San Juan iconic hotel is back following $150M renovation

The revamped Caribar at the Caribe Hilton.
The revamped Caribar at the Caribe Hilton. Photo Credit: Christina Jelski

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.
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.
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."

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