up others to take them to their hotel rooms that were scattered across the property. We jumped into one of the golf carts and told the driver which building we were staying in. The driver sped away and took us to our room. Each building had 4 – 6 rooms in it. Our room had an amazing ocean view.
Our room was great – it had a pull out couch and a queen bed. It also had a large bathroom and a balcony that gave us a fantastic view of the beach.
The Gran Melia Resort was not all inclusive, but because we were traveling as such a large group we were able to prepay most of our meals – which was a huge plus! The resort had 7 bars/restaurants. We tried five of them:
- Nami Asian Bistro – Nami was delicious. The chef cooks your meal directly in front of you and does entertaining tricks etc. along the way. There are also other meal options such as Sushi. The waitstaff was very friendly and entertaining.
- Tempo Steak and Pasta- Also delicious. Very dimly lit and trendy. The waitstaff was also very friendly and helpful .
- Café Soleil- Café Soleil is where we went for breakfast every morning and some days for lunch. It was buffett style and all you can eat. They offered a wide array of different foods, juices and other beverages. Café Soleil was always very busy, but we were always able to get a table after only waiting a few minutes.
- Wet Pool Bar and Grill – The pool bar I think had to be my favorite part. While the drinks were delicious and the bartenders were attentive and funny – the best part was that it was a SWIM UP BAR! The food was also pretty tasty as well. There was covered seating next to the pool for those who wanted to order lunch or sip their drinks out of the pool. The Pool bar staff were some of my favorite people we met while in Puerto Rico – it got to the point where we were all on a first name basis and drinks orders didn’t even need to be repeated anymore – it was just a known thing. However – for those of you looking for your mimosas at 9 AM, the pool bar does not open til 11 AM.
- Avenue Bar – the Avenue bar was a very cool area of the hotel. It offered cabanas that you could lay down and relax in (for free – no charge), some type of live music every night and TVs to watch the big game. We were in Puerto Rico during March Madness, so my family and I were constantly checking in on scores. Also the Avenue bar had a very open floor plan, so you could sit outside and still hear the music and have easy access to the bar for drinks.
How can I talk about a warm, tropical resort without talking about the pool? Needless to say, the pool at the Gran Melia was amazing. It was a large lagoon type pool with differing levels of depth, pillars, and built in “lounge chairs.” Also, as I mentioned before it also had an excellent swim- up bar. The pool was lined by the ocean and tons of palm trees.
Lastly, the Gran Melia offered some fun activities and trips for guests of all ages. We were only there for a few days, and unfortunately did not have the best weather, but we still fit in some truly fantastic trips.
- ATV trip – My brother and a few of my cousins went on the 3 hour four wheel ATVing trip. Because it was raining on the day they went, it ended up only being the three of them and their tour guide – which they loved! They went all through the rainforest and had a lot of fun! Their trip was around $111 each.
- Zip lining – A few of my cousins and I went zip lining. Our tour was through Jungle Qui and it was around $110 per person. I could not have spent $110 better. I had never been zip lining before and I was beyond excited! We went through the safety features, did a mini rainforest tour and zip lined through the rainforest, over rivers and more. The staff at Jungle Qui was AWESOME – they were fun and entertaining and the whole zip lining experience ended up being my absolute hands-down favorite part of the trip. After the trip we got to try a real coconut and hang around with the crew while we waited for our cab. They were a really funny and down to earth bunch so we did not mind at all waiting for the cab. I would highly recommend this zip lining tour. My cousin is afraid of heights and she still zip lined alongside the rest of us and had a blast doing it – so don’t let fear of heights stop you.
- Old San Juan tour – My mother and my aunts all jumped on the Old San Juan tour. They saw all the historical side of the city and enjoyed immersing themselves in the art, the culture and the shopping.
- Golf – My dad and uncles went straight to the golf course. The Gran Melia has a beautiful course on the property.
Other activities and tours include:
- Deep Sea fishing
- Bacardi Distillery
- Catamaran sail and snorkel
- Horseback riding tour
- Rainforest hike
- Bioluminescent tour
- Scuba diving
I really wanted to do the bioluminescent tour – which is where you tour the parts of the beaches that have sealife that glows at night, but I did not get a chance. I heard it is a spectacular experience and whenever I head back to Puerto Rico I will definitely be budgeting it into my trip itinerary. It a bit pricey ranging from $100 – $195 per person. A good tip is to make your activities arrangements IN ADVANCE. The activities fill up quickly, so be sure to save yourself a spot :) The hotel concierge is very helpful and will help you book all your activities/tours.
The Gran Melia Resort proved to be a great place to stay overall. I enjoyed the pool, the restaurants, the rooms and the beach. Overall – the service at the hotel was amazing and full of friendly, helpful and fun people. The beach is breathtaking – it is beautiful and is studded with swaying palm trees and hammocks. I enjoyed the wide variety of activities there was to choose from, but would have liked to see some more free activities onsite at the resort. Also – the front desk was ALWAYS chaotic and seemed understaffed. Retrieving our room keys upon check in was a nightmare and we were waiting for over an hour.
On a final note – before you make travel plans to go to Puerto Rico, make note that hurricane season is June 1 – November 30. If you plan to go to Puerto Rico during peak tourism times (mid December – mid April) plan ahead of time and take advantage of lower rates before the prices are jacked up during peak season!