I booked our family vacation at the Marriott Stellaris for late October 2015 using Marriott Rewards Points. It's off-season. We're here for six nights. I have daughters age 12 and under. They've only flown once or twice - I was looking for beach, warm weather, a different culture and a safe, family-friendly resort. Stellaris hit all those points and more.
Stellaris is a short ten-minute cab ride from the airport. Cost was $20 for whole family including tip. La Concha Renaissance is literally .3 of a mile down the street, so you can check out the other property. I never realized they were this close. Stellaris appears to be more family/kid friendly. The Renaissance would be my choice for holding a meeting - they have more meeting space and appear to be geared to a more business-like crowd.
Check-in was a breeze and my platinum status got us upgraded to an ocean-view room without asking. It's an older property - the rooms are standard and have been remodeled. What really stood out to me is that everyone here is super friendly. There are security guards everywhere and they've got an army of people manicuring the property. Like I said, customer service was outstanding.
The third Wednesday night of every month they have a reception for Elite members. I wasn't sure what to expect, but since there's no concierge lounge I wasn't going to miss it. It was so awesome I called my wife and made her bring the kids. I prefer to eat local fare, but I must say the tuna was seared to perfection and the Mahi-Mahi was grilled perfectly. The desserts were awesome. We loved the food so much we ate in the lobby bar the next night. A little pricey, but it was hot, quick and delicious. Loved the gelato place attached to the hotel. NOTE: I loved networking with the Marriott employees. One of the managers told me upgrades are difficult on weekends in peak season because they sell out. For instance, A three-day weekend like President's weekend would be really hard to get upgraded because they sell out.
The beach area is nice. It's fine for adults and older kids, but the waves can be rough for a smaller child. Not sure if it's because of hurricane season or if it's that way year round. Loved the towels and bottled water covered by the resort fee. Very, very nice pool area for smaller kids. Kids loved the water slide and the pool.
Location is great. Starbucks is across the street. They're building a Hard Rock Cafe right next to Starbucks. CVS is literally next to the hotel and Walgreens is a block away. There are a number of great local restaurants nearby plus you're only a short cab ride from Old San Juan. There's a bus stop by CVS that will take you to Old San Juan for $.75 per person. A cab to old San Juan for the family cost $15. We haven't had a bad meal here. Once you're in Old San Juan, use the free trolley system. Tickets to Del Morro and San Cristobol were $5 for adults and good for a week. We broke up our visit because the kids wore out.
We booked a tour of El Yunque Rain Forest and to Loquillo Beach through the hotel tour desk. It was a little pricey ($79 for adults and $69 for kids), but we got our own private tour guide in a new 12-passenger bus. Our guide Jorge is a professional who is dedicated to his craft. He not only taught us about the flora and fauna of the rain forest, but he taught us about what daily life is like in Puerto Rico.
We did not do a bioluminescent bay tour because we were advised by the concierge that September storms and algae made viewing less than optimal. If you're looking to do this tour like we were, I'd be sure to ask about recent experiences.
One final tip: Join the casino players club here. They ran an October promotion for players club members where they could book rooms in October for half the points it would normally cost. I didn't read the fine print, but it sounded like a great deal.
To sum it all up, I wanted to give my wife and kids an experience they would remember for the rest of their life. The people here at Stellaris helped me do that.