The Not-Quite-Hyatt Resort at Coco Beach

When we first planned our trip to Puerto Rico, we planned to book-end our stay at the St. Regis Bahia Beach with stays at the Marriott Courtyard right next to the airport to make for a convenient and quick trip both upon arrival and for departure. When situations arose leading us to look for other accommodations for the night of our arrival, I was surprised to see a new "Hyatt affiliated" hotel, The Resort at Coco beach. Not only that, but it was only category 3, meaning it was bookable with only 12,000 points; or with a Category 1-4 free-night certificate. I debated between the points, which was a great value compared to the cash rates north of $300 for the only room listed at the time (King garden view), and would allow us to use a club upgrade; but since we were unlikely to use one of our free-night certs before it expired, we decided against the club access and used the certificate.

Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve

The "Hyatt affiliated" branding, according to the Hyatt, was to remain during a soft-open phase as the hotel completed renovations and ramped-up its service. The week before our arrival, the resort officially changed its name to the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Puerto Rico, presumably indicating that it was running at full-tilt just in time for the peak tourism season between Christmas and the start of the New Year.

Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve

Arrival

Leaving the highway (PR-3) there was a sign which still had the “affiliated” branding. Making the turn at the sign on to PR-955, the road eventually turns into a private road and reaches a check-point which serves the Trump International Golf Club, town houses (Urb Coco Beach), and after a couple miles, the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve. It's not clear how useful the gate is, except to perhaps redirect very-lost drivers. At the nearby St. Regis, they communicate to the hotel to let them know you're coming (either to check-in or returning), and invariably the St. Regis team greeted us appropriately and by name as we pulled-in. I did not get any indication that the same communication happened for the Hyatt.

Sign on PR-3

The turn is clearly marked on PR-3, albeit with the out-of-date branding.

As we came around the third roundabout, we came to a second gate. This one lacked a house but had somebody standing in the middle of the lanes to open the barriers. As we approached, she opened our gate without any other interaction which seemed odd, but when we stopped by a few days later to retrieve an item we had left by accident, it appeared that effectively the role of the person here—aside from letting guests past—was to function as a punch-clock for employees. Continuing along the road, we drove past the valet lot on our left and then a conveniently close self-park option on our right, before we pulled-up to the front of the hotel.

The road opening into a spacious valet area with water effects all around was impressive, even awe-inspiring. Visible just past the valet stand along a walkway passing between more artificial pools, is a spacious, open, lobby. Orlando greeted us as we pulled-up, and helped us with our bags. While unloading, he mentioned that self-parking was nearby and only $19 or we could valet for $24. We decided to valet, so he shouted over to a gentleman at the valet desk to let him know. We got a claim-ticket, which oddly mentioned $27.50—although upon checkout we didn’t see any charge1

Check-in

After getting everyone out of the car, and the luggage loaded onto the trolly, Orlando led us to the reception area. Orlando indicated the water available in the center of the room before asking if we would like their special rum punch2 while we waited. As he went off to get the punch I looked around to surmise how best to go about checking-in.

Hyatt Coco Beach lobby

The lobby during mid-day is quiet and always had water (although sometimes running low on glasses) if you needed a drink. During our evening check-in, it was much more chaotic.

Hyatt Coco lobby area

Near the lobby, there were lots of not-yet-utilized areas and a small sandwhich-and-coffee stand. I'm a sucker for the Neo-Mudéja themes that were present throughout the main building.

Hyatt Lobby Bar

There appeared to be plenty of seating in the lobby, although other than to grab a drink at the lobby bar, there wasn't much reason to be there. We never visited while the bar was open.

There were three desks3, but only two were staffed. I got in what appeared to be a line for the middle desk, as it was the first one which was staffed and the farthest desk had a banner for some show, and I wasn’t sure if it might be the concierge desk4. Eventually an employee directed me to wait in “line”, so I followed her gesture and walked to an empty pair of guide ropes on the side of the area opposite where we entered. Orlando returned with the rum drinks, and shortly thereafter an agent at the middle desk called me over and we began the check-in process.

