As you drive away from the bustling resorts from El Condado, you will find Acacia Boutique Hotel located at Calle Taft, just steps from the beach. I recently had the opportunity to stay in this hidden gem as I researched hotels for my Dining Traveler Guide to Puerto Rico. There is no grand lobby, no casino, and no pool bar like the other grand hotels of Condado. However, what you will encounter is an authentic experience among the locals of San Juan and access to a beach far away from the tourist crowds.
The Scene: Many people think of Condado as just the strip of large hotels but the hotel is on the area towards Ocean Park (one of my favorite beaches in San Juan). The property is surrounded by hi-rise apartment buildings where mostly locals live (my friend actually grew up on the building next door). The beach is just steps from the hotel. One con is that the hotel does not supply beach chairs or towel. However, love that the beach was not crowded and there are no other large hotels nearby. You get to see locals kitesurfing, ladies walking their dogs, and people getting their daily dip in before heading to work. There is parking available but one must call ahead. I ended up parking in the street with no problems. Dining Traveler Tip: When staying in smaller hotels, call ahead in regards to the amenities, that way you know if you need to pack beach towels or anything extra for that matter.
The Room: I stayed in a queen room with balcony. It was nice to sit in the balcony with the view of the sea and get work done. The room is on the smaller side but comfortable and it had all the amenities I needed. The room also had a nice view of the small pool of the hotel. Must admit, I am not a pool person so I didn’t explore the pool. Especially with a vast ocean in front of me.
The Food: Must say, the highlight of my stay at Acacia Boutique Hotel was the food! I had work to knock out in the morning and ordered breakfast via room service. I had a delicious acai bowl with ripe local mangoes and granola. I also had dinner at Niche Bistro, the hotel’s restaurant. This quaint space is a local favorite as French chef David Chaymol merges French and Puerto Rican flavors. Think duck confit pastelon, a traditional Puerto Rican dish with layers of ripe plantain and filled with succulent duck meat. He also makes a souffle with mallorcas, a Puerto Rican sweet bread and berry sauce. The space at Niche is small, dark, and cozy. What I also noticed is that the hotel is frequented by locals, you hear mostly Spanish in the small space. On Wednesdays, they offer a free corkage fee for your first bottle of wine.
The Verdict: If you want a snapshot of local San Juan life, Acacia Boutique Hotel is the place for you. Although the hotel doesn’t offer the amenities that the large hotels of the area do, you get personalized service and direct access to the beach. Take advantage of the location and walk to Ocean Park Beach or head to one of my favorites, Kasalta Bakery for lunch. This is a great affordable hotel pick with a lovely local vibe and friendly service.
A great way to save money is by bringing your own wine to a restaurant. Call ahead and look into the corkage fees.