Monkeys, a funicular and amazing views: A review of the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in Vietnam
IHG One Rewards' InterContinental brand has several aspirational hotels for which you can redeem points. The InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso in French Polynesia and the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort may quickly come to mind, as both are beautiful properties in dreamy destinations.
But also high up on my own personal list of aspirational InterContinental resorts is the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in Danang, Vietnam. This multi-tiered resort is nestled on the side of Sơn Trà mountain, looking away from busy Danang city and out to sea. Once you're there, the resort looks and feels like it is worlds away from the crowded town.
One of the main draws for me of the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort was the photos I'd seen of its mountainside villas. As I read more about the resort, I found it offers a cute yet functional four-stop funicular, which seemed like a novelty, and its spa treatment rooms are located along a secluded lagoon. I'd dreamed of staying at this resort for over five years before finally enjoying a three-night stay this summer.
During my time there, the InterContinental Danang was finishing up some renovations that it began while closed during the pandemic. These renovations should be complete by the time this article publishes — and didn't significantly affect my stay — so I won't focus on them in this review. Here's what my long-anticipated stay was like.
As with any hotel, there are several ways to book the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort. Suppose you have IHG elite status or an annual IHG lounge membership (which you can select as an elite benefit when you earn a 40- or 70-night milestone reward) that provides club lounge access at participating IHG hotels for you and a guest. In that case, I recommend booking directly with IHG to get access to your benefits and elite earnings.
Cash rates are under $400 per night on some dates, which is impressive for a hotel of this caliber. The hotel is also currently offering several special packages that include things like airport transportation and nightly dining credits, although most of these packages don't allow for free cancellation.
You may get better value by redeeming IHG points for your stay. Award night availability is limited on some dates, but you should find dates that work if you have a flexible schedule. Award nights currently cost between 66,000 and 115,000 points per night. You can get a fourth-night reward if you have an eligible IHG Rewards credit card (like the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card) linked to your account.
Finally, as you don't need to book directly with IHG to get InterContinental Ambassador perks, Ambassadors may want to consider booking through the American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts program to get enjoy even more perks like an on-property credit. Compare the cost with booking directly; for my two-night paid stay, booking through IHG was $140 cheaper than booking through the Fine Hotels + Resorts program.
For my three-night stay, I redeemed an uncapped anniversary night certificate from the IHG Rewards Club Select card (the card is no longer available to new applicants and the anniversary nights are no longer uncapped) for one night. Then, I booked a two-night paid stay for $960, including taxes and fees (note, this resort doesn't charge a resort or destination fee).
The InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort is just outside Danang, Vietnam, and about a 40-minute drive from the city's airport without traffic. The resort is remote, so don't expect to hop into town quickly or to eat outside the property easily during your stay. There are no restaurants or shops near the resort. Basically, once you check in, you're pretty much here to stay. If you wanted to take a day trip to Hoi An, for example, you'd face about a one-hour drive each way.
My husband and I snagged a ride through Grab's ride-hailing app from the Danang airport to the resort for 282,000 Vietnamese Dong (about $12). However, the resort doesn't allow ride-hailing apps to pick up guests, so to leave the property you'll need to book a private transfer ($99 plus taxes and fees one-way to or from the airport) or use a cab from Vinasun, the resort's approved taxi provider.
When it was time to check out, the taxi the resort called charged us 360,000 Dong (about $15) to go to the My An neighborhood in Danang city. A Grab would have been 231,000 Dong (about $10).
The day before check-in, I received the following email from the hotel:
I responded, noting our expected arrival time and explaining that we had two consecutive reservations and would prefer to keep the same room. But, I said we'd be willing to change rooms if necessary to get a better room for the two paid nights (limited availability had forced us to book a higher-category room for the paid nights). I got the following response, which incorrectly listed my status as Platinum Ambassador (I'm Diamond Ambassador) and reminded me of the 3 p.m. check-in time:
We reached the resort shortly before 3 p.m. An agent at the entrance gate checked our names against a guest list before allowing our Grab into the resort. Upon arrival at the check-in building, a staff member led us to a relatively crowded room for check-in. Luckily, there was enough staff to handle the crowds, and we completed the check-in formalities quickly.
One benefit of InterContinental Ambassador membership is a guaranteed one-category room upgrade. For this stay, the resort upgraded us to a terrace suite with an ocean view for all three nights. This room type is one category above the room type we booked for our two-night paid stay and two categories above the room type I booked for the other single night of our stay. Based on rates when I booked our two-night paid stay, the terrace suite with ocean view cost about $88 per night more than the panoramic ocean view room we'd booked.
