Pool, Beach and Food: The Three Essentials to Any Tropical Vacation

We interrupt The Great Pumpkin updates and my foray into national television to return to our regularly-scheduled posts on my mother-daughter trip to Puerto Rico with Hadley. Tuning in late to the party? Read Almost Reaching Perfection at the San Juan Marriott followed by Puerto Rico: Food, Moms & Fun (did I mention the food?)

The beach, pool and local fare are the focal points of any tropical vacation and the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino does not disappoint. We checked into the hotel at night in a downpour. When my daughter Hadley woke up the next morning, she was ecstatic to discover our hotel room overlooked Condado Beach.

“I thought it was just a big, open field last night!” She squealed.

“We’re not in Kansas anymore, my dear! “I proudly retorted.

Never mind that we never actually were.

The Pool

Our itinerary allotted two blocks of time to explore the beach and pool. On the first day, San Juan was wrapped in a seamless blanket of moisture. On the second day, it was hot and humid.

This woosy Canuck will take the rain any day.

I was admittedly a bit worried to go to the pool first. A few years ago, my family went to Mexico and my kids never wanted to venture out to the beach because of the pool. Sure enough, Hadley immediately fell in love with the Marriott’s waterslide in the Main Pool and the fountains in the Kids Pool (with water depths ranging from 1 1/4-3′).

I fell in love with the Pina Colada Smoothies at the swim-up bar.

We all have our priorities.

I struck up a conversation with a mom who grew up in Puerto Rico and now lives in Florida. She brings her kids back every summer but always stays at the Marriott even before going to see their grandparents because the kids love the pool and activities.

You know it’s good when Grandma plays second-fiddle.

The activities to which she referred are housed in the towel hut by the pool. Guests can check out fun games that include a Giant Connect Four, Frisbee, Giant Tick Tack Toe, Giant Dominoes, Bowling for Kids, Beach Volleyball and numerous board games.

There is also a different activity schedule posted poolside each day for adults and kids that include Arts and Crafts on Saturday & Sundays, Cookie decorating, Bingo, Yoga lessons, Zumba, Beach volleyball, Limbo for the Kids, face painting and more.


Much to my delight, Hadley loved Codondo Beach as well. Protected by a natural rock barrier, the beach is modest and undercrowded.
(Photo courtesy of Have Baby Will Travel because, if you will recall, my camera got unceremoniously dumped in the ocean)

Haddie and I built lumps of sand we passed off as sand castles, drank a gallon of salt water as we catapulted over the swells and munched on crunchy coconut ice cream intermixed with sand, sunshine and happiness.


I fell in love with Puerto Rican food. These tropical masterpieces’ roots are infused in cooking traditions from Spain, Africa, Amerindian Taínos and heaven.

Trust me on that latter locale.


I have been obsessed with plantains since I discovered them on my honeymoon and Raices restaurant offered satiation at its best. The lively atmosphere is a bit touristy but they do a great job incorporating local customs with the colorful decor and staff uniforms.

Our appetizer plate, Boricula Festival, gave a great sampling of indulges that include cassava and cheese fritters, fried corn stick, fried cassava stick and plantains.

Mofongo is Puerto Rico’s signature dish and is a must-try for first-time visitors. Served on a bed of mashed plantains you have a choice of succulent beef, chicken or seafood. Raices’ version was the best I ever had.

OK, it was the only one I’ve ever had.

But I just can’t imagine how it could get much better.


Another must-visit restaurant is Jam. When my daughter and I walked into this ultra-cool and modern eatery, I immediately identified everything she could destroy in the room. It’s tough to say who was more delighted to discover the kid room tucked away at the back of the restaurant with toys and movies.

The extensive children’s menu included a number of drink selections (“Kid Tails”) dedicated to the younger set. Haddie sipped a Chocotini (chocolate and white milk with spiraled syrup in a martini glass) and dined on grilled churrasco strips with crispy tostones (fried plantains).

The moms sampled a number of different dishes, my favorite being a veritable cup of heaven: white bean soup with truffle oil. Pineapple Buanelos rolled in sweet coconut with Puerto Rican rum sauce topped off the gastronome evening.

Ristorante Tuscany

Ristorante Tuscany is the San Juan Marriott’s formal dining enclave and boasts a specially designed menu of Northern Italian cuisine fused with Latino culture. It was a perfect send-off for our farewell dinner.

Photo credit: Travel Mamas. Pictured: Corinne from Have Baby Will Travel, Colleen from Travel Mamas, Kara of Diamond PR, Debbie of Delicious Baby, me and Julian, the raw-meat-eating man child (see sordid details below).

The Marriott does not offer on-site kids clubs except during the holidays so attentive, nurturing and fun Nanny on Call PR was brought in to throw the kids a Pizza Party in an adjacent room.

While the kids played games, watched movies and had their hair French braided, the moms dined on dishes such as Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Fiocchi Pasta, Fettucine Michelangelo and Grilled Filet Mignon with Barolo sauce.

Julian, the San Juan Marriott’s Director of Marketing, delighted us with tales of the Marriott dynasty and his Australian upbringing. He divulged that as a young child, his mother often served him raw strips of beef for snacks.

Good thing Puerto Rico is much more civilized.

Be sure to check-out my favorite moment of the entire trip!

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