She thanked me for my Explorist status, confirmed our one-night stay on an award, and provided me a brochure with information and two key wristbands, which are helpful when you are at a resort where you will presumably be spending a lot of time swimming and in outfits that don’t generally have secure pockets. I inquired about late check-out, and while Explorists usually are guaranteed 2p.m. check-out, late check-out at resorts is based on availability (and discretion). She indicated that they were fully booked, but did add an annotation meeting us half-way from regular noon check-out, letting us extend our stay by an hour.

Christmas tree

We arrived shortly after Christmas, and the hotel still had their decorations up. Many were removed the next day.

Cart ride

My wife and daughter rode on the cart with the luggage, both to the room, and here as we were preparing to check-out later.

With the check-in procedures complete, she offered to find us a bell-hop, I had trouble finding Orlando for a moment, but then he returned with a non-alcoholic punch for my daughter so she could have a special drink as well. Having located our existing porter, we proceeded through the lobby areas as he pointed out the various restaurants. There were more water effects, and my daughter grew increasingly excited as she pointed them out to her brothers.

The Room

As we got to the end of the main complex, we reached a roundabout with electric carts (think extra-long golf carts). Orlando pointed to the flat tire on the trolley he was pushing, and suggested taking a cart the rest of the way. He loaded the cart, and my daughter was excited to be able to ride on the back. Since we were not going far, rather than try to unload (and then hold) our toddlers, I followed pushing the stroller. There was a small bump from the path to the building the stroller had to jump, but otherwise it was a quick and easy to stroll as we were going to the first ocean facing building. While we'd booked a garden view—the only option initially available—and while no mention was made at check-in, we appeared to be staying in an equivalent ocean view room. I was suggest considering booking the ocean view over the garden view: while the garden view rooms are far off of the main path, the ocean-facing side is still more private, especially if you decide to utilize the porch just outside the room.

After all of our luggage, for us and our three kids, was brought into the room, we were given the briefest of tours: the mini-fridge. The resort fee specifies only two bottles of water a day were complimentary, but Orland assured us that the water was free, and if we needed more we just needed to ring for them. With that, we thanked him and went about setting-up the room for the night.

Bathtub

The bath tub and shower were in their own room, separated from the bedroom by a glass wall and a curtain on the opposite side. It did make it a little easier to keep an eye on the kids who loved playing in the curtain.

Sitting area

Originally, I'd envisioned using the sitting area for the boys' cribs, but having dealt with the close quarters in Maine, we reconsidered our plans.

Bedtime

There was plenty of space for my daughter's cot, and the sound insulation the bathroom provided meant we could do our regular bedtime routine; unfortunately, we'd forgotten the Amazon fire.

The room itself was sizeable for an entry room, 520sq ft seemed pretty efficiently used, with a big sitting area between the bed and the outside porch (which had a couple of seats itself). The TV was large, hanging up on the wall, but we didn't use it. The bathroom was divided into three rooms: a spacious entry-way had a claustrophobic toilet to its right, and the bath and shower to its left. The bathroom did a good job of insulating sound, and we decided to use it for the boys' cribs that night; it ended-up working well, although we initially had concerns about isolating our older child from the bathroom all night. Things looked shiny and new, as they should given that the hotel just recently re-opened; but there were some marks of carelessness: the very nice (slippery) marble tiles had quite long and deep scratches in them.

Residence building

We were in one of the closest buildings, garden-view rooms faced into the resort while ocean-view obviously faced towards the ocean.

Watching sunrise

The boys always love watching sunrise out the windows when we travel.

Backyard

The beach area of the resort was directly accessible through the rear of the room.

Property

Despite officially changing the name and brand, from an affiliate to to a full-fledged Hyatt Regency, it was clear that the property was not quite ready. I don’t doubt that they are at capacity, as the earliest availability I could find was January 1st, but the property still felt empty. Walking around the cause of the apparent contradiction was obvious, as several buildings farther away from the entrance were blocked-off by fencing and were active construction areas. Even buildings that weren't blocked-off were clearly still having interior work being done.

Courtyard with fountain

I liked the ideas of the courtyards which reminded me of Andalusia.

Ostensibly, the public areas are done, the main pool is sprawling and the club lounge has a smaller pool which, while it has restricted access, I wouldn't say is any more private. There are fountains and parts of the main building which may-or-may-not be finished, but clearly aren't being utilized at the moment. Several doors needed work: an entrance to the primary restaurant had a hand-written warning to use another door, as that particular door was unsafe; the latch on the gate in the Hyatt Kids' Club was non-functional.

