by Andrea Guthmann
Note: This resort has suffered damage in the 2017 hurricane season and is not taking reservations through Oct. 31, 2017.
Most families traveling to Puerto Rico stay in San Juan, possibly making a day trip to El Yunque National Forest. For those who want to see more of what Puerto Rico has to offer, make the scenic 75-mile drive from San Juan to Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second largest city. If you want to spend a few days in this colonial port city, the family-friendly Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort is a big beach resort that will keep everyone entertained. Waterslide? Check! Kiddie pool? Check! An arcade for teens and ‘tweens and one of the largest casinos on the island for adults? Yes, again! Kids will love being welcomed with a gift bag of beach toys at check-in, including a sand bucket and water-squirting pool toys. They’ll also enjoy the mini-golf, lawn chess, playground and many games available at this sprawling resort, while mom and dad might enjoy a round of golf on the 27-hole course, or just relaxing by the pool.
The resort is planted amidst a lush coconut grove on Puerto Rico’s southern coast, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. While the black-sand beach isn’t exactly postcard perfect (it can get rough), it does provide a nice backdrop for strolling and building sand castles. Puerto Rico’s southern coast is not as developed as the popular beaches in San Juan, which resemble Miami Beach with their many high-rises. You won’t find powder soft sand in Ponce, but you won’t find many people either. If you seek serenity, this will be your idea of beach bliss.
Other perks include free tennis, golf, bikes, four restaurants and a friendly parrot named Coco, who resides by the outdoor poolside bar/restaurant. The only thing the Hilton Ponce doesn’t have is a kids club, but if you can live without it, and a big-time beach resort is what you’re after, Hilton Ponce is your hotel.
Our Editor Loves
- Tropically landscaped pool with waterslide
- Playground, mini-golf and lawn chess
- Complimentary bicycles
- Connecting Rooms
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The hotel has 254 rooms decorated in neutral palettes, all with ocean views and balconies or ground floor patios. Since the hotel was built in a lush coconut grove, you'll be looking through the trees to the ocean off in the distance. That's perfect if you like a natural setting, where you almost feel like you're in a treehouse. If you want a completely unobstructed view of the ocean, choose a room in the newer Ocean Tower, where there aren't any trees. All that's between you and the ocean will be a large expanse of green lawn.
Standard rooms are 400 square feet and feature a balcony or patio; 37-inch, flat-screen TV; mini-fridge; coffee maker; hair dryer and basic bath amenities. Standard rooms contain either two double beds (fitting four), or one king bed with a pull-out sleeper chair (fitting three). The hotel will add a crib or rollaway bed to the room for free. Children under 18 are free when sharing a room with adults.
It's important to note that the balconies can be a bit worrisome for those traveling with toddlers. Unless you want to be arguing about who forgot to lock the balcony door, opt for the ground level patio rooms. There are 70 standard patio rooms overlooking a lawn large enough to throw a Frisbee or football, with easy access to the pool.
Terrace Suites are the largest and most luxurious. The size of either two or three standard units with the same amenities, they feature a bedroom with a king bed, along with a furnished living area/parlor with a queen size daybed. They also contain a well-equipped desk/work area, along with luxurious modern bathrooms with rain showers and whirlpool bathtubs. Terrace Suites also feature large wrap-around furnished terraces.
The newer Ocean Tower section of the hotel offers more modern bathrooms with rain showers (but no bathtubs), updated decor, and the opportunity to stay in Executive Rooms. Here, guests gain access to the Executive Lounge, with its complimentary breakfast, afternoon snacks and unlimited drinks. The Ocean Tower rooms also come with mini-fridges, flat-screen TV's and balconies.
One- and two-bedroom suites in the Ocean Tower offer bedrooms with one king bed or two double beds along with a living area with a sofa bed. Larger families, or those traveling with extended family or friends, will appreciate the many configurations available for connecting rooms. One- and two-bedroom suites can be connected via a middle unit that has a sofa bed.
All rooms come with free high-speed Internet.
A place that u should visit & stay at. Excellent location, a wonderful view, peaceful since entrance w cleanliness & good service. Friendly, human & service oriented. Great casino & pool services. Needs more amenities & night life. Great food & flavor. Rooms to rooms sleep disturbing (noisy) at night. Keep shining.
We stayed at here previously for business a few months ago, and returned due to wonderful stay. We love the setting, the location, the staff! Cannot wait to return! Will continue to book for all our business trips in Ponce.
The fun begins for kids at check-in, where they're greeted with a beach bag of goodies, including a sand bucket and squirt toys for the pool!
Speaking of pools, the pool area is perfect for all ages. Toddlers will enjoy the zero-depth entry area and splash pad, kids over 5 will enjoy the waterslide, and teens will likely love the pool volleyball. There are also two Jacuzzis.
Kids' Activity Desk
Next to the main hotel pool is the kids' activity desk, filled with complimentary games. Grab a club for a round of mini-golf, play lawn bowling or chess on the giant outdoor board, or just check out one of the many games like Connect Four and grab a table in the shade. There are complimentary adult and kid bikes (training wheels available), as well as complimentary tennis racquets to use at the kids- tennis court by the pool, or over on the other side of the resort at the more manicured courts.
