from New York City, New York
Submitted on 02-05-2017
We have just come back from a pleasant, warm and sun-filled week in Club Cala, a resort by the seaside on the south-east coast of Puerto Rico. First a few points about the political situation of Puerto Rico which may be of use to travelers. It is a Commonwealth of the United States, which means that in some ways it is like an independent country, in other ways it is a part of the US. Because it is treated as an independent country, one may buy duty free items at the airport in San Juan, and pric...
We have just come back from a pleasant, warm and sun-filled week in Club Cala, a resort by the seaside on the south-east coast of Puerto Rico. First a few points about the political situation of Puerto Rico which may be of use to travelers. It is a Commonwealth of the United States, which means that in some ways it is like an independent country, in other ways it is a part of the US. Because it is treated as an independent country, one may buy duty free items at the airport in San Juan, and prices on some of them are good. But because it is part of the US, thee is no restriction on how much one can bring back to the mainland, though such restrictions are common when shopping overseas. My wife and I brought back a bottle of whisky each; we could have brought back half a dozen each, had we wanted to.
It is also worth noting that no passport or other travel document (except the standard government-issued ID) is necessary when traveling there. I say this because I noticed a number of fellow passengers on the plane who had taken their American passports with them and were surprised when they were not asked for.
Travelers should also remember that not all cellphone providers are available there. Thus there is no Verizon service anywhere, which means that we were unable to make or receive phone calls. Not that we were expecting any. Similarly, though there was Wifi at the resort, it was available only in the lobby. This was not a bad thing, for had the service been provided in the suites, more people would have stayed put indoors longer.
The resort is just one of several properties, including a Wyndham hotel, other time shares, rentals and private accommodations, that are part of the enormous and sprawling Los Palmas complex. Lush green, full of little hills, and secured at the entrance by a 24-hour guard service, it houses a Roman Catholic church, a pterocarpus forest, a golf course, an area for holding weddings and other receptions, restaurants, and several other facilities including a pool and a beach, all of which can be freely used by Club Cala guests. Indeed, because the complex is so big, and because there are excellent trails everywhere, it is ideal for walking and jogging, and many people also prefer to move about in golf carts which are easily available on rent. In addition, the resort makes available, for a nominal daily charge, a shuttle service to any point from any point within the complex. We used it for going to restaurants, or for being picked up from places to which we had walked, and I would recommend that all who stay at Club Cala make use of it also since it is included on the bill anyway.
Puerto Rico's greatest asset is its people, and you will encounter the best of them on the staff of the resort. Extremely helpful, unfailingly polite, with winning smiles, perfectly bilingual and knowledgeable, they were a pleasure to deal with, as other reviewers have also said. The resort has many other plus points. The pool is pleasant to swim in or laze by and provides various exercise activities which are supervised; the beach is a short walk away; there is complimentary coffee in the lobby; Club Cala has three eating places on its premises, which include a Hawaiian style eatery, Chihuahua, where they serve enormous fajitas and other sandwiches, and a place where apart from getting rather doughy Cuban sandwiches you can also buy provisions and wine. There is also a bank on the premises but it charges $6 for dispensing cash on ATM cards not its own. We stayed in a spacious suite that fronted the dock for pleasure craft, and our accommodation was always very quiet and peaceful. It also came equipped with a washing machine and a dryer, and the resort had thoughtfully provided detergent as well. The appliances were easy and simple to use, though the dryer took rather longer to dry clothes than does our ancient one at home.
So why does the resort rate only 4 stars, not 5? Indeed, my wife would probably not even give it a full 4. There are two main reasons First, the place is getting old and rather shabby, and needs to be spruced up. For instance, the first suite we were allotted, right by the pool and lobby, had a pull-out sofa bed which was dented and nicked and rather uneven, and promised a restless night. However, since we had asked for two bedrooms, while the sofa bed was lodged in the living room, we were shifted to another suite which had two bedrooms, but again the sofa in the living room was a twin of the earlier one. When we entered, the air conditioning was going full blast. We were advised not to try to to turn it on too much higher (for which we had no desire) or lower. I wondered if this was because the thermostat was attached rather flimsily to the wall and was in danger of falling off if handled with anything but a silken touch. I found the room much too cold and tried to turn the air conditioning down, to no avail. Finally I just turned it off altogether, and we did without it very comfortably. However, linens are changed every Wednesday and Saturday, and that Wednesday, when we returned to our accommodation I found that the staff had set the air conditioning to 60 degrees. I turned it off immediately, and it took the whole night to get warm again.
The bathroom left a few things to be desired. No shower cap was provided, and my wife was glad she had brought hers along. Nor was there any conditioner, though there were small bottles of shampoo and moisturizer. The worst lacuna was that there was no hand rail or slip-proof matting in the bath tub. This is a serious matter that needs immediate remediation, for quite a few of Club Cala's guests are elderly, and old people, as is well known, are more susceptible to falls, especially in slippery bath tubs. I hope that the absence of a hand rail or slip proofing is not an accident waiting to happen.
Nor was the kitchen free from small problems. The top shelves are too high and too deep for a short woman or man to reach easily. There was coffee and a coffee maker, but strangely, no salt or pepper. Nor was there a corkscrew or bottle opener.
But travelers must be content. We overlooked these lacunae and enjoyed the warmth and sunshine and lushness of the island.