In the heady days of the roaring ‘20s, the Condado Vanderbilt (San Juan, Puerto Rico) was a hot spot for celebrities, socialites, and other rich-and-famous travelers who were drawn to the luxe hotel that was conceived in 1919 by railroad scion Frederick William Vanderbilt. Errol Flynn, Bob Hope, Charles Lindbergh, and Eleanor Roosevelt were just a few of the distinguished guests who flocked to the luxurious oceanfront hotel. Over the years, the property’s splendor faded. But thanks to a recent $200 million renovation, the Grand Dame hotel has been restored to its former glory, once again establishing itself as an iconic Caribbean escape and creating buzz for the tropical island. “The prestige that the Vanderbilt represents for Puerto Rico is unsurpassed,” says José M. Suárez, president of International Hospitality Enterprises (IHE). “The reopening of the hotel, which was once a home-away-from-home for royalty and celebrities, not only signifies a renaissance of an iconic period, but it also holds a much larger implication for Puerto Rico’s economy.”
The hotel update included a top-to-bottom revitalization. But perhaps the most exciting addition for wellness seekers is The Spa at Condado Vanderbilt. The luxe new retreat is located directly in front of the hotel’s West Tower Pool, where two tiered fountains mark the entrance and usher guests into the 10,000-square-foot spa.
The spa blends seamlessly into the hotel’s revived Art Deco look but offers a decidedly serene spin on the style. “The layout and design of the spa is a direct reflection of the hotel, which captures the essence of the pinnacle of Puerto Rico high society,” says spa consultant Alison Howland. “The color palette, the fixtures, and the finishes correlate with the lushness of the hotel yet are distinctly spa-like in their softness. The spa, like the hotel, echoes the luxury demanded by discriminating guests.”
The spa features seven treatment rooms, including an Oasis Spa Suite for couples with an indoor garden and a Hydro-Sensorial Therapy shower that combines steam, color light therapy, sounds, aromas, and more to evoke nature-inspired cleansing rituals. According to Howland, the attention to detail in each room is impeccable, including such elements as a rose motif in the light fixtures, a rose-gold wall design in the locker rooms, and quilted treatment room doors that are both soft to the touch and also help to muffle sound, ensuring a serene experience for guests. “Entering a Condado Vanderbilt treatment room is an experience in and of itself,” says Howland. “Appointed with distinct beauty and gentle lighting, a subdued musical sound gently embraces the guest as a subtle aroma tantalizes the senses. Each treatment room, distinctly designed with unique lighting, some ceilings with fretwork and some with inlaid visuals, mirrors, glassed cabinetry, and living plants all contribute to a unique experience for guests.”
Treatments are performed using Germaine De Capuccini, which was selected for its results-oriented skincare products and Spanish heritage; Red Flower for its elegance, effectiveness, and the array of products that are used in body treatments, in the locker room, and for in-room spa services; and SpaRitual for the color selection and unique experience story. “The selected brands are established prestige lines with pristine reputations, have highly selective placement in alignment with their corporate standards, and are highly efficacious without ingredients that are harmful to people or the environment,” says Howland.
The spa offers an array of elegant amenities, but perhaps the most exciting offering is the Vanderbilt Hammam, the first of its kind in Puerto Rico, where guests can partake in the Hammam Ritual ($280, 80 minutes). “It was created to be authentic in its design and experience and is truly a one-of-a-kind treatment,” says Howland. “From the Peshtemal wraps to the olive oil soap to the kese mitts to the silver buckets from Morocco, every detail of this experience is one to be savored.”
Equally appealing is guests’ ability to enjoy the spa’s oceanside setting. For example, guests can take advantage of the Vanderbilt Clay Caress-Exotic Outdoors Experience ($185, 50 minutes), a remineralizing natural-clay treatment that takes place on the outdoor spa terrace. After they rinse off the clay in one of two outdoor showers, guests can kick back and enjoy the views while sipping refreshing spa mocktails. They can also enjoy outdoor services on an oceanfront terrace, where they can relax to the sounds of waves crashing nearby.
Also enticing to guests is the charming boutique, which is located directly inside the spa lobby. To keep things interesting, the boutique features frequently changing displays and an assortment of offerings from vendors with high-end products that offer unique styling and appeal. Along with retail products from Germaine De Capuccini, Red Flower, SpaRitual, and the Vanderbilt Aroma Bar featuring customizable products from Red Flower, the boutique also features resort wear from Elysa Suzanne, sandals from Nina Gelardi, and chic swimwear and coverups from OndadeMar. “Chosen for their high-level efficacy, unique brand equity, and select placement criteria, the brands chosen are above and beyond luxury and elegance,” she says.
According to spa director Helen Lugo, the spa typically accommodates around 50 guests per day, but the team is capable of handling up to 95 guests. She credits this ability to a skilled team of 17 staff members, some of whom have up to 20 years of experience. “Our team is passionate and extremely committed,” she says.
It is this commitment to excellence that Howland and Lugo think will keep visitors coming back for more and maintain the spa’s status as a haven for discerning guests. “Hearkening back to the high-society era of bygone days, the spa treatments, products, and experiences are for those guests of discriminating taste,” says Howland. It’s a philosophy that brings things full circle to the Condado Vanderbilt of the 1920s.
Owner: International Hospitality Enterprises (IHE)
Spa Director: Helen Lugo
Opened: December 2014
10,000 square feet; 9 treatment rooms
Elysa Suzanne, Germaine De Capuccini, Nina Gelardi, OndadeMar, Red Flower, SpaRitual
Agilysys, Living Earth Crafts, Revitalight, Sensi, Silhouet-Tone, TechnoGym, The Madison Collection
Jorge Rossello Interior Designers (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
Alison Howland, Spa Success Consultants (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)