The planned reopening of the Caribe Hilton in San Juan in December will mark another significant step in Puerto Rico's path forward following the hurricanes of a year ago.
"This is a positive story not only for our hotel but also for the community and the tourism industry," said Pablo Torres, general manager. "We are all emerging stronger than ever."
The 652-room property opened in 1949 and was the first facility operated by Hilton Hotels outside the continental U.S.
The Caribe Hilton sits on a 17-acre peninsula with a secluded beach and lush gardens near the Old San Juan historical district and the Condado area. It has been undergoing a $100 million, propertywide renovation program for the past year.
"Our target date for reopening is Dec. 21," Torres said. "We are taking reservations from that date onward, and we will be celebrating our 70th anniversary in 2019.
"We have some movement already from our loyal guests who want to come back and support Puerto Rico," he said.
Ramon "Monchito" Marrero is said to have created the tropical cocktail in 1954 during his time as a bartender at the resort.
Renovations include the lobby and registration areas, the 55,000 square feet of meetings and conference space, the spa, all guestrooms, the five restaurants and two bars, landscaping, lighting and new tennis courts.
The hotel already has several conventions on the books as well as weddings in 2019.
The beach, which lost sand because of the hurricanes, regained it during a high-tide storm several months later.
"I am optimistic and excited regarding the future," Torres said. "We have navigated a long year but now have a better product that will benefit our guests and our team members."
Many on the Hilton's staff of 500 employees were sent to work at other Hilton properties in the U.S. during the renovation. Some were hired by the restoration crew to help in the reconstruction of the property.
Hilton has five properties in Puerto Rico that are open, including the DoubleTree by Hilton San Juan, Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort, Hampton Inn & Suites San Juan, Embassy Suites by Hilton Dorado del Mar Beach Resort and the Embassy Suites by Hilton San Juan Hotel & Casino.
El San Juan Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton is offering limited services, amenities and dining options.