Hotel Review: The Verdanza Hotel in Puerto Rico

Formerly a Holiday Inn (and long before that, a 60’s era tennis club and hotel), the Verdanza Hotel in Puerto Rico underwent major renovations as it transitioned from chain to independent hotel. The local ownership remained the same, but the decor, attitude, and commitment to the environment is all new.

The vibe here is young – both the GM and the chef are the youngest to hold those titles in any hotels in the San Juan area. The sleek lobby features a colorful hanging chandelier as its focal point, and the bar, Coladas, is full of the hip and sexy people until late every night. The rooms have been completely redone, with the addition of mini-fridges, LCD TVs, iPod docks, better-quality bedding, and organic bath products.

Additional green features have also been implemented. The staff uniforms are made from recycled polyester, the used cooking oil from the kitchen is converted to biodiesel, the stationary is both recycled and recyclable, and the water used in the kiddie water park adjacent to the pool is reused. In the year that all lights have been replaced with LED lights, energy consumption has decreased by 50%.

We recently stayed at the Verdanza Hotel and discovered that, while the vibe is sleek and sexy on the surface, traces of the old Holiday Inn still seem to linger. The parking lot clearly visible from the pool’s green vinyl lounge chairs suggest its former incarnation, while the white and orange pod-like chairs in the Eighty 20 Bistro and the complementary wired internet access point to the future. The added services and special events go above and beyond what you’d find at any Holiday Inn as well.

Over breakfast, the hotel’s Director of Public Relations, Lorraine Ortiz, explained that the goal of the 222-room Verdanza Hotel is to provide the feel of a smaller hotel with a more personalized experience. Services like custom-made picnic baskets, free pedi-cab rides to the beach (which is less than a five-minute walk away) and special events like Art and Friends, a monthly exhibition of works from young artists, do just that.

The Verdanza Hotel is located one mile away from the airport – just look to the left as your plane lands and you’ll see it – in the Isla Verde district. While it’s close to the beach it is not conveniently located for those who wish to explore more of Old San Juan. A 20-minute 75-cent bus will take you into town from the hotel, but to get back later in the evening, you’ll need to spring for a $20 flat-rate taxi back. Rates at the Verdanza Hotel range from $160-200 per night, so if your goal is to spend time in Old San Juan, you’d be better off staying in in the city and saving money on transportation each day.

The Verdanza Hotel offered a media discount on the room, but the views expressed are entirely my own.

Verdanza Hotel opens in Puerto Rico

There’s a new hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. On Friday, the Verdanza Hotel opened its doors, offering an upscale urban-inspired experience … but only a few steps from the beach. It’s not far from the Isla Verde tourism district, so you’ll have plenty of access. And, the 222-room hotel (with 20 suites) boasts three restaurants and a pastry shop. Look for some personalized touches at the Verdanza Hotel, such as made-to-order picnic beach lunches, luxurious eco-friendly bath products, guestrooms that allow pets and a personal bike taxi ride to the beach.

Art lovers will be particularly thrilled with the Verdanza. The opening includes the kickoff of “Art and Friends,” which consists of local and experimental art from newcomers. Look for daily events that include live concerts, video art performances and other exhibits. The two-week show ends on December 13, 2009, with a Fair Trade Bazaar.

Ricky Newman, general manager of the hotel, says, “The new Verdanza Hotel is all about personalized service, attention to the small details and an overall experience that allows our guests to feel one with the true vibe of San Juan.” The Verdanza is the first independent full-service to hotel to open in the San Juan metropolitan area.

Tied to a chair and robbed in a five-star hotel

No matter who you are or how fancy your hotel is, inviting strangers to your room is a risky business. Just ask Robert J. Anello, a New York Lawyer who was staying at the lovely Ritz-Carlton, San Juan in Puerto Rico’s posh Isla Verde district (shown). He was tied up in his room with lamp cords and a necktie just before dawn on Monday, and had $800 cash and his two cell phones stolen.

Associated Press
reports, “Police say two of the suspects are women whom the victim invited to his room.” A 17-year-old girl was reportedly also in the room, but has not been charged.

According to Caribbean Business PR, this is how it went down:

“‘It was at his invitation that they gained access to the room,’ said Capt. Samuel Luciano, director of the Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Corps in Carolina.

‘Then they apparently called the other individuals over to stage the robbery,’ Luciano said.

According to published reports, the women tied Anello to a chair with lamp cords and a necktie at knifepoint and then let two male suspects into the room. The men then allegedly broke into the hotel room safe and swiped $800 cash, two cellular phones and four credit cards.

A third man allegedly waited outside the hotel in the getaway car. A hotel employee provided a good description of the vehicle and police nabbed the suspects a short time later.”

Anello seems to be okay; he declined medical attention, but as you might guess, it’s rough press for the Ritz-Carlton. As with hotels anywhere, they get their share of pool-crashers and other unwanted visitors — it’s to their credit that they were able to identify the criminals and help set justice in motion so quickly.

“The safety and security of our guests is our most important priority and we take very seriously the appropriate measures to protect the safety and security of our guests,” says Verona Carter, a rep for Ritz-Carlton’s Caribbean & Mexico resorts. They can’t really help it when guests make poor decisions (like inviting shady teenage girls to their rooms).

All five suspects, Alejandra Alicea Candelario, 18, Emanuel Alicea Candelario, 21, Julio Alicea Candelario, 24, Francheska Agosto Ríos, 21 and Luis Agosto Ríos, 25, have been jailed, and a preliminary hearing is set for November 30.

[via Huffington Post]

Photo of the Day (11.8.09)

Anyone looking for a taste Caribbean colonial charm should head for Puerto Rico’s Old San Juan. It’s an area with loads of atmosphere – brightly colored pastel mansions, cobblestone streets, and a surprising street art scene. I particularly liked the bold colors and gritty charm of this photo in Old San Juan by Flickr user robertrexdotcom. It reminded me of my visit last year, wandering the quiet streets.

Want your pics considered for Gadling’s Photo of the Day? Submit your best ones here.

Photo of the day (9-24-09)

This panoramic picture taken in San Juan, Puerto Rico by robertrex365 is a perfect example of an HDR shot that hasn’t been overdone to the point of looking like a scene from The Lord of the Rings.

Robert is taking part in Project 365!, which is a Flickr group that is committed to taking one good picture every day. Hopefully Robert hasn’t peaked with this shot.

Are you a Flickr user who’d like to share a travel related picture or two for our consideration? Submit it to Gadling’s Flickr group right now! We just might use it for our Photo of the Day!