A May 2005 trip
to San Juan by MikeInTown
Quote: My wife and I stayed in San Juan two nights before and two nights after a Caribbean cruise.
Hotel | "Wyndham Condado Plaza Hotel and Casino"
The Wyndham Condado Plaza Hotel and Casino was our pre-cruise lodging. I was pleasantly surprised with our room. I booked a standard city view room. It turns out the room had a bedroom, a living room area, two televisions, a refrigerator, and one and a half balconies. I think we may have been upgraded to a suite.
The hotel is located at the end of the popular Condado strip. There are restaurants, hotels, shops, and nightclubs all along the street. I don't think anything closes in this area. My wife and I found ourselves eating dessert in a packed Chili's restaurant at 1am while listening to a live grunge band. It wasn't uncommon to see a traffic jam in the middle of the night.
The Wyndham Condado is large. In fact, it occupies both sides of the street. The two buildings of the hotel are connected by a glass-enclosed pedestrian walkway that straddles the strip. This hotel was the busiest I've ever stayed in. Every day there were wedding receptions, formal balls, and graduation parties. In addition to these private functions, there is a casino, five restaurants, live music every evening, a small beach area, a pool, and gift shop. The hotel was buzzing with activity around the clock.
We ate at two of the hotel's restaurants. We had dinner at its Tony Roma's, a chain restaurant whose signature dish is baby back ribs - very good. We had the breakfast buffet at the hotel's Max Grill restaurant one morning. There was a huge variety of hot and cold breakfast foods, as well as a waffle station and an omelet station. The meal was good but expensive.
Getting around was not a problem. There is a public bus stop in front of the Wyndham Condado. This made transportation quite easy and inexpensive. It only costs $0.25 to ride the bus. We used this option to go to the Las Americas shopping mall one day, which was about a 30-minute bus ride. We also rode the bus from the Old San Juan shopping district to our hotel. We actually walked to Old San Juan from our hotel. It was an easy walk that took an hour; however, because of the heat and high humidity, we were drenched in sweat by the time we arrived. The bus ride back to the hotel took less than 10 minutes.
The hotel has a tour desk that offers several excursions. We signed up for the El Yunque Rain Forest excursion. The tour bus picked us up and dropped us off at the hotel.
I was fully satisfied with my stay at the Wyndham Condado Plaza Hotel and Casino. I would recommend this hotel for people who want to be a part of the nightlife of the Condado Strip. For those who are seeking beautiful beaches and relaxation, I would say look for a hotel in the Isla Verde section of San Juan instead of the Condado section.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 8, 2005
Condado Plaza Hotel and Casino
999 ASHFORD AVE
San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Intercontinental turned out to be the perfect hotel for relaxation after an action-packed cruise. The hotel is located in the laid-back Isla Verde section of San Juan. I chose this hotel because a co-worker of mine raved about the Intercontinental he stayed in while in Paris. I would have booked the hotel for our pre-cruise lodging, but the rate was too high for the Memorial Day weekend. However, the rate was reduced almost 50% starting the Sunday after Memorial Day, so we chose the hotel for our 2-night post-cruise lodging.
We had a decent-sized standard city view room on the 14th floor. From our balcony we could see the city and also the airport, which is a 5-minute taxi ride away. My wife and I actually enjoyed sitting on the balcony and watching the airplanes take off and land.
Across the street from the hotel is a small shopping center that has a grocery store and other shops. There also hotels, fast-food restaurants, and chain restaurants in the area. We ate at Ponderosa, Pizza Hut, and Outback Steakhouse during our stay. All of these restaurants are in walking distance from the hotel.
The Intercontinental has many amenities. It has several upscale restaurants, including Ruth's Chris Steak House. There is a casino, a nice fitness center, and spa. Aerobic classes are given in the evening. There is a pool with waterfalls and a swim-up bar. The hotel has a tour desk that will book any of the many excursions they offer such as El Yunque Rain Forest, the Bioluminescent Bay tour, and the city of Ponce tour to name a few. However, the feature we enjoyed the most was the big, beautiful beach behind the hotel. The friendly staff would ask where we would like to sit and then bring a beach chair to the spot we chose. We spent our time lounging on the beach and by the pool. Our stay at the Intercontinental Resort was a great way to unwind after a fun-filled party cruise.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 8, 2005
InterContinental San Juan Resort and Casino
5961 Isla Verde Avenue
Carolina, Puerto Rico
Attraction | "El Yunque - Rain Forest Excursion"
We signed up for the El Yunque Rain Forest excursion at the tour desk of our hotel. The cost of the tour was $45 per person and included the 45-minute rides to and from the Caribbean National Forest, where the El Yunque Mountain is located, and a guided tour of a portion of the forest.