Closed section

Entire sections were gated-off with active construction.

Residence under construction

Some buildings were blocked-off completely, such as many of the suites.

The Beach

Beaches in Puerto Rico are owned by the public, meaning that anyone who can reach the beach legally can use it. The coastline where the Hyatt is located is rocky, but stretches have been cleared-out (and based on observations from people who've stayed at the previous property) sand moved in to make for some isolated stretches of beach that are unlikely to have many non-resident guests. Unfortunately, if the hotel reaches full capacity at completion, it might start feeling very crowded. The focus of the hotel is very much its pool with the ocean as a backdrop, rather than the beach. Stretches of beach are accessible mostly by walking along paths past rooms and you basically end-up in their backyards. Even with the limit occupancy caused by incomplete rooms, I noticed a couple of sideways glances as I walked past occupied rooms along the beach stretches when exploring the property.

Accessing the beach

An example of the walkways going to the beach past private rooms.

Ocean view Beach seating

The Kids' Club

The drilled hole for the lock on the gate to the kids' club had broken, meaning there was no way of securing the gate, but presuming you were going to be watching your kids closely anyway, the kids' club offered a small artificial turf area. There are plenty of tables for activities or snacks, but we did not notice the club staffed during our stay. The club overlooks the pool and is on the far end of the property, with private residences located behind it. Generally, I found it disappointing; but it did have a slide.

Slide

The kids' club slide was a hit. Yes, it was quite dirty.

Kids club

The kids' club really did not have much space, and there wasn't a formal childcare program.

The Pool

The pool was sprawling, and I would expect for most guests it would be the center of activity. There was a hut for borrowing or renting items for the pool, or purchasing some items you may not have brought like goggles. There were many branches of the pool to give semi-private seating areas; given the low total occupancy available right now, it was easy to find quiet corners.

Pool

Entrance from the restaurant.

Water station

There were a couple water stations, such as this one at the border of the residences and the pool area.

Cabana

There were a number of cabanas spread around. During our stay, they were not being heavily utilized.

Pool activities

My daughter had a lot of fun in the pool.

Pool chairs

There are lots of chairs for lounging next to and close to the pool.

Pool chairs Lounge Chair

There is no shortage of turns and offshoots of the pool.

There were remnants of their recent holiday parties, with food trucks stationed around the pool. These were not staffed during our stay, and I'd expect they'd move at some point.

Beach bar bus El Jefe

Food and Service

This is the unfortunate place where this review turns strongly negative. The food was generally in the palatable but uninspired category, although some items did not even rise to that level. Service was inconsistent. Many people seemed very eager to be help out, and hopefully with more experience and training the issues can be resolved, but there were some odd failures—and worse, recovery was a mess, with first-line supervisors more concerned with making excuses than resolving issues.

Restaurant

The principal restaurant is Water's Edge, which is open for breakfast (07:00-11:00), lunch (11:30-14:00), and diner (17:00-22:00). We had each of our meals there, as the other two restaurants, open only for dinner, were more formal, and we were with our three young kids. We've heard some mixed (including some rather positive) reviews about the Asian-fusion restaurant, Nori. The Nori Asian Grill and Prime 787 steakhouse are both only open for dinner (18:00-22:30). There's also a lobby bar open from 13:00-01:00, and a small sandwich/snack stands located behind the lobby, near the bar. If you're looking for something a bit nicer at dinner, you're best bet is probably walking just a bit past Water's Edge, and away from the resort; just next door to the Hyatt's main restaurant, and still within view of the pool, lies Pasión por el Fogón, whose Chef Myrta Perez has received praise for her Puerto Rican fare5.

Large table

My daughter grew really attached to the large tables, which gave her plush toy a spot to sit as well. Fortunately, the restaurant was never crowded while we were there and the staff accommodated us.

