Puerto Rico is a wonderful place, and you should all come visit me immediately. I’ll show you my favorite running trail, and afterward you can hurl yourself into the ocean. You’ll love it.
One thing PR expressly does not have, however, is theme parks. Nor less elaborate amusement parks. Nor even traveling fairs. If you don’t count zip lines and funiculars (which I might – more on that in a second!), there’s nary a ride to be had on the whole island. No roller coasters, no dark rides. The closest I can find is go-karts but I don’t really care to operate my amusements myself. Mr. Pragmatist Architect Pat points out that the upkeep here would be untenable given salt erosion, hurricanes, etc. but it still makes me a bit sad.
And yet! What you can find dotted around the island are water parks. Certainly not themed water parks of the Disney level, but water parks all the same. And as I am firmly in Take What I Can Get mode at present, when given the opportunity to explore one, I jumped at it.
Speaking of Mr. Pragmatist – Pat had an architect convention at the El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, so naturally I tagged along. I would liken this hotel to, say, a deluxe Disney resort – luxury tier, but not the height of luxury, if you catch my meaning. In fact, we thought the rooms and their upkeep were only okay. But that’s all right, because the real draw of El Conquistador is the amenities.
This place is tricked out: shops, bars, restaurants, ferries to their private island, like 87 pools and hot tubs including a swim-up bar, a gym, and… a private water park!
(This picture is from the El Conquistador website; there are more I took myself below but I couldn’t quite get the helicopter angle, y’know?)
Well, I think it’s private, anyway. At the so-called “ticket booth” I was told all you have to do is give your name and hotel room, show your resort wristband, and you’re free to come and go as you please.
Having slipped inside the gates to the El Coqui water park, I immediately drew another Disney parallel: this is a water park after the fashion of Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club. It’s not particularly themed, nor particularly large. But then neither is Stormalong Bay, and people flip their lids over that! So let’s see what’s on offer:
– A bunch of water slides of varying sizes – none of them are enormous, but they’re definitely a step up from your average hotel pool in both size and quantity!
– A lazy river with waterfalls and plenty of inner tubes
– A child-specific shallow play area with its own mini-slide
– An infinity pool right next to the ocean
– Helpful stuff like on-site food service and lockers which I believe are free
– Private cabanas (probably you have to rent these) plus lots of lounge chairs and umbrellas
But, wait, there’s more! While it’s not part of the water park, El Conquistador does offer an actual ride in the funicular. Think of it as Disney’s gondola system crossed with a train track. It’s the best (only?) way to travel from the top of the resort to the water park, marina, and satellite rooms and restaurants. I know it’s a simple up-and-down train mechanism, but I thought it was such a fun novelty!
I wouldn’t say you should come to Puerto Rico specifically for the El Conquistador, or even that you should pick El Conquistador just for the water park. (Maybe just for the funicular!) If this is your second or third trip to PR, though, and you’re after a pools-and-tropical-drinks style of vacation, you could certainly do a whole lot worse. Any place with a lazy river is okay by me.
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