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Condado Vanderbilt Hotel 4.5

Condado, San Juan, Puerto Rico

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Chic rooms with dramatic decor and Smart TVs with airplay 
  • Located in San Juan’s Condado District, near shopping and nightlife
  • Easy access to Condado Beach, which lies adjacent to the hotel 
  • Two picturesque pools, one with infinity ledge and ocean views
  • Suites include kitchenettes and 24-hour butler service, some have balconies
  • Six on-site restaurants and bars feature a mix of casual and fine dining
  • Spa offering unusual treatments like LED facials
  • Modern fitness center overlooking the ocean
  • Beach butlers provide towels and cocktail service
  • Meeting spaces can accommodate between 12 and 600 guests
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout

Cons

  • Lower-category rooms are small
  • Breakfast isn't included
  • Direct-access beach is tiny and not suitable for swimming
  • Parking is valet only, and an added fee

Bottom Line

This hotel has reopened following the impact of Hurricane Maria in September 2017, but travelers should note that the island of Puerto Rico was significantly impacted by the storm.  The Condado Vanderbilt Hotel is a four-and-a-half-pearl hotel located in San Juan’s vibrant Condado district, directly accessible to the beach. The hotel’s 319 guest rooms are timelessly attractive, with dark-wood furniture and stone-topped bathroom vanities. Early 20th-century antiques are ubiquitous throughout, and the hotel plays up its historic setting with handsome restaurants and lounges that exude a turn-of-the-century ambience. At the same time, an infinity-edge pool and innovative spa, in addition to high-tech guest rooms and meeting spaces infuse the hotel with a refreshing contemporary element. Those interested in historic properties might also consider Hotel El Convento in Old San Juan, but the Vanderbilt offers easier beach access.

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Scene

Refined and retro hotel with a long history of hosting celebrities and dignitaries

Common areas have a distinctly hushed atmosphere, such as the lobby, which holds an original iron staircase that dates back to the hotel's early twentieth-century heyday

The Condado Vanderbilt was constructed in 1919 by Frederick William Vanderbilt, designed by the same architectural firm responsible for New York’s Grand Central Station. In its heyday, the hotel attracted famous figures like Charles Lindberg, Errol Flynn, and U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt. After a gradual decline, the hotel closed in 1997. A major restoration of the property began in 2003, which was finally completed in 2014, bringing the hotel to the grandeur it enjoys today.

The Condado is everything you would expect from a property with this kind of historical clout. Many aspects of the hotel are genuine artifacts, such as the original iron staircase that dominates the lobby; others, like the retro cigar lounge, are well-crafted endeavors to recreate the hotel’s legendary early 20th century grace and elegance. A red velvet settee with a swirled center sits in front of three wood-paneled reception desks.

Not surprisingly, the hotel is a favorite of wedding parties, along with couples -- typically middle-agers rather than young newlyweds. There were plenty of guests relaxing around the pool and dining on airy restaurant terraces during our visit, but everyone seems to pick up on the implicit expectation that guests' behavior should be as classy as the setting. As a result, the common areas have an inviting yet distinctly hushed atmosphere.

Location

In San Juan’s trendy Condado District, surrounded by plenty of enticing shops, restaurants, and bars

Map of Condado Vanderbilt Hotel

The hotel's neighborhood, The Condado District, is one of San Juan’s largest entertainment hubs, home to popular casinos and dining options that range from fast-food chains to high-end restaurants. The hotel is set on Ashford Avenue, the main road running through Condado. Lined with shops like Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, and Cartier, Ashford Avenue is often compared to New York’s Fifth Avenue for its upscale shopping. When the sun sets, the same street becomes a buzzing nightlife hub.

The hotel is adjacent to a lovely stretch of Condado Beach, one of the busiest beaches in Greater San Juan. Backed by high-rise hotels and resorts, the beach is an excellent base for water sports although the tide is sometimes too strong for inexperienced swimmers. Old San Juan and its shops and restaurants are about a 10-minute drive away, as is Isla Grande Airport. Valet parking is available for a fee.