Dinner

After having set-up our room, we walked over to the principal restaurant to get dinner. When we walked-in, the host apologized, saying that the only thing they had available for dinner was the buffet. Presumably when the hotel is fully running, they will generally offer either the buffet or à la carte options. With young kids, the buffets offer trade-offs: somebody needs to get up to get the food, but it's easier to find different things for the kids to try, so this was fine with us. It was a fairly small buffet, with hot items along one side of the room, desserts on the far side, in front of the window; and in the middle an assortment of fruits, crackers, vegetables and the like. The food tended to be generally alright, without being either particularly good or bad. There was one exception, the speciality station, which this night was a local take on roasted turkey which was done very well: nice and moist, with some interesting flavour. Our server was in good spirits and very energetic. We asked for some cups for the kids (and moved the glasses out of their reach). She suggested some styrofoam coffee cups, which she brought with straws. Those worked for the most part, but since there were no lids, the one-year-olds needed help lest we end-up with milk and water being thrown across the restaurant.

Dessert buffet

The dessert table was on display from the pool area. Dinner was the only meal that met expectations during our stay.

Breakfast

Breakfast is usually the easiest meal for our kids: give the toddlers sausage and fruit, give our four year old cereal. It was a beautiful day as we returned to the restaurant for breakfast, so we decided to eat outside (clean-up from toddlers who've eaten their fill is much easier if there are birds around to help).

Like dinner, breakfast was a buffet6. Unfortunately, the sausage brought flashbacks to the Sheraton on the Falls in Niagara and the boys refused to eat it. The bacon was leathery, but was still edible in contrast. The fruits and omelette became the go-to stations, along with the boxed cereal. There was also a coconut cornmeal dish, similar to a sweet grits, but unfortunately had a disappointing texture from sub-par cornmeal.

Breakfast

They boys initially were excited by the usual breakfast buffet spread, but after a few bites of sausage and bacon quickly lost interest.

Crows

Our server explained that the sudden influx of crows was because they had put trash bags out around the restaurant and pool for the Christmas party they'd held, and had yet to remove them. Regardless, our experience throughout the island had been that anywhere there was food there were crows waiting for their opportunity.

In contrast to every other customer-facing hotel employee we met during our stay across three hotels, the server we had for breakfast had some difficulty understanding English, and I resorted to some clarifications in Spanish which helped smooth-out the interactions. I personally didn't mind this, but if your Spanish is non-existent, you might prefer a hotel with a more consistent level of English aptitude.

Lunch

Dinner was ok, breakfast was disappointing; lunch was odd. Admittedly, we started off rocky as our kids were all hungry and out daughter insisted on a specific table in the basically empty restaurant. The maitresse d’hôtel obliged. We sat down just past noon and were presented with a menu. When our waitress introduced her self, we requested milk and water which arrived after a few minutes. The milk, for our 16 month twins and four year old, arrived in tall glasses which was sub-optimal, but workable—the hotel clearly wasn't set-up for handling young kids. The twin nearest me was the thirstier, so my wife concluded ordering for everyone while I helped him hold the glass. Fortunately, another waitress came by and asked if straws would help—I was appreciative, but also surprised when she returned with just one straw considering both twins were sitting next to each other and trying to drink milk from different cups. More perplexing, was how our server did not address the straw disparity on her own at that point.

It had taken longer than I had anticipated to get our order in, so I considered trying to kill two birds by taking a couple kids for a walk and checking-out. I talked again with the maitresse d’hôtel first, however, who confirmed that we wouldn’t be able to bill to the room if we were to do that, and I wanted to avoid any potential point-earning hassles later. Since we had ordered à la carte rather than choosing the buffet—we were not informed there was a buffet—she offered to let our server know to bring the check quickly after the food came out, so that we could check-out on time. Fifteen minutes later, we still didn’t have our food (nor had we talked to our server since we ordered). It had been forty minutes since we entered, and nearly thirty minutes since we ordered, and the twins were hungry, approaching nap time, and generally melting down. We saw our waitress coming back from the buffet to polish glasses, so I asked her if she could provide an estimated time for our meals. She paused a moment, and then went back into the kitchen.

A few minutes later, she and another server returned with our food. 32 minutes earlier, we had asked her not to hold any of the entrées for the starters, as we wanted to begin feeding the kids as soon as their food was ready; nevertheless, we now had all of our order being placed on the table at once, and without particular care for where food or utensils were going. The steak wrap was pretty good, the Cobb salad arrived without the requested chicken, but unfortunately the boys were so overtired at this point they barely touched their burgers or the pizza before bursting out in tears and then falling asleep.

