By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: December 19, 2018
LF Says: ★★★.5
It’s hard to imagine that a land as exotic as Puerto Rico is part of America. While things are streamlined, defined, and quite structured across the United States, Puerto Rico is vibrant, chaotic and stunningly beautiful at the same time.
The nature’s fury Puerto Rico combatted in 2017 broke down the tiny island, but it came back with resilience. And while the Caribbean island is picking up broken pieces, life hasn’t stopped. Its people are ready to tell you stories of past good fortune, while prophesizing about the glorious future the island holds. The island is optimistic and strong.
So we made our way to Puerto Rico, a former Spanish colony, for a quick vacation. While most of the luxury hotels in San Juan are closed for renovations following Hurricane Maria, Intercontinental San Juan is open with head held high.
Located in Isla Verde, the hotel is a quick seven minutes ride from Luis Munoz Marin International Airport. Driving into Intercontinental San Juan, the majestic façade of the property greets you as you find the lush greenery soothing in the tropical climate of San Juan. A vast, spacious lobby awaits you as you step inside, and then you see the glorious blue pool beyond the lobby. We were ready to abandon our luggage right there and jump into it. But then, that was wishful thinking with a baby in tow!
We quickly checked in into our Balcony room, which was again spacious, decorated in simple, muted shades, but with minimalist artistic features such as a self-patterned wall or a wood log style table. The crown of glory, though, goes to the stunning view from the balcony. Looking out to the vast Atlantic Ocean with palm trees swaying in the wind, our holiday chamber couldn’t have been better. The most interesting part was the wristband that we received at the reception - just wear it on your wrist and it works as a room key or tap it at the pool for towels. Fluid, easy technology to ease a traveler’s life!
The Blue Heaven
We got our gear together and headed to the pool after unpacking. This huge water feature of the hotel is as exquisite as it can get. Winding through the flora, fauna and walkways, with various levels, rocks and mini waterfalls dotting the pool, it is one of the most popular features of Intercontinental San Juan – something even locals come to experience at the property. The in-water Akua Bar was where most of the party crowd would be on weekends and that’s not surprising. With cocktails, liquor, small bites available inside the water, we were happy to perch on the mosaic bar stools. The hot tub was another place where you’ll find the subtle crowd – happy to peace out under the sun.
Thankfully, it was a baby-friendly pool. At one area, there was a high-platform in the pool where babies could sit and splash in the water. Then there were areas where water level was low. Our 15-month old toddler had turned into one very happy fish.
Beyond the pool is the hotel’s private beach. If you want a little peace while hearing the waves crash (they were quite powerful), definitely opt to wrap up in the sand.
Isla Verde is quite a bustling area with many eateries around. The El San Juan Hotel, located right next to InterContinental San Juan, also features multiple restaurants and is quite bustling. If eating in the hotel suits you, then InterContinental has multiple options – from a steakhouse to a Japanese cuisine restaurant. We opted to dine outside and wound up the day with a drink at the very-interestingly made Q Bar. Half inside on the main lobby, and half outside overlooking the lush pool, the night came alive with the fire features they had installed. Air, fire, water – all the three elements contributed to a serene night. My Bloody Mary was one of the best (and strongest) I have ever had.
Breakfast at the hotel (not included) is served at their restaurant Aleli. While the food was at par with what you might find at any luxury hotel, it was the presentation which made the first meal of your day so blissful. The combination of wood, steel and granite décor materials made food selection quite pleasurable and oddly homely at the same time. An egg station dished out live omelets and scrambled diversities. While steel pots on hot plates served oats, pancakes and the likes, wooden bowls and platters displayed a variety of breads, meats, fruits and sweet treats. The breakfast service did indeed give a leisurely, Caribbean feel.
The most enticing dish for me, however, was the Fried Cheese, which is local to Puerto Rico. This simple dish, made out of a local cheese variety, had delighted our taste buds so much, that we could have it everyday, any time. Served hot and freshly made at InterContinental San Juan, they won our hearts with these little bites. The guava sauce it came with was just the right combination of sweet, spice and texture.
InterContinental San Juan has all the usual facilities: the Akua Spa, a fitness gym, and even a club for children to play in. Their staff is diligent, polite, intelligent to talk to and happy to make small gestures here and there for you. The in-room dining menu was sufficient, and the service was extremely elegant. The portion size of our pasta was large and the taste was made to suit our spicy tastes. The poolside Margharita pizza was crisp and baked to perfection.
But between all this, there was one pet peeve we had. We had requested the staff to heat up milk for our baby (which we will provide) every night. After calling the housekeeping, it would first take a long time for someone to come and get the milk, and then again a long time to get the warm milk. The entire process would take at least half an hour and three phone calls to wrap up. Every single night. While it is not a huge concern or a deal-breaker for us, our experience would have been five star if not for this little factor.
But then, that pool is surely going to pull us back. And so will the Fried Cheese.
LF Says: ★★★.5
Coordinates: 5961 Isla Verde Avenue, Carolina 00979, Puerto Rico