In addition to the lovely beach and the many recreational facilities that are part of the El Conquistador, there are other notable places to play in the vicinity.
Some of the best snorkeling in Puerto Rico is in and around Fajardo. Its public beach, Playa Seven Seas, is an attractive and sheltered strip of sand. The beach lies on the southwestern shoreline of Las Cabezas peninsula and is crowded on weekends. For even better snorkeling, walk to the western end of this beach and along a dirt path cutting though a wooded mount. After about a half-mile (.8km), you'll come to another path heading to Playa Escondido (Hidden Beach), a small white-sand cover with aquamarine waters right off this beach. It's great for sunbathing, but it's too dangerous for swimming. If you continue straight for another mile, you will come to the gorgeous El Convento Beach, stretching out along the miles-long undeveloped coastline between Fajardo and Luquillo.
The area has managed to ward off development despite the building craze taking place across much of the rest of Puerto Rico, with only a few unmarked dirt roads providing access, and paths such as the one from Seven Seas. The area is a nesting ground for endangered sea turtles, and its waters teem with reefs and fish. A small forest runs along much of the beach, and behind it stands the imposing El Yunque rainforest, looming over the white-sand beach and pristine blue waters. About a mile down the beach is the governor's official beach house, El Convento, a rustic wooden cottage. Just beyond the cottage is a great spot to snorkel. The water plunges steeply just offshore and is pocked with large reefs, which draw even large fish close to shore.
Environmentalists have pushed to protect this area from development, while developers want to build two large resorts. The administration is currently drawing up boundaries of a proposed nature reserve, which is to allow some "low-impact" tourism back from the coast.
To get here, you can hike from Fajardo's Seven Seas Public Beach, outside the resort just before Las Croabas village. It's a 2-mile (3km) hike through a trail in the shrub forest on its eastern end to El Convento Beach, a miles-long stretch of largely untouched beachfront, home to sea turtles and reef-studded waters with great snorkeling. The official vacation home of Puerto Rico's governor is the only development to speak of. The dirt road leading to it is the only road near the beach, one of the reasons it has been able to escape the stampede of development that has remade most of Puerto Rico over the last several decades.
The seven Har-Tru courts at the El Conquistador are among the best tennis courts in Puerto Rico, rivaling those at Palmas del Mar. The staff at the pro shop are extremely helpful to beginning players. Courts are the least crowed during the hottest part of the day, around the lunch hour. If you're a single traveler to the resort and in search of a player, the pro shop will try to match you up with a player of equal skill.
Several operators offer day sailing trips, usually from 10am to 3pm, from Fajardo marinas, which include sailing, snorkeling, swimming, and a stop at one of the island beaches where lunch is usually served. It’s the easiest way to experience the Caribbean marine world while in Puerto Rico. Prices, including lunch and equipment, start from $69 per person. The trips are aboard luxury catamarans, with plush seating, a sound system, and other comforts, such as a bar. Captains know the best spots, where reefs attract schools of feeding fish. These are among the most gin-clear and tranquil waters in Puerto Rico. They are teeming with wildlife, including several species of fish such as grouper, but also lobster, moray eels, and sea turtles. Among the local operators are Traveler Sailing Catamaran (tel. 787/863-2821; www.travelerpr.com), East Island Excursions (tel. 787/860-3434; www.eastislandpr.com), Salty Dog Catamarans (tel. 787/717-6378), and Catamaran Spread Eagle (tel. 787/887-8821; www.snorkelingpr.com). Erin Go Bragh Charters (tel. 787/860-4401) offers similar day trips aboard a 50-foot sailing ketch.
For scuba divers, La Casa del Mar (at the marina; tel. 787/863-3483 or 787/863-1000, ext. 7919) is one good option operating out of El Conquistador. You can go for ocean dives on the outfitter’s boats; a two-tank dive goes for $99 or $125 if you go further out to sites off Vieques and Culebra. Equipment is extra but is often included in dive packages. A PADI snorkel program, at $60 per person, is also available or take a trip to Culebra for $95. Sea Ventures Dive Center (Rte. 3, Km 51.4, Puerto del Rey; tel. 787/863-3483; www.divepuertorico.com) has a $109 offer for a two-tank dive $119 with equipment, a $150 discover package for beginners and a $60 snorkel tour.
Fajardo's seven marinas are proof that it is a sailor's paradise. The most renowned is the Puerto del Rey Marina (Rte. 3, Km 51.4; tel. 787/860-1000 or 801-3010). The swankiest marina in Fajardo, it's a beautiful 1,100-slip facility south of town, the largest in the Caribbean. It's like a city unto itself with restaurants, bars, and a host of other services. Villa Marina Yacht Harbour (Rte. 987, Km 1.3; tel. 787/863-5131 or 863-5011) is the other main marina in town, and is the shortest ride to the offshore cays and isolated white-sand beaches on the mainland. Charters operate out of both. There's a private 35-slip marina at the lowest level of the El Conquistador (tel. 787/863-1000).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.