Rooms

Elegant rooms include French presses and bathrooms with C.O. Bigelow bath products

The Heritage King Room incorporates a soft color palette, dark woods, and a large fabric headboard for an understated--but beautiful--look

Guest rooms at the Condado Vanderbilt are beautiful and understated. Each is decorated in a soft palette of rose, beige, and gray. Beds feature tall, eye-catching fabric headboards and 300 thread count Rivolta Carmignani linens. Most of the furniture is dark wood, and many rooms include French windows. All rooms offer French presses for making coffee, as well as 48-inch Samsung Full HD LED Smart TVs with airplay and mirroring capabilities. At 295 square feet, however, the Heritage Queen rooms are a bit small.

Bathrooms feature stone-topped vanities and vintage-style cross-handle fixtures. Some include marble shower/tub combos, while others offer rainfall showers. All feature bamboo towels, bathrobes, and C.O. Bigelow toiletries.

Suites include lofty nine-foot high ceilings, as well as kitchenettes with microwaves and Sub-Zero refrigerators. Many offer at least one private balcony with views of the ocean or city. All feature 24-hour butler service and second 55-inch Samsung Full HD LED Smart TVs in their sitting areas.

Features

Two gorgeous pools, beach access, and a dazzling spa with the island’s only private Hamman

The hotel's exquisite spa includes Puerto Rico's only private hammam, which has a heated marble massage bed and marble walls

Features at the Condado Vanderbilt are almost limitless. The hotel presents two stylish pool areas, one in the West Tower and one in the East Tower. The West Tower’s main pool includes a small waterfall feature and submerged lounge chairs. Seating is offered on cushy blue loungers, shaded by striped beach umbrellas. There are also a couple of square cabanas. An infinity-edge pool is found adjacent to the main pool, offering dramatic views of the resort strip and the crashing waves of the ocean below. Around the corner from the infinity pool, additional loungers and umbrellas stretch along a long wooden sundeck that provides more spectacular ocean vistas.

The second pool area in the East Tower is reserved for adults-only, and includes three small pools. The design of this area is similar to the West Tower’s pool area, with plenty of lounge chairs (including some submerged ones) and beach umbrellas. A few palm trees soften the deck’s appearance. The pools overlook a tiny beach, where the waters are not suitable for swimming. A short path leads down to a fine stretch of Condado Beach, the hotel’s main beach, where beach butlers provide towels and cocktail service.

The hotel’s exquisite spa features Puerto Rico’s only private hammam, which includes a marble-slab heated massage bed and mosaic marble walls. The spa menu offers a variety of massages, facials, and nail care, along with an interesting hydro-sensorial therapy session that blends steam, sound, light, and aromatherapy. There’s a pristine fitness center above the spa, with floor-to-ceiling windows facing toward the ocean and a variety of Technogym cardio equipment and strength-training machines.

The hotel offers 30,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including a ballroom that can accommodate up to 600 guests. Most meeting rooms feature superb design elements like restored cathedral ceilings and custom-made Italian chandeliers, balanced with practical amenities like Bose Sound Systems and HD displays and monitors. Wedding planning services are available. The hotel's little business center has personal computers set in thoughtful cubicles that provide privacy. Free Wi-Fi is offered throughout the hotel. 

Food

Gourmet casual and fine-dining

Dining options include the bright and breezy Ola Ocean Front Bistro, which is open for all three meals and overlooks the pool and ocean

The hotel’s main restaurant is 1919, which specializes in organic cuisine. Headed by celebrity Chef Juan Jose Cuevas, the restaurant attracts non-guests with its outstanding menu. The dining room exudes an old-school sophistication with its rich burgundy and chocolate color scheme.

This classy esthetic continues in Vanderbilt Court, a large lobby lounge composed of three interconnected venues: A wine and cognac bar, a cocktail bar, and an intimate cigar lounge. All three venues share the same small-bites menu.

The West Tower’s poolside restaurant, Ola Ocean Front Bistro, is a bit breezier and brighter. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the restaurant features cheerful blue tones colors and huge windows overlooking the pool and ocean. Expect to pay extra for breakfast. The hotel’s other more casual dining venue, Tacos and Tequila, is found by the East Tower pool.

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Address

1055 Ashford Avenue, San Juan 00907, Caribbean

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