Insider Travel Tips From This Top Puerto Rico Concierge

Nestor Colón , Lead Concierge at the InterContinental San Juan

Nestor Colón , Lead Concierge at the InterContinental San Juan

By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor

His official title is Lead Concierge. But to me Nestor Colón is Mr Roarke. That’s because I can’t think of a better way to communicate the savvy, smarts and smoothness of the Intercontinental San Juan’s professional fixer than by likening him to the character actor Ricardo Montalban made famous in Fantasy Island, the ‘80s TV series about the dashing and debonair host of a paradise where dreams come true.

A fixture at the newly renovated Isla Verde resort for the last 13 years, Colón began his hotel career as a lobby attendant at the city’s Ritz-Carlton, and now he’s one of only two concierges in the Caribbean to have earned acceptance into the prestigious guild of professional concierges, Les Clef D’Or. Who better but this silver-haired city-slicker to give us the skinny on what to see and do in San Juan?

ISLAND INTEL First-timers can’t leave without seeing Old San Juan; there’s so much history and charm there, and its like nowhere else in the Caribbean. I also recommend a day trip to El Yunque, the only rainforest in the U.S. national park system. And you have to visit one of our three bioluminescent bays to see microorganisms light up the water at night. It’s really magical, and I always send guests to the one at Fajardo, just over an hour’s drive from the city.

SECRET SIGHT Most people don’t know about the thermal baths in Coamo. Our original inhabitants, the Taino Indians, believed that the sulphur-rich springs had healing properties and Ponce De Leon thought they were the fountain of youth. Today you can soak in the pools there and find out for yourself.

The InterContinental San Juan

The InterContinental San Juan

DISCERNING DINING We have so many excellent restaurants in San Juan, and everyone appreciates a personal recommendation. For a great cup of coffee I send guests to Cuatro Sombras in Old San Juan. The owners have their own coffee farm and they roast the beans on site so you know your cup will be fresh. For local food here I’m a fan of Platos, which is walking distance from the hotel here in Isla Verde. It’s nothing fancy but serves authentic island food to an old-school salsa soundtrack. (I like it so much I went there for my birthday.) And for an elegant and romantic dinner you should try 311 Trois Cent Onze in Old San Juan. It’s an intimate atmosphere with only around 20 tables, and the French food is outstanding. I also like Pamela’s Caribbean Cuisine, the restaurant at Numero Uno, a small hotel in Ocean Park, and Laurel, the restaurant at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.

PEACEFUL PLACE For a respite from the hustle of the city I like the newly re-opened Cafe La Princesa on waterfront Paseo de la Princesa in Old San Juan. Sit outside for dinner and take in the view. It’s a surprisingly tranquil spot in a very busy town.

INDOOR ITINERARY I reassure visitors that they can still have a good time in the city even when its raining. One of my favorite places to send them is the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in Santurce. It’s one of the largest museums in the Caribbean and has an amazing collection of work spanning from the 17th century. My guests always come back impressed.

ROOM RECOMMENDATIONS Guests love our hotel because it has all the amenities of a beach resort but is close to the airport and the financial district so its perfect for business travelers, too. But if you want to stay in Old San Juan I recommend El Convento, a historic convent-turned-boutique hotel. And near Condado, in Ocean Park, I like Numero Uno because it’s on the beach and in a quiet residential community, which gives it an air of intimacy and exclusivity.

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