Groups Battle It Out Barefoot at Puerto Rico’s El Conquistador

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El-ConquistadorPicture this: A corporate marketing team is pitted against HQ’s legal eagles in a game of tug-of-war and they’re all smiling for a change.

Battling it out barefoot along the turquoise Caribbean Sea both teams know they’ve already won. Next thing you know, the CEO is waddling across the beach in flippers to gather the troops for a “Penguin Race,” while other colleagues are strategizing for the “Beach Ball Relay,” “Raft Building” challenge and other creative team building experiences held in this idyllic outdoor meeting space.

This “Fantasy Island” scene—complete with beach butler service—is a reality on Palomino Island, a 100-acre island paradise uninhabited except for up to 1,400 daytime guests staying at Puerto Rico’s iconic El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort (the island’s sole operator). It’s the only Puerto Rico hotel with its own private island and ferry system, and a 35-slip marina offers deep-sea fishing charters, sailboats, catamarans, yachts and kayak excursions to a rare bioluminescent bay.

We experienced all of this and more at the El Conquistador Resort, which in itself spans 500 acres in Fajardo, “the water sports capital of Puerto Rico, with everything from world-class fishing to sailing and wave-runners,” according to Keyla Tarabochie, sales site manager for El Conquistador and Las Casitas Village.

Defining Bleisure

Sprawling across a cliff overlooking both the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, the property is a recreational wonderland with an Arthur Hills-designed golf course, a water park, seven pools, a 26,000-sf spa and yoga and meditation sessions on a manicured grass labyrinth. It also offers horse and hiking trails, mini-golf, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving and windsurfing. Groups can nosh on a variety of cuisine in 23 restaurants, bars and lounges, including the exceptional Chops steakhouse and new Drake’s Bacardi Rum Bar.

Attendees can get down to business in more than 100,000 sf of meeting space, including the Grand Atlantic Ballroom & Conference Center and its roughly 21,000-sf Grand Atlantic Ballroom, among Puerto Rico’s largest. Other special meeting spaces include five “villages” such as the Las Brisas wing where movie stars vacationed in the 1960s, Las Casitas Village, a luxury resort-within-a-resort offering colorful one- to three-bedroom villas, and the newly remodeled Pablo Casals ballroom (the world-renowned artist attended El Conquistador’s grand opening).

Once the meeting ends, groups can explore local colonial forts (including La Fortaleza, a UNESCO world heritage site) and the lush El Yunque, the only rainforest in the US National Forest System.

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