Puerto de Tierra is a small bit of land between Condado and Old San Juan, just west of the bridge that connects those two communities. It includes a couple of small beaches, a very large park, and a commercial district of little interest to visitors. But it does contain one amazing hotel.
When you first see the Normandie Hotel (499 W. Ave. Muñoz Rivera, 787/729-2929 or 877/987-2929, www.normandiepr.com, $219–239 s/d, plus 9 percent tax) you might think you’re seeing things. The 1940s art deco hotel was built to look like a grand ocean liner complete with porthole windows. Even more remarkable, the Normandie has operated continuously as an independent hotel since its inception. Although it has seen shabbier times, it has recently been renovated with a hip eye toward minimalism. Decked out in cool shades of pale blues and greens, it’s appointed with a circular porthole motif tastefully repeated in the carpets, lighting, and mirrors. There are 175 rooms, all with air-conditioning, cable TV, room safe, CD stereo system, mini-refrigerator, high-speed Internet, and concierge service. The property also has an atrium bar, an Italian restaurant, pool, beach access, spa, hair salon, and fitness center. Be sure to have a drink in the clever N Lounge, which looks like the coolest captain’s quarters you’ve ever seen.
Numero Uno Guest House (1 Santa Ana, 787/726-5010 or 866/726-5010, fax 787/727- 5482, info [at] numero1guesthouse [dot] com, www.numero1guesthouse.com, $143–287 s, $277–287 suite, plus $25 for additional guests, plus 9 percent tax and 15 percent service charge; children under 12 stay with parents for free) is a small, well-maintained guesthouse with attentive service. There’s no lobby to speak of, just a tiny reception office beside a petite black-bottomed pool. But the 11 rooms are newly furnished, tastefully decorated, and comfortable, if you don’t mind the compactness. Amenities include air-conditioning, a minibar, and wireless Internet. The guesthouse also boasts the popular fine-dining restaurant Pamela’s, serving internationally inspired cuisine.
Hotel La Playa (6 Calle Amapola, 787/791- 1115 or 787/791-7298, reservations [at] hotellaplaya [dot] com, www.hotellaplaya.com, $215 s/d with terrace, $195 ocean view, $165 standard, $125 value, plus 9 percent tax and $5 energy surcharge) is under new management and has undergone a radical renovation. What was once a shabby budget hotel is now a sophisticated, moderately priced oasis in Isla Verde. Rooms have been updated with quality contemporary furnishings, tile floors, and new fixtures in the bathrooms. The kitschy boat bar in the lobby is no more, but a new full service restaurant, La Playita, has been added, serving casual and upscale creative cuisine with vegetarian options. Plans are underway to transform the neglected rooftop terrace into an open-air spa. And a new deck offers seaside sunbathing right on the water. Amenities include air-conditioning and satellite TV.
© Suzanne Van Atten from Moon Puerto Rico, 2nd Edition