#StaySonesta in paradise when you visit one of our newest destinations, Royal Sonesta San Juan! This oceanside retreat is ideally situated for soaking up the sun and tropical beauty of Puerto Rico while also being close to Old San Juan and all of the bustling city life the San Juan area has to offer.
If you have any questions about the area when staying Sonesta in San Juan, the hotel’s concierge, Nestor Colon, is your go-to expert. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in NYC, Nestor found his calling as a concierge in San Juan over 24 years ago. Since then, in his pursuit of excellence, he became a Les Clefs d’Or Concierge and has continued to be a destination expert in the Island for locals and tourists alike, in service thru friendship. Read on to learn about Nestor’s background and his favorite places on the Island of Enchantment.
What did your career path look like on your way to becoming a concierge?
I was born in a small northern town in Puerto Rico called Vega Baja. However, life had different plans and I grew up in the Lower East Side New York City. Around 1996, a very special person persuaded me to visit Puerto Rico. It was love at first sight and I decided to stay in paradise. At the time, I landed a job with Delta Airline at the San Juan International Airport as a customer service agent and got a second job at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Isla Verde as a Lobby Attendant. I was fortunate enough to have my General Manager asked me to be part of his concierge team. As I found my vocation and advanced in my field, in 2003 the Chief Concierge at the InterContinental San Juan had me join his team. This was 18 years ago. With time I was promoted to Head Concierge and got my Les Clefs d’Or certification in this Hotel, now part of the Royal Sonesta family.
What’s the most memorable request or guest interaction you have had?
As a born Puerto Rican who lived most of his life in the states, you can identify with the sense of belonging that comes with rediscovering your heritage. A guest came to my desk wanting to visit her childhood home. After losing her parents and having no real recollection of her roots as an adult, she dreamt of going back to where she was born. Moca is a small town in the north-western region of the Island and about 2 1/2 hours from San Juan. I looked for one of our best drivers to take her for the day. Unsure if she would remember or even find what she was looking for, I suggested for her to visit the Town Hall, typically near the town square. Puerto Ricans are very hospitable, and I was hopeful, once there, someone, somewhere would help. Not only did the guest find her childhood home almost intact, but she reconnected with a long-lost cousin while having coffee. When she returned, not only was she raving about her adventure, but she was so grateful for us making it possible for her to realize her life-long goal.
If a guest asked three things that they must see/do/eat in your hotel’s area, what would your suggestions be?
The Royal Sonesta San Juan offers full-service amenities and is located at one of the most beautiful beaches of Puerto Rico; Isla Verde beach. It offers not only an exciting “day in the sun”, but also lots of fun outdoor activities. However, one advantage of living the Island life is that everything is relatively nearby. My first recommendation would be to see Old San Juan. With over 500 years of history, the “walled city” offers museums, cobble street stones, and a look back to the Island’s early beginnings including our colorful Spanish architecture. If you’re a “doer”, El Yunque Forrest offers beautiful hiking trails in the only rainforest in the US National Forest System. Also, for fun-seekers, there’s a nighttime kayaking tour of the bioluminescent bay, one of only five in the world. And food? Eating is a treat in Puerto Rico. You can’t leave without visiting Piñones for some plantain “mofongo” and our famous fritters, “alcapurrias” or “bacalaitos”.
How do you keep up-to-date on all that is happening in your area in able to assist guests?
I believe in partnerships and supporting the local community. Therefore, I try to keep up with an ever-changing environment by staying in tune with the latest thru local news, social media, industry colleagues, and friends. Also getting that first-hand knowledge by visiting new venues as there’s no comparison recommending with confidence based on your own experience.
What is your favorite way to spend a day in your area?
A sunny day, with my children and my dogs, enjoying a beach day in Piñones where we can all feel free, let our pets run, and have fun. Afterward, having some local food in one of the kiosks along the way before returning home.
You have the honor of being a Les Clefs d’Or Concierge. What meaning does that have for you?
Be the best you can be no matter what you do. Being humble and living in excellence in all facets of life, both personal and work. Also being thankful every day!