The Royal Sonesta San Juan Offers Ideal Puerto Rico Escape

Written by Jill Robbins

June 13, 2023
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While the Royal Sonesta San Juan isn’t an all-inclusive resort, there’s an impressive list of amenities at this Isla Verde resort-style hotel in Puerto Rico.

If you think a Caribbean getaway has to be complicated and out of reach expensive, I’m here to deliver the happy news that this just isn’t true. Meet the Royal Sonesta San Juan in beautiful, easy-to-access San Juan, Puerto Rico. Located in San Juan’s Isla Verde neighborhood, just minutes from the airport, this resort has 346 guest rooms and tons of amenities. Be warned, this review of the Royal Sonesta San Juan might have you pulling out your suitcase and planning your own escape.

You may also hear Royal Sonesta San Juan referred to as the Intercontinental, which was its original name. The hotel was built in 1950 and underwent a major renovation following Hurricane Maria in 2017. The hotel, particularly the guest rooms, has a new, fresh, modern feel.

Beach Club Royal Sonesta San Juan

Beach view and pool view. Photo Courtesy of Royal Sonesta San Juan

Visiting Puerto Rico – No Passport Required for US Citizens

Puerto Rico is a US Territory, so US citizens don’t have to go through passport control when entering or leaving Puerto Rico. American Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and Frontier Airlines offer direct service from Miami to San Juan, and it’s a short, easy two-and-a-half-hour flight.

Direct flights are also available from Dallas, Fort Worth, Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Detroit, Minneapolis, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, Boston, Chicago (ORD), and New York (JFK.) All flights leaving the United States for Puerto Rico are considered domestic air travel. Additionally, no international phone plan is needed, and there’s no exchange rate to keep track of, making Puerto Rico a hassle-free Caribbean getaway.

Getting to the Royal Sonesta San Juan

The Royal Sonesta San Juan doesn’t offer a shuttle from the airport. Rent a car, take a taxi, or book a private charter. Uber is available throughout Puerto Rico. However, Lyft is not.

Puerto Rico’s “Get Out and Explore” Mindset

You might find abundant all-inclusive resort choices in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Turks & Caicos, and other popular Caribbean vacation spots. Puerto Rico doesn’t have as many actual all-inclusive resorts as some neighboring Caribbean islands because the philosophy centers on exploring Puerto Rico’s food, culture, and diverse terrain outside the resort. Hello, waterfalls and kayaking in a bioluminescent bay—I’m talking to you.

While the Royal Sonesta San Juan is not an all-inclusive resort, it is nicely appointed with amenities that will keep you happy and entertained if you have a shorter stay and seek relaxation versus hardcore exploring and sightseeing. The Royal Sonesta is seven miles from historic Old San Juan and three miles from San Juan’s popular Calle Loiza neighborhood, with nearly endless dining options.

Royal Sonesta San Juan is a convenient jumping-off place to explore more of the city. It’s also got enough onsite amenities to help you enjoy your vacation to the fullest if what you want to do is just a whole lot of sitting in a beach chair.

View from the balcony at Royal Sonesta San Juan.

Ocean-view rooms are more expensive than city-view rooms, but the minimal upcharge is worth it. Photo Courtesy of Royal Sonesta San Juan

Royal Sonesta San Juan’s King and Double Queen Rooms

I stayed in a spacious king room when I went to Puerto Rico in January. The property also has rooms with two queen beds and rooms with double beds. The pricing varies based on where in the hotel your room is located. A room with an ocean view is slightly more than a room with a garden or city view, but the difference is negligible, and that view of the golden sand and sparkling blue water is hard to beat. I didn’t spend much time in my room in Puerto Rico, but I loved looking at the ocean from my Juliet balcony every morning when I woke up.

My room had a comfortable king bed, a couch, and a table with two chairs. One of the chairs was a work chair, and the other was styled more like a dining chair, so I had the perfect chair no matter how I chose to use the space. The décor complimented the ocean and had an overall feeling of airy minimalism.

King guest room.

I enjoyed all the floor space, but as a solo traveler, I didn’t really need this much room. Photo Courtesy of Royal Sonesta San Juan

Open Space and Amenities But No Housekeeping

There was a lot of open floor space that would be perfect for in-room exercise or to give two people plenty of space to move around without tripping over each other. I toured a double queen room, and the amenities were the same, but there was less open floor space in the room with two beds.

The bathroom had a walk-in shower, a selection of toiletries, and a lighted makeup mirror. There was also a mini-fridge, coffee maker, safe, and flat-screen television. My room also had honor bar food and beverages with a posted price list. One of the things I loved most about this room was the thick, soft, supersized bath towels.

There is no regularly scheduled housekeeping at Royal Sonesta San Juan unless you specifically request it.

Double queen room.

The double queen room at Royal Sonesta San Juan is nearly identical to the king room. Photo Courtesy of Royal Sonesta San Juan

The Pool Area and Beach Club at the Royal Sonesta San Juan

The Royal Sonesta San Juan is on Isla Verde Beach, with private beach access just beyond the pool. Guests will get a wristband upon check-in to access the private beach. Lounges, small tables, and umbrellas are available to guests for free.

Beach towels are also included, and here’s the coolest part: There’s an automated towel machine at the pool. This vending machine-size towel tracker has a clean towel cabinet and a used towel return bin. Guests use their room key to open the towel cabinet, and the technology tracks the number of towels taken and records the towel return.

The pool area has a large hot tub and plenty of seating in the sun and shade. There are also in-water sunbeds.

Pool at Royal Sonesta San Juan.