I had never been in a rain forest, so I was excited about this trip. The Caribbean National Forest spans 29,000 acres and is the only rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System. We were driven up the winding mountain roads and made our first stop at the Yokahu Tower. We walked up the 90 or so steps of the 75-foot tower and got a panoramic view of the rain forest. As one would expect, the forest is very green. This is because of the 240 inches of rain this area receives each year. There are telescopes at the top of the tower to help you observe the forest canopy below and the northeast coast.
Next on our tour itinerary was a 30-minute hike. There are 13 trails in the forest, one of which leads to the top of El Yunque Mountain. The purpose of our hike was to learn about the species of plants and animals that inhabit the forest; therefore, our tour guide kept us on a relatively flat trail feasible for all fitness levels. We were shown tiny orchids, very old trees, and all types of intriguing plants. We were even shown a carnivorous Venus Fly Trap-like plant whose leaves immediately close to trap an insect that lands on it. We were allowed to touch the leaves and watch them close. We did not see any animals but heard a few. Our tour guide would whistle and cause the coqui frogs in the area to chirp.
We boarded the bus after the nature hike and were driven to La Coca Falls. La Coca Falls is probably not the most impressive waterfall you'll ever see but is accessible from the main road. We climbed onto some of the rocks to pose for a picture and moved on.
Our visit to the rain forest, including the three stops and the hike, was probably no longer than 2 hours. Our tour guide asked if we wanted to make another stop on the way out of the park, but there was a unanimous "no" from our tour group. I guess we had had enough of looking at trees and plants.
I would recommend the El Yunque Rain Forest excursion to those visitors who have an interest in rain forest flora and fauna but don't have access to a car. Otherwise, I recommend driving there on your own and spending the day exploring the trails. The entrance fee to the forest is only $3 and there are maps and educational brochures at the visitor center.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 8, 2005
El Yunque National Forest
Road 191, Off Highway 3 To Luquillo Beach
Palmer, Puerto Rico 00721
Old San Juan has been around since the days of the Spanish conquistadors. The colonial-style buildings are representative of that time period when the Spanish used to race there horses through the cobblestone streets.
Today, Old San Juan has a little something for everyone to make spending a few hours here worthwhile. For the history buffs, there are 16th-century residences, forts, and other landmarks to visit within this walled section of the city. There is a visitor center at the waterfront that provides historical and modern information about Old San Juan. Our hotel also had good information. For example, one of the tourism magazines in our hotel room had a suggested walking tour itinerary for those who want to learn about the significance of the colorful landmarks in Old San Juan. Since the area only occupies seven square blocks, you'll certainly take in a little history just by wandering.
A history lesson was not on the agenda of our visit to Old San Juan. Instead, my wife was in the mood for shopping. There are plenty of stores to browse in this area. They range from small antique and specialty shops to name-brand retailers and department stores. My wife seemed to determined to visit all of them that day, so I ended up joining the other men on the husband benches as we moved from store to store.
All that shopping caused us to work up an appetite. We passed many restaurants as we walked through Old San Juan. There were some cafe-style restaurants that serve a plethora of seafood dishes. These restaurants were on the pricey side judging from their posted menus. We also passed several fast-food restaurants. Our dinner choice for the day was Pizza Hut. We rarely eat there at home but somehow seem to always have a craving for it any time we set foot outside the continental US.
Recharged after our Pizza Hut meal, we wandered the cobblestone streets once more. We paused on the steps of an old church to listen to an incredible classical organist. Our day of walking in Old San Juan ended by the waterfront, where there was a live merengue band performing onstage. I've been told there are often live concerts on the waterfront on the weekends. I joined the crowd enjoying the music, while my wife couldn't resist visiting the vendor booths selling clothing, jewelry, music, and artwork.
We had spent the afternoon on the streets of Old San Juan. It was a pleasant way to spend a few hours.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 10, 2005
Old San Juan
Old San Juan
San Juan, Puerto Rico