However, the resort didn't assign us just any terrace suite. The property has four levels running down a cliff — Sea, Earth, Sky and Heaven — and we were assigned a terrace suite in the highest section, Heaven. After getting a quick overview of the hotel's layout on a map and a greeting from the resort manager, a staff member escorted us to our room in a golf cart.
We seemingly got one of the best terrace suites, as we had an excellent view over the resort from the Heaven level and were close to the restaurant where breakfast was served as well as the Nam Tram (the resort's funicular railway that connects all four levels). At check out, one of the agents noted that the resort typically assigns this room to Ambassador members.
A writing pad, lamp and a welcome fruit plate were on the large desk near the entrance. To the right of the desk was the minibar with an assortment of wines, liquors and non-alcohol drinks available for purchase.
To the left of the desk was the coffee and tea area. I have a soft spot for hotels and airport lounges with individual teapots, so I was thrilled to find a small teapot with two cups, an illy espresso machine and a water kettle.
Across from the tea and coffee area was a large closet that had a design inspired by local temples, with two doors that opened outward. Inside the closet were:
- 12 hangers (two of which held plush InterContinental robes).
- An iron and ironing board.
- Two pairs of fluffy slippers.
- A basket for the shoe cleaning service that contains a shoe horn, shoe brush and shoe mitt.
- A beach bag with two pairs of sandals and a Vietnamese-style hat.
- Emergency light and mosquito repellent plug-in device.
- Bags for laundry and dry cleaning.
On either side of the large closet were luggage racks, each with a two-shelf cabinet overhead.
On the other side of the desk was the bed with nightstands to either side, each with a lamp. Behind the bed on the headboard were light switches and the do not disturb and make up room buttons. Under the bed were power outlets. I found the bed extremely comfortable; it had a firm mattress with a feather topper.
Across from the bed was a mounted 41.5-inch TV. The TV had about 24 live channels, most of which were in English. Below the TV was a window seat. And behind the window seat were shutters that you could open. If you do so, you can look out to the balcony.
To the right of the window seat was a sliding door to the spacious balcony, which had impressive views. Our balcony had two lounge chairs. My favorite place to sit, however, was in one of the taller chairs around the surfboard-shaped table. This table was an excellent place to work or enjoy a drink while soaking in the views.
There are monkeys at the resort, though — so the agent who showed us to our room after checking in cautioned us to double lock the patio door when we weren't outside. She said the monkeys have learned how to open the door if it's only locked once.
Finally, the bathroom was to the right of the desk by the entrance. First, you'll see a small room with just a toilet.
Past the toilet room and a sliding door was the main area of the bathroom, which had two sinks and plenty of counter space. There was a scale under the counter, a box containing a relatively weak Valera hair dryer and another box containing various amenities (comb, cotton swabs, toothpaste, toothbrush, shaving kit, a shower cap and cotton pads).
To the left of the sinks was an impressive bathtub. We had an excellent view over the resort from our tub. Unfortunately, it didn't hold water well (the drain didn't seem properly sealed), so we had to occasionally top off our baths. Next to the tub was the shower, which had a hand-held wand shower head and an overhead rainfall shower. Small containers of Harnn Mystique shampoo, conditioner, body wash and moisturizer were set out on a pedestal next to the shower.
There are two small issues you should be aware of, though, regarding the rooms at this resort. First, noise easily comes in from the room's front door. The guests in an adjacent room were early risers and chatty, so I woke up each morning as they left their room. Secondly, the resort is in a jungle environment, so you may occasionally find insects — we encountered a cockroach and a spider — in your room.
A note about accessibility
IHG doesn't sell any handicap-accessible rooms at the InterContinental Danang.
And plenty of steps and steep paths throughout the property will make it difficult for mobility-limited guests to fully enjoy the resort. For example, there's no way to reach the pool above the L_O_N_G Bar without climbing stairs. But, if you're comfortable with limited stairs and riding in a golf cart, you may still have an enjoyable stay.
Food and beverage
During my stay, there were three restaurants and one bar open at the resort. The resort also offered room service. I tried all the available options.
Note that all the prices mentioned in this section are before taxes, service and gratuity. The prices cited don't reflect the 20% discount we got on non-alcoholic drinks and food at Citron and Barefoot thanks to my Diamond Ambassador status.
