The Condado Vanderbilt
A 5 star hotel located in the Condado area of San Juan Puerto Rico and about 15 minutes from the airport. I hope you’ll find this review helpful.
I went to Puerto Rico for a 5 day escape over Valentines weekend with a special girl and while I really wanted to stay at the St. Regis with a couple friends that own a residence there, the rates for that weekend were over $800 per night thus I chose to go with the more reasonable Condado Vanderbilt for around $320 per night. I would later find out why the St. Regis is priced as it is as it’s a breathtaking property that I hope to soon review. I digress.
I arrived at Vanderbilt at around noon and was hoping but not expecting for my room to be ready. Check in was smooth, no line, pleasant personnel and things got even more pleasant when I was handed a glass of Champagne. The room was not ready but the front desk assistant took down my number and informed me that they would call once the room was ready. I handed my luggage to a bellman and took a stroll around the property to have a look around at my surroundings for the upcoming 4 nights.
First thing that strikes you when you walk into Vanderbilt is the grand lobby bar with the backdrop of the picturesque Caribbean sea. The bar itself is dimly lit and has a very cozy elegant feel to it. The warm colors serve as a great contrast to the back glass wall that runs the length of the bar displaying the gorgeous, sunny and bright Caribbean sun and sea. Just outside the bar towards the back is a nice terrace where patrons can enjoy a cocktail or two while listening to the waves crashing onto the rocks.
As I was admiring the patio, I received a call and my room was now ready, a short 30 minutes after I checked in. It was a standard room within the main tower. Rooms in this tower are larger although they may not have the best views. I had a street view and being that I recently enjoyed an ocean front room with balcony in Cancun and Miami, a street view was a pleasant change. The room itself was a decent size and well equipped with all the standard amenities. Just like the common areas, the room too had an old regal feel albeit with a modern touch. You won’t find any pesky door hanger signs here, instead you can easily communicate to hotel staff that you don’t care to be bothered by a simple click of a button. The only downside to this is that it’s easy to forget that you have the do not disturb button on and could miss turn down service treats or like I did, an important delivery of flowers that were supposed to be delivered at a certain time. I guess I’m a bit technologically inclined. (My apologies as I inadvertently deleted all the room pics I took, silly me)
Okay, to the basics:
There are a few pools, 2 in the main pool area and one in the adult only section. I’ll review the 2 in the main pool area as we didn’t spend much time at the adult pool area too much. In the main area there is one medium sized pool and a tiny infinity pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The pool area at Condado Vanderbilt is really small for a property this size therefore it tends to fill up fast. Although if sunbathing is really all you seek and you’re not trying to win any swimming Olympic gold medals you’ll be just fine as there is a long stretch of lounge chairs along the far end of the pool. This stretch gets the best sun in the morning until about 2:00 pm when the building creates shade. After 2:00 pm the main pool is the best area to get sun. Water temperatures were managed very well and there is always someone around to assist you in locating a lounge chair along with waiters to assist you with your food craving or alcoholic binge. The view is so so. Sure, the Caribbean Sea is always a delight however there is a building to the right side that is in the early stages of a full renovation thus not too pleasant of a landscape.
On Saturdays the pool gets even more lively as the have a DJ spinning top 40’s and a heavy dose of J Balvin.
Overall the pool area is decent and there is plenty spots to soak in all that vitamin D.
We ate breakfast on the first and second day on the property and decided not to go back again. The buffet spread isn’t vast at all and in fact I would liken it more to a robust continental breakfast spread which at the price of $25 per person is overpriced. Instead we went to Pinky’s after the second day. Pinky’s is a small breakfast joint just a couple blocks down that serves great food, with fast service and some wit on the side. If you decide to visit Pinky’s don’t be deterred by the line outside. The staff is very efficient and the line moves very fast. Back to Vanderbilt.
We didn’t care to have dinner on the property as we wanted to venture out and experience the San Juan local scene but the highlight of our food experience on the property was definitely Tacos & Tequila. Who doesn’t like tacos, but if there ever was a person that didn’t I would suggest that they try the shrimp tacos here. Absolutely amazing!!!
I’m a scotch served neat kinda guy so cocktails aren’t my forte although drinking whisky in the blazing sun isn’t that great of an idea so Moscow mules have been my go to pool side drink. Based on that I found the cocktail quality to be inconsistent depending on where you were on the property. The drinks we ordered at the pool area weren’t crafted all that well, they either had too much lime juice or too much ginger beer. Somehow the ratios were never balanced well enough.To contrast that, the drinks at the lobby bar were fantastic enough to make a strictly scotch drinker by night partake in a few cocktails after taking a sip of my girlfriends Moscow mule. They definitely take cocktail making as a craft at the lobby bar and it we kept on coming back for more. Not to mention that the free bar snacks aren’t your every day run of the mill stale peanuts, the assortment of exotic nuts, pop corn and chips alone will have you coming back.
I’m not training for the iron man challenge therefore I don’t go super hard in the gym while on vacation although I do like burning some calories gained at the buffet. With treadmills aligned facing the gorgeous clear blue skies with waters as far as the eye can see, you almost ignore the fact that the treadmills have nice sized LED screens with multiple tv channels. This is a pretty decent gym that even the super fit macho man Tandy savage wannabe can get a decent work out in. It was never even remotely full while we were there and had plenty of machine equipment for all major muscle groups. Gym rats would be pleased.
The service at Vanderbilt is generally good although it’s nothing memorable. If you are the type that prefers to be left alone to attend to your vacation and call upon the staff when you need something than the service might meet your needs. On the other hand, if you like to be pampered than you might be a bit disappointed. It doesn’t speak of a true 5 star experience on the service realm and for this Condado loses some points. Just like the cocktails, the service lacks consistency as the most cheerful and service oriented staff seem to be the doormen and bellman, which at arrival would give you a hint that you are about to be wowed by service during your stay and while there might be some sparks, we didn’t have an experiences worth noting nor even any worth remembering anyone’s name.
Very brief. Don’t stay here for the beach, it’s almost non-existent other than a small patch near the adult pool area. La Concha Rennaissance next door seems to have a much better stretch of beach if that’s what you seek.
Vanderbilt is overall an upscale property in a nice section of San Juan. If you are looking to be close to the city, Old San Juan etc. than Vanderbilt could very well be the best option for a high end experience. If a relaxing vacation on a tropical oasis is what you are looking for then I would advise that you look at other properties further away from San Juan. If you do happen to stay at Vanderbilt, make sure to have a cocktail at the lobby bar and please devour a couple shrimp tacos at Tacos & Tequila, you won’t regret it.
Condado Vanderbilt gets a 8 star (out of 10) rating from us. Please leave a comment if this review helped in your decision making process.