Staying at Hotel El Convento in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
I enjoy staying at properties that have long and enticing histories. To me, it’s almost like living in a museum. I imagine what it must’ve been like many years ago, and the latter truly changes the dynamic of my stay. Today’s post is about a special hotel called El Convento, a property nested in the heart of Old San Jan, Puerto Rico.
Quick note: Puerto Rico has been through a lot in the last two years. Hurricane Maria left millions without power and even worse, without homes. Puerto Rico’s recovery has been slow and painful and it is nowhere near remission. This is my second time in Puerto Rico in 2018 and a sense of normalcy reappeared in late November, compared to my previous trip in early Spring. One of the easiest ways you can help is simply by visiting and supporting local businesses. I strongly encourage you to consider Puerto Rico for your next vacation.
Hotel El Convento History
El Convento is arguably one of the most unique hotels you will ever visit, with a history that dates back all the way to to the 1600’s! In perspective these are the times when the Thirty Years War ended, when Isaac Newton first experimented with gravity, and when New Amsterdam became New York. Back to Puerto Rico. El Convento was initially a Carmelite convent founded during the Spanish conquest by Doña Ana Lanzos, a wealthy widow who donated her money and her residence. Carmelites date back to the 12th century from a Roman Catholic religious order on Mount Carmel (hence the name) in what is now Northern Israel. In fact, the chapel is still there today and many other elements of the original structure can be seen around the property.
El Convento housed the nuns for some 200 years before being shut down by the Archbishop of San Juan. The property was vacant for nearly a decade and then it ironically became a flophouse without sanitary facilities, running water, or electricity. For the next 40 years it would be far from the holy site it once was. Fast forward to the 1960’s, Hotel El Convento was transformed to a a beautiful European style luxury hotel by the Puerto Rican Tourism Board and millionaire Robert Woolworth. Since then, its undergone a ~$15 million restoration, still honoring its original Spanish design.
Hotel El Convento Property
El Convento was originally designed by an army engineer and erected by the soldiers of Colonial Spain. There is a large courthouse surrounded by greenery, balconies enveloping the courtyard from different floors, and arched corridors. The walls are a bright yellow color and there are flowers … everywhere. The costly renovation embodies luxury everywhere you look: the rooms are spacious and have handcrafted furniture, marble bathrooms, and Andalusian tile floors. On the rooftop deck there is also a plunge pool and a jacuzzi overlooking San Juan and beyond.
Credit: Hotel El Convento
There is much more to Puerto Rico than just pretty beaches and palm trees. Old San Juan is home to world class museums and historical landmarks, as well as fantastic restaurants and nightlife. Hotel El Convento is conveniently located within walking distance of most of them and only 15 minutes away from the airport. You can also take an Uber to a public beach about 15 minutes away (the cost will be ~$15-20 one way). The colorful streets of San Juan are well worth the visit!
There are three restaurants on site notably Patio de Nispero, which is a hot spot for guests and visitors alike. Executive Chef Luis Castillo, a native of San Juan, has made a name for himself not only in Puerto Rico, but in New York as well. Castillo uses herbs from the hotel’s rooftop garden, and finds inspiration in Puerto Rico’s culture and tropical surroundings.*
Hotel El Convento is a gem of Puerto Rico. It’s wealthy history, prime location, and fantastic hospitality makes it the perfect hotel for tourists and business travelers alike.