Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

With all the hotel openings taking place this year, sometimes the reopening of an older but newly renovated hotel gets lost in the plaster dust.

The iconic oceanfront El San Juan Hotel, a member of Hilton's Curio Collection, reopened last month in San Juan's Isla Verde Beach district following a six-month, propertywide, $60 million redo. The face-lift was the most extensive since the hotel opened in 1958 and represented the rebirth and restoration of a landmark property.

"We did not take away the grandeur. We have returned the hotel to its former glory and have added new modern elements, guest experiences, facilities and activities," said Tim Arnold, managing director of food and beverage.

That grandeur includes the restoration of the massive crystal chandelier that has long dominated El San Juan's lobby and remains the focal point of the Chandelier Bar.

In the 1960s, the hotel was the center of San Juan's music and entertainment scene and a favorite for celebrities, among them Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. Keeping an emphasis on its history as a venue for entertainment, El San Juan has added several bars and lounges as well as venues for music and dining.

The room count remains the same at 388, all of which were completely remodeled, renovated and upgraded from furnishings to fixtures. That number includes 22 villa suites, the largest of which is the Casa del Mar two-level beachfront suite, complete with a Steinway piano, covered terrace, whirlpool, sundeck, living and dining areas, master bath and bedroom.

The remodeled and upgraded property now features an upgraded entrance and cobblestone plaza with an eight-foot-high, spherical sculpture, created by local artist Luis Torruelia, that floats in a shallow pool of water.

El San Juan offers four pools, 12 bars, the Beach Club, the new Trilogy Spa and Well and Being Fitness Center (opening in May), live entertainment nightly, an expanded kids' program and nine restaurants, including Cana by Puerto Rican chef Juliana Gonzalez, who will offer menu items that mix local and international dishes. It will open in the spring.

During the six-month makeover, hotel staff participated in a five-star training program "to understand what guests want and how to accommodate their requests," Arnold said.

More than 100 employees have been added to the employee roster, and the hotel is considering the addition of butler service in certain room categories.

Arnold said that bookings "are strong" for March and "super strong this summer as well as destination wedding bookings this fall."

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