We did not get any information from the server, but the maitresse d'hôtel blamed the situation on the kitchen "recently" switching from breakfast to lunch (we'd sat down thirty minutes into the listed lunch time). At no point did anybody acknowledge any problem, although after the maitresse whispered something to the server, she brought some chocolates to the (still quite full) table, which my daughter did try.7. It was four minutes to our check-out time, so we packed the now sleeping kids into the stroller, and went to check-out.

Pizza

I was deluding myself that either of the boys was still awake enough to eat by the time our food arrived an hour after we'd sat down.

Lunch

Despite noble attempts at consuming calories, once the boys fell asleep, we had no hope of really eating the food we'd ordered.

Check-out

Check-out itself took longer than it should have. There was exactly one person checking-out, so I returned to the empty queue I was in the previous day, and waited for him to finish. A group decided to form its own line, however, and the hotel staff did not bother directing them to the line they'd marked, meaning I instead waited for them to finish checking-in. While a few agents were at the desk, only one appeared to be handling registration and check-out; after seven minutes, a second agent appeared, and called me over. From there, I asked to retrieve our bags. We'd had a porter pick them up from our room before breakfast and store them; having passed the same porter, he directed us to ask one of his co-workers as he was helping somebody else—which was fair enough. The gentleman that came up to help asked for our claim ticket, which unfortunately we were never given.

After a radio call to the other porter, he walked us over to the storage room so we could identify our bags; the trolley was right at the entrance and still loaded, which made it a quick tasks. Even though it was a short trip from the storage to the valet station where our car was waiting, a couple of bags still fell off the cart as the porter brought it over. At this point, the lack of attention and at times almost comedic service failures were expected, so a couple of bags falling-off and going unacknowledged seemed par for the stay.

Check-out

Waiting to check-out.

Aftermath

When we unpacked at our next destination, I realized I had left my sun glasses in the room. I eMailed them the day after checking out, and got a response the following day saying they had found them. They offered to send them back if I provided a FedEx account (or credit card) which was entirely fair, but since we were less than twenty minutes away, we decided to pick them up later that day. We called the number and extension provided in the response, and were transferred to the security office who was holding them. I asked if they could be brought to the valet stand so we could simply drive by and pick them up, but he said that wouldn’t be possible, that I would need to go to the security office personally to retrieve them. He assured me that the office was just next to reception, and we said we'd be there in 30 minutes.

We arrived about 25 minutes later, and we pulled-up, off to the side of the entrance. A valet attendant offered to have someone escort me to the security office, but was confused saying that usually they bring the lost-and-found item to them. After verifying the item and our room during our stay, he confirmed with someone over the radio and he said the item was on its way. Another eight minutes pass, my wife asked from across the parking lot for a update as the kids were getting restless. The porter radioed to check, and it turned out a security officer was waiting with them in reception. A couple minutes later I had filled out a claim form, I denied knowing about a book they'd also found in the room, and we were back on our way.

I was happy they found my glasses, and we were close enough to pick them up. Their offer to mail them at-cost was equally commendable (some hotels add a service charge on top). Yet, the actual events as they unfolded was another example of communication breakdown and an inconsistent presentation, within 30 minutes: we were told diametrically opposed policies; and subsequently had a miscommunication between two agents, where both sides took no proactive action to resolve it.

I did fill-out the survey I got from Hyatt, and I did mention several of the issues we faced during our stay. Unlike when I answer these surveys for Marriott or Hilton hotels, I've actually gotten responses from Hyatt properties in the past. To the credit of the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve, I did get a reply from the manager the next day, and he seemed contrite and sincere. This was the complete opposite of our experience with the first-line supervisors, and why I am left with some hope for the property in the future. Until then, it wouldn't be my first choice resort in Puerto Rico.

Light

Room light.


  1. We were staying on an award stay, but waived parking charges is supposed to be a benefit reserved for Globalists. Self-park rates were only listed hourly from what I saw on the way in.

  2. included as part of your resort fee

  3. It looked like each desk might have two terminals each, theoretically supporting six agents.

  4. it wasn’t, the concierge was located around the corner, facing into the property.

  5. Is it unheard of to have locally inspired food at a resort?

  6. no mention was made of a non-buffet option, but the buffet almost certainly would have been our preference

  7. at no point did anyone ask us if it was ok for our child to have chocolate