Pass on Puerto Rico

Pass on Puerto Rico

SanJuan2010_793_02Blue Water, White Sand… Not so Much

The ocean is not crystal blue. More of a sandy, murky green. The Isla Verda area is protected by a reef so the big waves aren’t hammering the beach as they do in the Old San Juan area, but there are some strong curls. It’s not the transparent blue water you see on Caribbean commercials. Zero visibility of a dirty green that blends to a darker green. If you’re looking for crystal clear blue water, keep looking.

Reservations & Pricing

Making the reservation on The InterContinental Resort web site was fairly standard and easy. but READ THE FINE PRINT. On top of your room rate, there will be an 11% tax, PLUS a 16% resort tax for a total of 26% surcharge OVER and ABOVE your room rate. Our room was $226 per night on average, plus $58.76 in taxes for a total of $284.76 PER NIGHT. You don’t really find this out until you go to pay. Also, the lower rates on the web site are only if you opt to do NON-refundable. If you go with the refundable rate, it is SUBSTANTIALLY higher.

Now intellectually, I get that the 26% is not controlled by the InterContinental, but it does have to do with competitive value. And they do control their own pricing and what they offer for that, knowing that travelers have an option to go elsewhere. For $285 a night, you can get a damned fine SUITE in Las Vegas or a room for two in just about any all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. The pricing and/or value needs to be more competitive. The InterContinental Resort & Casino (ICRC) was okay, but not a killer value or even competitive to other Caribbean resorts at that price point. Having looked at other resorts in Puerto Rico, The InterContinental Resort was in line for pricing, but maybe those resorts had nicer rooms or were more modernized. The Marriott was about $20 cheaper per night, but the Condado is not a very nice area. The Ritz Carlton was slightly more expensive, but seemed much nicer and might be a better value overall.

The InterContinental Resort Hotel

The InterContinental Resort itself is an older resort. Of course, all the promo photos on their web site are taken by professional photographers and look great and new, but PhotoShop aside, this is an older property. That’s doesn’t it make it bad, and it’s not run down or anything, but it is past it’s glory days. This is not a “luxurious” or 5 star resort by any stretch of the imagination. The lobby and main floor area are all marble and pretty, but the rooms are showing some age and are averaged sized hotel rooms. It’s a decent hotel, and just not what I was expecting.  The hotel has a nice free form style pool with a hot tub, swim up bar and waterfalls. We were there in Dec. 2010 and while it was 80ish degrees, the water was bit too cold to be comfortable. The hot tub was not uber-hot, but allowed you to get wet and let the air cool you down.

There is a good hotel style workout room/gym you can access 24/7 and an attached spa open during business hours. A gift shop with more gifts than necessities, but there plenty of real stores within walking distance.

The property is in the heart of San Juan on Isla Verde which means it is not exactly what you would call “away from it all”. Not necessarily a horrible thing. A fast food mall is right cross the street with a Pizza Hut, Burger King, KFC, Subway and Ponderosa among others. A Walgreens is two blocks west. A large Chili’s is an easy two block walk east. We walked south for two or three blocks to “the Pueblo”, a very nice, large & modern grocery store comparable to anything in the states with relatively decent prices for a Caribbean island. We picked up a case of beer ($27 per case of Coors, but $7 per can at the hotel pool & bars) and sodas, as well as a some liquor and munchies.


There are a number of bars, pool side cafes and restaurants on the property, including a Ruth Chris, Momoyama and Alfredos. To give you an example of what to be prepared for: a hamburger at the poolside cafe is $14. I don’t WANT to be That Guy, but seriously?! Burger King is right across the street for $2.00. If you are into gourmet, somewhat overpriced cuisine, you’re in luck. I’m not being rude, but a filet mignon in the states at a comparable restaurant is about $20-$24, and here: $34. For the upper end restaurants, you will want to bring some dressier clothes. Not formal, but slacks and a dress shirt for men, just to fit in, especially on the weekend.


Our room was a king bed, ocean front with an okay view of the ocean and the trees covering the pool area and a great view of the fairly ugly casino and restaurant roof. The other end of the hotel had a similar view. Only the rooms in the center of the hotel, nearest the elevators would minimize the view of the run down roofs. Given the fact that we spend very little time in our room and we tend to make the best of a situation, we wrote that off as a “whatever.” We REALLY needed a vacation!

The bathroom was very, very small, but the shower had plenty of hot water and pressure. Everything was clean and the room featured a dresser top plasma TV (with U.S. programming no less!) The beds were comfortable and overall it was a nice hotel room, but unlike some resorts we have been to, we didn’t walk in and go “DAMN! This is SWEET!” Our reaction was more like “At least we’re not at work.” The room had the typical amenities of coffee pot, refrigerator (nice), blow dryer, and American 110 power outlets (standard in Puerto Rico).  The mini-refrigerator was tucked into the dresser nicely, but ate up half the storage and that was one thing we needed. With 8 days in Puerto Rico, we needed all the clothing space we could get our hands on, and the room was notoriously shy of storage with a minimal closet.

Bottom Line

Plus Side:
Every room has a small refrigerator – which comes in handy for longer trips as restaurant food at the resort is relatively expensive.

Every room has free Wi-Fi. Thank God! You can opt for faster bandwidth for $19.95 per night, but the free option suited our needs adequately and I am a fairly heavy duty user. I found out later that the free Wi-Fi is part of the $26 fees and taxes they hit you with and you have the option (at least at the Marriott, not to pay it. A fact NO ONE thought to mention, except the Marriott, AFTER we were checked in at the InterContinental!)

Overall, it was an okay, average hotel room, but for $285+ a night, I was expecting something a little more posh. I’ve been in Courtyard Marriotts that were nicer. Airfare to Puerto Rico is also a bit pricier than some islands so between that, the rooms, and the ridiculous resort taxes, this would be one of our most expensive vacations ever at over $3,000. That doesn’t take into account, food, meals, alcohol, gratuities, cab fares, tourist activities or gambling! Like I said, we REALLY needed a vacation!

We may or may not go back to Puerto Rico. The InterContinental was no real value compared to other locations such as St. Maarten or St. Croix. The poker was entertaining and at times annoying with the party atmosphere, but not feasible to make any money at. The ocean was not clear or blue. The pool in December was too cold to swim in. The service people were very friendly and accommodating and communication was no problem, but for the same amount of money we could have gone to a different Caribbean island’s all inclusive or Vegas and received a better value for our money. You decide.