Five Reasons to Stay at San Juan’s Condado Vanderbilt Hotel

While San Juan’s Condado Vanderbilt hotel evokes memories of a bygone travel era, a generation of contemporary travelers has waited patiently for its debut.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Properties in 2008, renovation of this classic, early Spanish Revival-style Puerto Rico hotel was first launched in 2003. The revamped meetings and events space was completed in 2012. The hotel’s 323 rooms finally came on line in December.

The $200 million renovation added two adjoining 11-story towers, plus a luxurious pool ringed by palm trees, a deck with an infinity edge pool that overlooks the ocean and a spa that includes what is billed as Puerto Rico’s first Hammam.

Not surprisingly, the Condado Vanderbilt is being marketed as a five-star hotel that offers a modern interpretation of 1920’s glamour. In fact the property is considered by many Puerto Rico tourism stakeholders to be a cornerstone of the revitalization of the entire Condado entertainment district.

The Condado area first developed in the wake of an economic boom that led wealthy families to build large summer homes in the area. The Condado Vanderbilt was built in 1919 as a summer home for railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt. The house was designed by the Warren and Wetmore architectural firm which also designed New York's Grand Central Terminal.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s the Condado Vanderbilt emerged as a hot spot for Rat Pack-era entertainers and high-rolling travelers. The region fell into disrepair as that generation passed and other Caribbean destinations came of age.

Today, the deluxe hotel’s facilities, amenities and services, plus its proximity to top Puerto Rico restaurants, attractions and activities, make the Condado Vanderbilt an ideal for weddings, business receptions and events. The hotel is also an outstanding option for couples seeking a quick warm-weather getaway.

Here are five additional reasons the Condado Vanderbilt offers a strong option for discerning luxury travelers:

Old San Juan Access

The Condado Vanderbilt is a shot taxi ride way from Puerto Rico’s historic Old San Juan, which features cobblestone streets, historic fortresses and magnificent colonial buildings.

The centuries-old city features massive fortifications connected by cobblestone streets. Old San Juan actually lies within the still-standing walls of El Morro, a huge fortress and UNESCO World Heritage site looming imposingly over San Juan Bay. Another historic battery, Fort San Cristobal, is located adjacent to El Morro.

The seven-square-block historic district is filled with the ornate churches and landscaped plazas, plus contemporary restaurants, boutiques and art galleries. The Catedral de San Juan offers an outstanding example of medieval architecture and is also the final resting place of fabled explorer Ponce de León.

Fine Dining at 1919

Widely considered among the best restaurants in all of Puerto Rico, 1919 is the brainchild of celebrity chef Joes Cuevas and features a menu dedicated almost entirely of natural indigenous ingredients. The restaurant is set adjacent to the hotel’s marble-floored lobby and feature grand chandeliers and plush traditional furnishings.

The restaurant offers four-course, prix fixe dinner menu and a three-course lunch menu in addition to a la carte service. Guests can dine on lunch dishes like chayote salad with guanabana vinaigrette, venduvan apples, Point Reyes blue cheese, and Thai brussels sprouts. Dinnner entrees are highlighted by dishes that include salmon in a winter vegetable pistou with mussels, crushed herb and local beans.

Ocean View Deck

Situated on the hotel’s top floor adjacent to the indoor-outdoor Ola restaurant, the Condado Vanderbilt’s pool deck features a heated main pool surrounded by swaying palm trees. An infinity edge pool is located beside the main pool and offers sweeping views of the ocean and the Condado resort strip. It’s the perfect spot for sybaritic days spent lounging in the sun or for romantic evening cocktails.

Puerto Rico Proximity

Guests at the Condado are well within range of several distinctive Puerto Rico experiences. What many believe to be an island is actually an archipelago of 110 islands and cays, presenting a stunning amount of diversity.

There’s also a bit of history outside of Old San Juan. The Bacardi rum distillery - known here as “Cathedral of Rum” - is located in an art-deco building 20 minutes outside of San Juan. The facility also features a well-conceived interactive museum that tells the story of the Bacardi family and Puerto Rico’s rum industry.

The Cambalanche Forest offers challenging mountain bike trails plus four miles of hiking trails and camping facilities. The Arecibo Observatory features the world’s largest radio telescope and was featured in the 1995 James Bond film Goldeneye.

Rio Camuy Cave Park is a required visit for active vacationers. Travelers descend into a 200-foot deep sinkhole to reach the world’s third-largest cave and underground river system, which features lush tropical vegetation. The complex also includes imposing Clara Cave, dotted throughout with stalagmites and natural formations millions of years old.

Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park, located outside of San Juan in Orocovis, offers even more adrenaline-generating activity. Toro Verde also features mild, moderate and extreme activities including an extended airborne network of ziplines, rappelling courses and hanging bridges formed from cables strung amongst the hills and tree-tops. The highlight is “The Beast,” a 4,600 foot-long zip line strung between distant stations hundreds of feet above the jungle floor.

Puerto Rico’s eastern region offers abundant natural beauty, including El Yunque national park, the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System with 240 species of tropical trees, exotic flowers and wildlife.

Strolling the stunning Condado Shoreline

Once a quiet oceanfront community, the Condado district developed into a lively tourist playground in the years that followed the Condado Vanderbilt’s opening. The district maintains outstanding Atlantic Ocean views at several points along the main strip, Ashford Avenue which also features casinos, restaurants and high-end shopping, making it perfect for daytime and sunset strolling. The Condado also hosts culinary festival with the areas popular restaurants competing each year as well as popular open-air markets.

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