When I decided that I wanted to spend my birthday in Hoi An, Vietnam, Anthony told me to pick out a few hotels that I liked, and he would surprise me with one for a few nights of relaxation. The very first hotel that popped up when I searched “fancy hotels Hoi An” was the stunning Intercontinental Da Nang Sun Peninsula. Each picture was more beautiful than the last, and I had my heart set on staying there.
That is, until I saw the price tag: $400 a night MINIMUM. I shed a little tear, and then put my dreams of being extra swanky on the back burner. There was no way we could afford that on this trip. Fortunately for me, Anthony lives and breathes travel hacking, and just a few months later, we were pulling up to the gates of the Intercontinental Da Nang. All for the low low price of $0 a night.
Anthony has already explained how we managed to pull off staying at this amazing place for practically nothing, so I won’t go into all the details. Basically we each had a free night to use at any Intercontinental property in the world, and had planned on using it in Europe. Fortunately, we remembered that the number one Intercontinental property IN THE WORLD was just an hour drive from where we’d settled in Hoi An. We agreed that would be a much better redemption than using it in Europe, and decided to have a little two night vacation before leaving Central Vietnam to head to Hanoi.
From the moment we made the booking, that was pretty much all we could talk about. We spent hours scouring the internet for pictures and videos to give us a little taste of what we would could expect. Two of the families I babysat for in Hoi An basically melted over their memories of their time spent there, and our friends at Hoi An Events who’d been planning a wedding taking place on the property pretty much equated it to Heaven on Earth. Needless to say, as the days approached, our excitement only grew.
Let me just quickly say this, the Central Vietnam Coast is like a small piece of paradise. The beaches are stunning, the landscape is lush with green, and the weather (with the exception of the entire month of December), is lovely. We’d been living in this beautiful place for four months, but we were in no way prepared for the beauty that is the Son Tra Peninsula : the home of the Intercontinental Da Nang. On our last trip to Da Nang, we’d motorbiked up most of the peninsula, but the cove in which the Intercontinental is nestled is just stunning beyond belief.
Since we were going to be staying at such nice property basically for free, Anthony and I decided to splurge and hire a private car from Hoi An to take us to the hotel. We could have also taken a bus to Da Nang and then hired a taxi from there, but we wanted to arrive as relaxed as possible. For those interested, a private car from Hoi An to the Intercontinental will cost you 400,000 VND (about $18 USD), and takes just about an hour. As we meandered up the winding road overlooking the city of Da Nang below, I started to get butterflies. We’d had this hotel in our sights for months…what if it wasn’t everything we’d hoped it would be? I couldn’t have been more wrong.
ARRIVAL AND CHECK IN
Our car dropped us off at an airy white building located just at the top of a long sloping hill leading down into the resort. We were greeted warmly by one of the staff, and asked for the name on our reservation.
As they looked us up in their system, and tagged all of our luggage, I relaxed into one of the massive plush arm chairs set around the foyer. Anthony walked out to take a look at the tennis courts and get a few pictures. Already I felt like we were celebrities, and not just stinky backpackers. After a brief wait, we were whisked down to reception in a golf cart toting us and our luggage. Anthony chatted with the driver as I took in the surroundings.
As we made our way down the hill through the lush trees that grow all over the Son Tra Peninsula, our driver pointed out a few places of interest. The spa was on our left as we crossed a small creek, and the water activities center on our right at the tip of the beach. More and more of the resort began to come into view, and I’m pretty sure I started to forget about breathing.
The whole resort is built right into a cliff overlooking the ocean, so that no matter where you are, you can always enjoy the spectacular views. Reception, two of the resort’s five restaurants, the gym, and kid’s area are all at the base level right on the beach. This is where our golf cart dropped us off for check in. Again, we were greeted as though we were old friends, and presented with cold towels and iced tea while directed to sit and wait for everything to be prepared for us. After a few minutes, a member of the reception staff sat down with us and went over our reservation, the resort amenities, and gave us a small booklet containing any information we might need. Since Anthony and I are Platinum IHG Rewards members, we were offered the option of two free drink vouchers at the Long Bar or 500 points towards our rewards accounts. We decided to take the drinks since 500 points isn’t actually worth too much. With check in complete we were escorted back to our golf cart, and taken to our room.
Our room was located at the “Sky Level” of the resort, which sounds like it would be at the very top, but was actually somewhere in the middle. There were eight rooms in our complex, which was located towards the end of the road we were on. As the resort was only at about 35% capacity while we stayed there I didn’t really notice a difference being more secluded, however, when the resort is full I imagine it would be nice to be a little removed from the main drive. I also have no idea if there were any other guests staying in our complex at the time. The design gives every rooms LOADS of privacy, so even if every other room near you is full, you’d likely still feel like you were in your own private bungalow.
