For each ‘Planner’s Pick,’ Prevue interviews a planner for their choices of compelling, high value destinations.
PLANNER: PATRICIA MCEOWEN
Director of Program Administration
There is no large hotel in the Caribbean with as proud a setting as El Conquistador Resort & Golden Door Spa in Puerto Rico. The sprawling 1,000-room resort stands sentinel on a 300-foot bluff facing due east, as if paying homage to the Spanish motherland. When the sun rises every morning, the first part of Puerto Rico to see the light of day is El Con’s majestic pool deck. The promenade is longer than a football field, perched high over the marina village and waterpark, almost like a cruise ship for Greek gods. This place does 2,000-person cocktail receptions without batting an eyelash.
“When you leave the lobby and see the ocean’s horizon, you just sort of stand there and stare,” says Patricia McEowen. She’s organized numerous events at the resort, the last of which was an incentive for 130 attendees with a national fleet management company. “There’s very little you have to do with the layout,” she says. “In fact, if you start adding décor, you’re actually taking away from the drama.”
Was there a concern a group that size might be swallowed up in such a large property?
“Before I went there the first time I wasn’t sure, but the service was absolutely the best from reservation right on down,” says McEowen. “And the benefit is there are so many activities. I have 130 adults and they just loved the Coqui Waterpark. They were as happy as children. We had to go down and drag them out of the pool!”
Just offshore, the resort owns the 100-acre Palomino Island, with one of the prettiest beaches in Puerto Rico. It’s an 8-minute boat ride from the dock aboard ferries seating 150. McEowen set up a beach cocktail party for a white tablecloth dinner of steak and lobster.
“Then we lit a big bonfire on the sand for s’mores, and we had a little limbo show. You don’t really need to do too much out there. The group just enjoyed relaxing with their feet in the sand at sunset and being on their own.”
Next door to El Con, the separate Mediterranean-inspired Las Casitas Village consists of luxe private villas. McEowen booked those for her “very top salesmen.”
Next door, the Golden Door Spa is the pre-eminent wellness facility on-island. And surrounding the entire resort, the undulating Arthur Hills golf course meanders wildly from oceanview clifftop greens down into rolling valley fairways.
“Well, a lot of the golfers said basically you have to be a mountain billygoat to play it,” she laughs. “So, it’s not the easiest course but it is one of the prettiest.”
And what does McEowen like most at El Con?
“The banquet staff at El Con is among the best in the world, I have no caveat saying that,” she effuses. McEowen details one night when a storm appeared just as an alfresco dinner was about to be served. The whole event was moved indoors within 10 minutes, and McEowen remembers being amazed when the food was served piping hot. “That’s when you know who you’re dealing with,” she says.
“Oh, and make sure you write their Jack Daniel’s ham is out of this world.”