by Michael Blanding
Note: This resort has suffered damage in the 2017 hurricane season and is not taking reservations through Oct. 22, 2017.
There may be no better place to stay with kids in San Juan than the InterContinental. The venerable hotel provides the right balance of location, amenities and ambience to accommodate a wide range of guests, but it’s particularly well set up for families, with a large free-form pool at the center and direct beach access. The stage is set for opulence as soon as you enter the library, which is wide and spacious, with pillars and marble-tile floor. The hotel was built in the 1950’s and shows its age a bit in the faÃƒÆ’Ã‚§ade, but all of the nearly 400 rooms underwent an $18-million renovation in 2012 to bring them up to the hotel chain’s standards.
The property really excels in the outside area, which is landscaped with gardens around a curving natural shaped pool with large waterfall. The best units are located in a separate building fronting the pool, which has six suites with exclusive cabanas right by the pool — but no rooms are very far from the pool, or the beach, which is accessible from a boardwalk that runs along the far end of the property. The hotel is located in Isla Verde, a barrier island halfway between the airport and downtown Old San Juan that is home to the city’s best beaches and most of its high-rise hotels.
A spa, casino and kids club rounds out the hotel’s perks.
Our Editor Loves
- A huge free-form pool area with waterfalls and swim-up bar
- Direct access to one of the best beaches in Puerto Rico
- Luxurious guest rooms and suites
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
Standard Guest Rooms
The InterContinental San Juan has 398 rooms, all one-bedrooms, with king or double beds that were renovated in 2012 with new furniture, carpets and curtains. The ambience has a bright, beachy feel, with a muted palette of beige, cream and pastel blue and lacquered wood furniture. All have balconies overlooking the ocean, garden courtyard or city, and amenities including a flat-screen TV with On Demand movies, a mini-fridge and local Agradia bath products. Most of the rooms have replaced bathtubs with showers; if you need a tub, be sure to request it.
In addition to the regular rooms, the resort has 21 suites in four different styles. All of them have a separate living room with a sofa bed, and some have a separate dining alcove, as well. The most luxurious suites are the Club InterContinental Suites, located in a separate building with balconies overlooking the pool.
In-room Wi-Fi is available for a fee; cribs and rollaway beds are no charge.
This is listed as a premium resort. The rooms are very very dated. I have stayed here before the hurricane, and figured they would be remodeled. Same exact dated furniture and old, dirty carpet. The worst part was we fooled into “upgrading” to a ocean view. Everything EXPECT the guest rooms looked updated and modern. There were people who aren’t staying on the property to using the pool area and it was overcrowded and extremely loud! We left the next day very disappointed.
from check-in till check-out the staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome walks on beach walks outside property all enjoyable hope not to wait as long to return cigar store across street has a wide selection at fair price
Pool and Beach
Life at the Intercontinental revolves around the pool, a 208,000-gallon, free-form pool, landscaped with rocks and waterfalls that meanders around a sunny garden courtyard. Cabanas are available for rent around the pool, but are hardly necessary -- there are ample beach chairs for lounging. Next to the pool is a heated Jacuzzi, as well as a small playground area for the kids. When they tire of splashing around in the pool, they can take a short walk to the ocean, which is located off of a boardwalk that runs along the beach. The beach here is one of the most beautiful in Puerto Rico, with two miles of white sand, palm trees and gentle surf with a gradual drop-off that makes it great for kids.
While the hotel itself doesn't have any water sports equipment, local vendors along the beach rent out jet-skis and take guests paragliding. In the lobby, a tour and travel desk helps arrange outings including catamaran sails, scuba diving, and trips to the El Yunque rainforest.
The hotel offers a Planet Trekkers kids club, though its amenities are somewhat basic. A small room near the pool contains games, coloring activities and movies; in practice, children spend most of their time outside, either on the playground, the pool or the beach.
The resort has four restaurants, all of which are great for families. The signature restaurant Trattoria Italiana strides the line between elegant and family-friendly, with white tablecloths and a piano bar along with an airy dining room with bright, blonde wood furniture. It serves a menu of fresh Italian favorites, including house-made pastas, such as squid-ink tagliolini, and gnocchi with homemade pork sausage. A little more Puerto Rican flair comes in the form of some Italian-Boricua fusion entrees, such as short rib osso buco with cilantro and Caribbean lobster ravioli.
Ruth's Chris Steak House
Ruth's Chris Steak House, which opened in November 2012, offers the chain's well-known menu of high-quality (though pricy) steaks and other hearty splurge-worthy cuisine.
Outside, there are two options for more casual dining. At the pool is a swim-up bar, which in addition to cocktails, serves a menu of traditional Puerto Rican steak and chicken dishes alongside sandwiches and wraps. On the boardwalk next to the beach is the independently operated Ciao Mediterranean, which serves pizzas and club sandwiches.
All of the restaurants also serve a kids' menu that includes burgers, chicken fingers, and a turkey-swiss wrap.
In addition to the restaurants, the hotel also recently opened a lobby cafÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â©, which is especially convenient for grabbing meals on the go. It features a selection of pre-made sandwiches and salads along with coffee, wine, and Internet access.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Babysitting is available for a fee.
A 24-hour fitness center that includes free weights and cardio machines looks out on the beach.
Akua Spa, located near the pool, offers five treatment rooms and a menu of treatments using Eminence products, a line of European beauty products that feature fresh, natural ingredients. Among the treatments on offer are a hot stone massage, mango enzyme body wrap, and coconut sugar scrub along with the more expected range of massages, facials, and manicures and pedicures.
The Art of Smart Timing
Puerto Rico has an almost perfectly consistent climate, with temperatures hovering around the 80-degree mark, year-round. The biggest crowds and highest prices are between Christmas and late March, while rates drop in late spring and summer. The resort remains surprisingly crowded year-round, however, including August, when many locals take their own vacations. Puerto Rico has a rainy season from April to November, when showers are possible -- though for the most part, they don't last long. Days when it rains all day are few and far between.
Flights to Puerto Rico arrive at Luis MuÃƒÆ'Ã‚Â±oz MarÃƒÆ'Ã‚Ân International Airport outside of San Juan. Rental cars are available at the airport -- but most of them are located offsite, which means taking a 10- or 20-minute shuttle to pick up the car. The resort itself is only located 10 minutes from the airport, so alternatively you can take a $12 taxi ride and then rent a car at the Avis counter at the lobby, which will deliver the car to the hotel without the wait. From the hotel to Old San Juan is approximately a 15-minute drive or a $21 taxi ride.
For Mom and Dad
The InterContinental's casino is one of the better ones in San Juan. Despite its small size, it packs in 200 slot machines and table games, including blackjack, roulette and craps. It is also one of the few casinos in the city to still offer its own live poker area. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, it also features live music from Latin bands.