We’d been sent with a member of the staff while driven up to the room, so he escorted us up the deck as the driver followed with our bags. The building itself was pure white with teak accents, which provided a lovely contrast to the surrounding green of the jungle. As we walked up the stairs I started getting jittery with excitement. So far the resort was like something out of a dream, and I couldn’t wait to get a look at our room. Again, I forgot to breath as our escort opened the door, and I’m pretty sure I let out a huge sigh upon stepping inside as a smile spread from ear to ear.
This room was without a doubt the most luxurious hotel room I’d ever seen in my entire life. For starters, they’d turned on the air conditioning before we even arrived, which was a great touch considering the thick humidity covering the entire peninsula. The room was decorated with the same dark wood as the entrance, but the use of mirrored walls and floor to ceiling glass doors that led to the balcony provided lots of natural light to contrast with the darker decor.
This gave the room the perfect mix of dark and light, in my opinion. Our massive king sized bed was located in the center of the room facing the doors to the balcony so that we could enjoy the view even while relaxing in bed. Behind the bed was a large desk with our welcome letter, binders of information about the resort, phone, and a spread of fruit, teas, chocolate, and wine.
The bathroom was to the right as we walked in, and included a large soaking tub, rain shower, double sinks, and a little curtained alcove with the toilet. There was a closet to the right and left of the bathroom with plenty of storage space, the safe, and a beach tote with flip flops and a Vietnamese conical hat. Outside on the balcony, which was almost as big as the room itself, there was the mini bar, fridge, kettle, and comfy bench and chair with a large marble table. Every inch just dripped with elegance. I was over the moon.
As soon as the driver and his companion left after bringing in our bags and giving us a tour of the room, I flopped down on the giant bed. It was basically like floating on a cloud. There were plenty of pillows, and the comforter was thick and soft. Anthony and I looked at each other and both started doing happy dances. This place was everything we’d hoped for. We decided to flip through the information about the resort and decide what to do next.
Now, while checking in, the receptionist had warned us that we would probably have a few monkey sightings. He reminded us not to feed them, but promised they were perfectly harmless as long as we let them be. As it turns out, we didn’t have to wait long for our first encounter. We’d been in the room maybe twenty minutes when, suddenly, there was a monkey on our balcony! He hopped up and started climbing the lamp by the mini bar, and for a split second I was positive he was going to pull it right over, but thankfully it stayed up. He gave us some major side eye through the window, then left just as quickly as he’d appeared. I’m assuming they greet all new guests, if only to see who has been forgetful enough to leave food out.
About a week prior to our stay, I decided to email the resort and let them know part of the reason we would be staying there was in celebration of Anthony’s upcoming birthday. I always love when hotels write “Happy Birthday” on the bed so I figured it would be a nice little touch. When we first settled into our room I assumed the wine and chocolate were a gift for his birthday, however, it turns out they’re either standard or were there due to our platinum status. We were outside enjoying the view and balcony when a staff member peeked into the room and waved us inside. He set a bucket of ice containing a bottle of champagne on the desk as well as a delicious looking chocolate ganache cake with “Happy Birthday” written on the plate. We’d been there for maybe two hours and already received TWO free bottles of wine. These people had our number, and the service only got better from there.
Whenever we wanted to go anywhere we just called the front desk and a golf cart would appear at our door in less than ten minutes. If you need a cab into town, the golf cart simply brings you to the resort gates and makes sure you get one safely. We decided to ride into town to get a pizza our first night, and before we left in the cab, a staff member gave us our cab driver’s phone number and told us to call him the we wanted to come back to the hotel. We literally only took the cab to the restaurant and back since we wanted to eat pizza in bed, however, it was a very nice touch.
*A Little Tip: We decided to eat off property our first night since the restaurants are pricey, however, the ride into town isn’t cheap either. It was over 500,000 VND (about 23 USD) roundtrip, so in the end we decided it was best to just enjoy the restaurants and room service, rather than spend a good chunk of money to simply go into town and back.
We didn’t spend any time at the pool at the beach level since it’s family friendly, but it was never terribly crowded. We did, however, spend a good bit of time at the Long Pool which is on the roof of the building housing the Long Bar, gym, and kid’s center. It’s a massive infinity pool overlooking the beach and with a spectacular view of the entire resort. There are plenty of loungers set up around the perimeter of the pool, and the staff member on duty will set you up with plush towels and bottles of water upon your arrival. You can order food and drinks directly to your longer, and it’s also a perfect pool for doing laps if you’re so inclined. We just bobbed around and took in the view.
