SAN JUAN -- Following a soft opening with limited
inventory in mid-May,
the renovated Caribe Hilton is officially up and running once again.
Originally opened in 1949 as the first Hilton outside the
continental U.S., the historic hotel shuttered in February 2018 after
sustaining significant damage from Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto
Rico in 2017.
"The hurricane came, and we navigated the storm very
well, but then we had to start making assessment of the property," said
Pablo Torres, general manager of the Caribe Hilton. "We did originally try
to keep the hotel open for two reasons. One was, obviously, to keep all our
team members employed, and the second was to help responders from FEMA and
other groups who were here to help the local communities. But then we quickly
realized that we needed to shut down to expedite the restoration process."
The Caribe Hilton renovated its meeting rooms. Photo Credit: Christina Jelski
The property has
since received $150 million in renovations and upgrades, recently commemorating
the project's completion with a June 18 ribbon cutting ceremony. All 652 of the
Caribe Hilton's guestrooms have received facelifts, with around 70% of hotel's
guestroom inventory currently available to sell. The remaining 30% is expected
to join the fold before the end of July.
Other updates include all-new landscaping, lighting and
fitness, spa and tennis facilities, as well as roughly 65,000 square feet of
revamped meeting and event space.
Additionally, the Caribe Hilton has refreshed its food and
beverage outlets, with a total of nine venues available. They include breakfast
restaurant Salitre del Caribe, Italian eatery Rustica Ristorante, traditional
Puerto Rican restaurant Lola's Puerto Rican Cuisine and the main lobby's
Caribar, which claims to be the birthplace of the famous pina colada cocktail.
The only restaurant still undergoing remodeling is an
outpost of Morton's The Steakhouse, which is expected to reopen this winter.
According to Torres, the renovation has provided an
opportunity to enhance the Caribe Hilton's hurricane resistance.
"This became a chance to review the local codes and
take a close look at new codes and upgrade several areas," said Torres. "For
example, all the sliding doors in the guestrooms were upgraded to a new code
and can now withstand higher wind speeds."
By the end of July, the Caribe Hilton expects that all of its renovated guestrooms will be avaailable to guests. Photo Credit: Christina Jelski
With all the changes, much of the staff at the Caribe
Hilton remains the same. Torres touted that roughly 80% of the Caribe Hilton's
workforce returned to the property this past April, after employees underwent retraining.
"I've known many of our team members here at the Caribe
Hilton for 20 years, so when the hurricane happened, this project was something
very personal for me," said Torres. "It's such an iconic hotel, so it
was so important for us to bring it back as soon as possible and bring it back
stronger than ever. It's important for the company, our guests, the community
and for our team members. We couldn't be happier to reopen."