Pool cabanas are available for an upcharge. Photo Courtesy of Royal Sonesta San Juan

Beachfront Drinks and Dining

Whether you want a rum punch or mojito to sip poolside or while enjoying the beach or a full meal, Ocean Breeze, Royal Sonesta San Juan’s beachfront dining experience, is there for you. Ocean Breeze serves lunch and dinner from a Mediterranean-inspired menu.

There’s also a swim-up bar, Akua. Akua has a poolside ordering station if you don’t want to get in the water. A variety of sandwiches and light bites are available here.

Ocean Breeze, the beachfront eatery.

Ocean Breeze is Isla Verde’s only beachfront eatery. Photo Courtesy of Royal Sonesta San Juan

On-Site Dining at Royal Sonesta San Juan

Although true Puerto Rican foodies will tell you you’re cheating yourself if you don’t leave the hotel to explore the local culinary scene, there are plenty of options if you don’t feel like going out for meals.

In addition to the Ocean Breeze and Akua, the hotel has four other venues, plus in-room dining.

Jumbo Tiger Prawns at Royal Sonesta San Juan.

There are many on-site options for premium dining and quick-service food. Photo by Jill Robbins

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse—Dinner Only

Ruth’s Chris is likely a familiar franchise for the steak lover. The Ruth’s Chris menu offers a variety of steaks and seafood, sides, desserts, and an award-winning wine list.

Aeli Restaurant—Breakfast Only

This “everything you could want for breakfast and then some” buffet has terrace seating overlooking the resort’s lagoon pool.

Breakfast Area at Royal Sonesta San Juan.

Most of Aeli’s seating is outdoors. Photo Courtesy of Royal Sonesta San Juan

La Bodeguita

From early morning to late night, this bistro-style wine café and wine bar has coffee, cocktails, light bites, and snacks.

Karaya’s

The resort’s main bar pairs fire pits and pool views with locally inspired tapas and handcrafted cocktails.

All This and a Spa, Too! Other Resort Amenities

The Royal Sonesta San Juan has an epic pool, a beach club, and plenty of food and beverage options to satisfy your cravings and quench your thirst. And yet there’s more.

The Zen Spa Brisas offers a full spa menu of massages, facials, body treatments, and waxing. You can choose from packages that offer a full day of indulgence or book single treatments. There’s also a sauna, steam room, and relaxation lounges.

Other resort amenities include meeting and event space, a fitness center with a killer view, a children’s playground, and a small, onsite shop that sells souvenirs, beach items, and sundries. There’s also a CVS within walking distance of the hotel.

Free Wi-Fi is included at no charge, and both self-parking and valet parking are available at an additional charge. The front desk staff is also accommodating. Discover Puerto Rico’s website is an excellent resource for trip planning. Still, if your plans are loose and you’re seeking something to do off-property, the people who work at the hotel are a wealth of information and excited to share their home with you.

Fitness Center.

Workout with a View. Photo Courtesy of Royal Sonesta San Juan

A Good Deal on an Elevated Stay

Anyone seeking an elevated stay and a good deal will want to check out the Royal Sonesta San Juan. The average guest room price usually comes in at around $360, but there are ways to whittle that down. Every time I’ve gone to the Royal Sonesta website, there’s been some sale or special offer. Also, joining the free loyalty program, the Sonesta Travel Pass will automatically get you a better rate, and stays add up to more perks. If you book directly with the hotel and qualify, look at AAA, Military, and Senior discount rates, which can substantially save on room charges. When booking, you can select “Package” from the hotel site’s dropdown menu and select several packages that include perks for a discounted price, such as alcoholic beverages or spa treatments.

Pool View.

The pool and beach club access made the stay for me. Photo Courtesy of Royal Sonesta San Juan

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Would I Stay Here Again?

I would. I have teens and could see vacationing with them here. I’d equally enjoy a sans-kids trip with my husband.

I stayed at the hotel as a solo traveler in January. The other guests were mainly couples and families with younger children who weren’t in school yet. The comfort and high level of amenities make this a solid choice for family travelers. Yet, the elevated bars, restaurants, and proximity to nightlife make it attractive to adults seeking playtime.

Colorful Old San Juan.

Colorful, historic Old San Juan is seven miles from Royal Sonesta San Juan. Photo by Jill Robbins

I also really liked the Isla Verde location and being close to the airport, making departure day much easier. If you’re looking for a chill vacation, this is the best place to be. If you want to be more in the center of the action, consider one of the boutique hotels in the heart of San Juan, such as El Colonial or Hotel El Convento.

I loved the warm and energetic vibe of Old San Juan, but I prefer to go to it and have a little Zen during my hotel stay. When planning a trip to Puerto Rico, other Caribbean Islands, or the tropics in Mexico, check out the articles in Wander With Wonder to help plan a memorable vacation. 

While the Royal Sonesta San Juan isn't an all-inclusive resort, there's an impressive list of amenities at this Isla Verde resort-style hotel in Puerto Rico.

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The Royal Sonesta San Juan Offers Ideal Puerto Rico Escape

Written by Jill Robbins

Jill Robbins is a Texas-based freelance writer, wanderer, and photographer. Jill is a mom of three and nana of one who lives outside San Antonio with her husband and two sons but she's usually somewhere else. She has a biological daughter and two sons adopted from China. Jill's words have been published in The Washington Post, Insider, Tripsavvy, Matador Network, Canadian Traveller, and other places. She's also the producer of Listen to Your Mother San Antonio, a stage show that features live readings about motherhood as told by their original authors in celebration of Mother's Day.

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