Citron is in the Heaven section of the resort near the Club InterContinental Lounge and the Nam Tram. This restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. And yes, this is the venue at the InterContinental Danang that offers circular tables with panoramic views that you might have seen on the resort's website.
We enjoyed dinner at Citron on our first night. The dinner options were mostly Vietnamese, with the menu separated into North, Central and South Vietnamese cuisine.
I ordered the Vietnamese-style free-range chicken with mint salad from northern Vietnam for 349,000 Dong (about $15) as an appetizer. I was impressed by the salad's light dressing, tender chicken and fresh taste. I also appreciated that some salad ingredients came from the on-site nursery. And we both loved the warm, fresh bread with lemongrass butter served along with the appetizer.
I initially ordered pho from northern Vietnam for 399,000 Dong (about $17) for my main. Our waiter noted that I could get this dish as part of the breakfast buffet the next morning, though, so I changed my order to Quang noodles from central Vietnam for 488,000 Dong (about $21) since our waiter said this was his favorite dish. The noodles were tasty and fresh, but the pork was fattier than I liked.
As an IHG One Rewards Diamond Elite, I selected the daily breakfast as my welcome amenity at check-in. That way, we were able to enjoy the full breakfast buffet each morning at Citron for no additional cost. If I'd opted to add on breakfast for two guests while booking, it would have cost us $77 more per night.
I was impressed by the variety available on the breakfast buffet, including ample American, European, Asian and Vietnamese options. There were several stations where you could get made-to-order eggs, pho and a special local dish that changed daily.
I tried a little bit of everything across my three breakfasts, finding the bread, fruits and Asian options to be the best.
La Maison 1888
La Maison 1888 is the resort's premier restaurant, featuring French specialties with a Vietnamese influence from French chef Pierre Gagnaire. Gagnaire was named best chef in the world by his peers with Michelin stars in 2015 as part of the Le Chef Magazine awards, and is the head chef and owner of the Michelin three-starred Pierre Gagnaire restaurant in Paris.
La Maison 1888 is on the Earth level next to the Nam Tram. The restaurant only offers three meal options: a three-course, four-course or five-course set menu. The three-course set meal cost 2,899,000 Dong (about $124) before taxes, service, gratuity and drinks. Meanwhile, the four-course meal cost 3,599,000 Dong (about $154) and the five-course meal cost 4,299,000 Dong (about $184).
I decided to splurge on a meal at this restaurant on my second night. Before I even indicated I would have the three-course meal, a server brought six canapes. I appreciated how the server described each canape, including the order in which I should eat them. For me, the highlights were the frothy and light soup with pea sauce and the breaded shrimp with garlic sauce.
After the canapes, a server brought over a menu and let me choose whether I wanted three, four or five courses. I went for the three-course one and took the chef's recommendation of medium-rare Wagyu beef. The restaurant can adapt by offering a three- or four-course vegetarian menu if you don't eat meat.
My first course consisted of pate en croute with roasted almonds and fresh coriander, banh mi and a coriander mint sorbet. The crust pastry around the meat pie was delicate yet tasty, and the banh mi was fresh with a sweet, tangy sauce and shredded veggies.
The highlight of my second course was the Wagyu beef tenderloin, which was flavorful and velvety. I don't frequently eat red meat, but this tenderloin was excellent. However, the flavor of the sauce served with the tenderloin was a distraction — I found the beef tasted better without it. The croquettes served alongside the tenderloin were crisp on the outside and creamy inside.
Finally, the third course consisted of multiple different desserts. The lemon sorbet, unfortunately, overwhelmed the plate of Vietnamese fruit, and the olives in the strawberry dessert were unexpected. But I loved the light yet crunchy flan topped with puffed rice. And the chocolate biscuit was a rich end to my meal.
On our last night, we ate dinner at Barefoot, the causal Western restaurant at Sea level by the beach. We showed up without a reservation, but the hostess was able to prepare an excellent table looking out at the beach within a few minutes.
The menu included plenty of grilled options, but I had the sea bass ceviche for 329,000 dong (about $14) and the vegetarian pizza for 368,000 dong (about $16).
The ceviche wasn't how I expected, as it was almost too spicy for me to eat and contained long strips of sea bass instead of small pieces. However, the pizza was excellent — with a perfect crust and delicious cheese — which made sense once our waiter said the chef was Italian.