Our first night I decided to workout on the balcony since it just seemed like a cool idea (told you the balcony was huge), but the second day I made sure to head to the gym. I hadn’t had access to an actual gym in months, so I was really looking forward to my workout. The gym itself is in kind of an odd location. I don’t love the fact that it’s basically inside a restaurant, and I’m sure the people enjoying their drinks aren’t crazy about the sweaty post workout crowd traipsing by, but that’s really a small complaint.
The actual gym is a little small, but it has absolutely everything you’d need. There’s plenty of cardio equipment, free weights and benches, mats, balance balls, and weight machines so any kind of workout is covered. I chose to run intervals on the treadmill and then use the free weights. Even though we’d been away for almost a year at this point, I still had trouble with the fact that the treadmill was in kilometers and the weights in kilograms, but that’s just because I’m terrible at conversions. I had the gym to myself which was awesome, and I liked the fact that the attendant was in and out instead of just standing there staring at me. There is a little fridge stocked with cold towels, coconut water, and bottles of Aquafina. They also have dry towels, plenty of magazines, and fruit, and it’s open 24 hours which means you can workout any time of day!
The private beach is, of course, spotless and the water unbelievably clear. It’s at the base of the resort so you have the view of the ocean in front of you, and the entire resort rising up behind you.
We accidentally ended up on the “club” part of the beach while sunbathing, something neither of us realized until after we’d left. Fortunately no one booted us off our loungers, however, make sure you pay attention so you don’t end up taking up space in an area you didn’t pay for. Just like the pool, you’re given a towel and water upon arrival, and they have a variety of sunscreen to protect everyone from the harsh Vietnamese sun.
The resort offers a fair amount of free activities to try during your stay, so Anthony and I decided to try stand up paddleboarding. Everyone I know who has tried SUP always insists it’s SUPER easy, and I have good balance so I figured I would be fine. I was not. The two of us pretty much spent the whole time falling off the boards, and I definitely got a few small jellyfish stings, but it was still a lot of fun. It was also a pretty windy day and the water was quite choppy, so in hindsight we probably should have stuck with snorkeling or kayaking.
In addition to the beautiful pools, immaculate gym, and fun water sports, you can also pass your time in the movie theater, one of the many karaoke lounges, or head up to the Summit to play pool, Wii, or computer games.
Also, make sure to take the cable car as much as you can. It goes from the top of the resort down to reception, with a few stops in between, and offers some of the best views of the entire resort. And seriously, how many times have you stayed at a hotel with a cable car?
As I mentioned earlier, there are five restaurants on the resort property. Initially we planned on skipping this part since the prices were quite high. We packed several bottles of wine, lots of cheese and crackers, and figured we’d head into town when we were hungry. Well, Da Nang was a good hour ride round trip, and the shuttles going into town weren’t at great times for us so after we went out for pizza we decided to splurge.
We skipped the two priciest restaurants, La Maison and Citron, and stuck to the Long Bar and Barefoot, both of which are located on the beach. While having lunch at Barefoot we both ordered Wagyu beef burgers which were amazing, and I’m still dreaming about the breadbasket. So many varieties of fresh bread and THREE olive oil dips. If you don’t love dunking bread in flavored olive oil there might be something wrong with you.
My burger initially came out undercooked, so while they fixed it they set me up with a simple green salad with lemon vinaigrette which was a nice gesture, and also delicious! We also ordered room service our second night, had a few complimentary appetizers during happy hour at the Long Bar, and Anthony ordered a salad while we were at the pool.
Everything we had was delicious, and totally worth the splurge. Our platinum membership also came in handy again as we were served a complimentary glass of wine each both at lunch and when we ordered room service.
When we return to the Intercontinental Da Nang (because we will absolutely be returning), we plan to budget for a meal at La Maison as it is supposed to be an incredible experience. The chef has three Michelin Stars, so if you have the means, definitely make sure to check it out.
Ultimately, our time at the IC Da Nang was just the most amazing experience. The service is top notch, the room left us feeling like royalty, and there is literally something for everyone in terms of amenities. We ended up getting a second cake and second bottle of champagne for Anthony’s birthday, and sleeping in that bed is some of the best sleep I’ve had in my entire life.
No detail is overlooked, and even if you just want to relax and take in the view from your balcony, you will not be disappointed. If you’re traveling through Vietnam and have some free nights or points to spare, do not miss the opportunity to stay at this amazing property. There’s a reason it’s number one.