There's also a large playground overlooking the ocean with shaded tables and benches for mom and dad. 'Tweens and teens will enjoy meeting up with other kids at the basketball court by the pool or at the indoor game area, with a coin-operated pool table, air hockey, pinball and electronic arcade games.
Costa Caribe Golf & Country Club
Hilton Ponce guests also have access to the adjacent Costa Caribe Golf and Country Club. Guests looking for a quieter pool and Jacuzzi can take the complimentary shuttle over and spend the afternoon lounging, enjoying a tropical drink, snack or light meal poolside. Although it's a quieter setting, children are still welcome to join in the fun at the neighboring pool. Costa Caribe also has a 27-hole golf course for guests who want to hit the links.
Although the beach isn't picture perfect with its dark sand and occasionally rough waters, kids will enjoy getting to play in the sand, throw a Frisbee or go shell collecting. Unlike the highly (some might say overly) developed beaches of San Juan, you won't find any high rises along this stretch of Puerto Rico's southern coast; you won't find many people either. So, although the sand isn't powder soft, you will have the beach to yourself.
The resort has four restaurants, offering a variety of cuisines and settings.
This open-air buffet restaurant offers a full hot breakfast for $22 per adult and $12 per child age 6 to 12 (kids under 6 eat for free). There is also a continental breakfast offered for $14 per adult, or lunch and a barbecue dinner for $20 per adult. On Saturday nights, La Terraza offers Puerto Rican specialties, along with an award-winning local salsa dance troupe for entertainment.
La Cava Restaurant
The hotel's fine-dining restaurant isn't the best idea for a family meal, but it is a great spot for a romantic dinner. Entrees of steak and seafood cost between $25 and $30.
El Bohio Sports & Pool Bar
This poolside casual dining spot includes a variety of salads ($10), sandwiches ($13), pizzas ($8 to $15) and a kids menu that includes chicken fingers and fries ($4), hot dogs and cheeseburgers ($5).
This Sushi Bar at the adjacent Costa Caribe Golf and Country Club offers Asian-fusion cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere overlooking the pool and ocean beyond. It is closed on Mondays.
Room service is also available throughout the day, with breakfast served from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. The menu includes soups, salads and sandwiches ($12 to $18) served from 11 a.m. to midnight.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
There's a fitness center right by the pool, with treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes and weights.
Next door to the pool is a room used for massages, facials and manicures and pedicures. The "spa" is open by appointment only, so you'll need to call in advance. A 60-minute Swedish massage is about $70, whereas a pedicure is $60.
The hotel has a nice business center with computers, printers and a copier/fax machine, and you can enjoy a complimentary cappuccino or espresso while you check your email. Another perk is that there's always a hotel staff person in the business center. If you're struggling with a printer or fax machine, you'll be glad there's someone there to help.
The hotel gift shop offers a large selection of magazines, bathing suits and other resort wear, souvenirs, as well as the basics you may have forgotten -- contact lens solutions, aspirin, toothpaste and other necessities.
There's a coin operated washing machine and dryer, with soap for guests to use.
The Art of Smart Timing
The southern part of Puerto Rico is the hot spot on the island, with temperatures often being five or more degrees warmer than other areas. The weather patterns in Ponce remain consistent throughout the year -- warm and humid, with highs in the mid 70's to mid 80's.
High season for tourism is mid-December through mid-April, when northerners are escaping the winter chill. Hurricane season is June 1 through November 30. Plenty of tourists still come to Puerto Rico during the hurricane shoulder season, when hotel rates are lower. Although there isn't that much more rain, visitors do run the risk of a storm during their vacation.
Puerto Rico is the most accessible of the Caribbean islands, with plentiful direct airline service from cities throughout the U.S. to San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, 75 miles from Ponce. Ponce's Mercedita Airport is smaller with more limited airline service. At times it offers direct service to major cities, including Orlando and New York.
It's about a 75-minute scenic drive through Puerto Rico's mountains to get from San Juan's airport to Ponce. You can choose to rent a car or the hotel will arrange for a pick-up, at an additional cost. Ponce's airport is a 5-minute drive to the resort.
Because it's part of the United States, U.S. citizens will appreciate not needing a passport, having to wait in line at customs or exchanging their dollars into a foreign currency. U.S. citizens will also be able to use their cell phones without incurring additional out-of-country roaming charges. All this adds up to a hassle-free vacation.
For Mom and Dad
Hilton Ponce has one of Puerto Rico's largest casinos. Mom and Dad might enjoy trying their hand at blackjack or giving roulette a spin. There's live music in the casino on the weekends for added entertainment. For something more low-key, sip a tropical drink at the poolside bar, Q Bar, or take your own bottle of wine to the beach or Jacuzzi area. The hotel's upscale restaurant, La Cava, is also perfect for a date night.