L_O_N_G Bar is next to the family pool and directly below the Long Pool. This bar is 50 meters long and seemingly takes inspiration from Long Bar at Raffles Hotel in Singapore. You'll find the same ceiling fans as at Long Bar in Singapore, but the decor at L_O_N_G Bar is much brighter. Plus, L_O_N_G Bar offers views of the beach from the swinging chairs, huge day beds and a pool table.
L_O_N_G Bar hosts a buy-one, get-one happy hour every night from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. There's a special happy hour menu, but there are enough choices to satisfy most people. You don't have to get two of the same drink either — you get the less expensive drink comped if you buy two different drinks. I enjoyed the pina colada, but if you're looking for the most alcohol for your money, consider the margarita.
The resort also hosted a 10,000-step challenge during my stay, which provided a complimentary healthy drink per day per person at the L_O_N_G Bar if you showed a fitness tracker with more than 10,000 steps for the day. I walked a significant amount most days at the resort, so I enjoyed a complimentary healthy drink on two nights of my stay. The healthy drink section of the menu offered detox drinks and smoothies; I tried the mango smoothie one night and a carrot smoothie the other night.
The bathrooms in the same building as the L_O_N_G Bar are also worth visiting. The mirrors are mesmerizing, and the men's urinal uses an interesting waterfall design. And, at least in the women's restroom, there's a shower in one stall that you can use if you need to check out of your room but want to continue enjoying the pool.
I ordered room service mid-day one day and had the crispy crab cake ball appetizer for 349,000 dong (about $15), the Hoi An rice main for 449,000 dong (about $19) and a soda for 140,000 dong (about $6). When I called to order, the staff member quoted me a wait time of 40 to 45 minutes. So I was surprised when a staff member delivered my meal 18 minutes later.
The kitchen did not rush the cooking, though. The crabcakes were deliciously prepared and wonderfully complimented by a chili sauce. Meanwhile, the Hoi An rice was the perfect combination of fresh and filling thanks to all the vegetables.
The InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort sprawls, with most buildings only housing a dozen or so rooms. You can ask for a buggy to pick you up, but I usually preferred to walk. The Nam Tram and a 365-step stairway between Heaven and Sea make it easy to get around without using buggies if you prefer.
The Nam Tram is an attraction in itself. There was never a wait for the Nam Tram during my stay, besides sometimes needing to wait for it to arrive from another station. However, note that the Nam Tram doesn't run 24 hours a day, so you may need to take a buggy late at night or early in the morning.
At Sea level, there are two pool areas. One is the shaded garden pool area that's family-friendly. This area also has a large, neat-looking cold jacuzzi (or plunge pool, I suppose) for adults.
The second pool area is above the L_O_N_G Bar and consists of an infinity pool overlooking the beach and resort. There's also an infinity jacuzzi area that is bubbly but not warm.
At Sea level, there's a long private beach for the resort. You'll find ample beach chairs with umbrellas and attendants that will bring you cold water bottles. There was also plenty of complimentary sunscreen and aloe available.
You'll also find a water sports tent offering kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and a windsurfing board that you can borrow for no cost after filling out a form.
In the same building as the L_O_N_G Bar is an indoor gym. And just outside the L_O_N_G Bar is an outdoor gym area. The indoor gym contains more equipment than the outdoor gym — including boxing gloves — but both areas include cardio and weight equipment.
Also in the same building as the L_O_N_G Bar is the Planet Trekkers kid's club, which is complimentary for guests with kids 4 to 12 years old.
On the Sky level, you'll find the Bensley Outsider Gallery with artwork by the architect and designer of the resort, Bill Bensley. A staff member is inside to answer questions or assist you with purchasing artwork.
And on the Heaven level, you'll find a quiet relaxation pavilion.
On the Sea level near the Nam Tram is the reception building for the Lagoon Apa and the Pedi:mani:cure studio. You can book massages at the spa reception, and this is also where you'll meet for any massages or massage workshops.
The Lagoon Spa occupies its own area of the resort — by a lagoon, appropriately enough. The blue buildings are treatment huts.
My husband and I booked a couples massage, and the spa assigned us a truly spectacular massage hut. Our massages cost 2,500,000 dong (about $105) each, but the setting and massage quality made us happy we'd splurged. Check out the spa menu for offerings and prices.
You can call the concierge to book select activities. You'll find a current schedule of activities at the Sea level station of the Nam Tram. You needed to call by 4 p.m. the previous day to book most activities during my stay.