Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Check-in at Caribe Hilton
- Caribe Hilton Location
- On-site Activities
- Zen Spa
- Fitness Activities
- Kids Programming
- Secluded Beach
- Tropical Gardens
- Off-Site Activities
- Caribe Hilton Dining Options
- Additional Guest Amenities
- More Hotel Services at Caribe Hilton
- What Families Need to Know About the Caribe Hilton
The writer was partially hosted.
The Caribe Hilton is a family-friendly beach resort in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It offers numerous restaurants, pools, hotel room options and even free tennis court time. It’s a short ride from the airport and less than a 10-minute Uber ride to historic Old San Juan on the Isla del Encanto.
The first thing you notice when you arrive at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the tropical vibe …. and the fact that the hotel has no front door. Why do you need one when the year-round temperature hovers around 80 degrees or higher and visitors want to be outdoors as much as possible. That’s why you’re here, for the sandy beach, sparkling swimming pools and turquoise seas that you can see out back as you check in.
After suffering damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017, the iconic San Juan hotel underwent a $150 million renovation. Then it was shuttered briefly when Covid hit.
This sale is valid until 6/4/2023.
But despite all that, plus recent earthquakes and a less ferocious 2022 Hurricane Fiona, the hotel – like most of San Juan – is back to business as usual. In fact, you’d never know anything happened here, except for changes for the better.
To upgrade, the Caribe Hilton has expanded some restaurants, renovated rooms, added new landscaping and made cosmetic improvements.
The hotel, like the 25-year-old bonsai tree in the lobby, is resilient.
The iconic 17-acre beachfront resort will celebrate its 75th birthday in 2024. It proudly holds the title as the first Hilton hotel to be built outside of the continental United States. It also likes to boast that it’s the birthplace of the pina colada (and they sure are good here). And it is one of the best San Juan resorts.
Check-in at Caribe Hilton
Check-in is quick and easy, to get you to the beach as fast as possible. A light wind blows through the lobby, while quiet tunes play. You may even spot a bird or two flying around the two-story ceiling in this indoor/outdoor setting.
If your room isn’t ready yet, hang out in one of the numerous cozy seating arrangements, some with rocking chairs. Peruse the activity schedule and map of the property to get your bearings; there’s a lot to do here and no need to leave the property to eat, drink, exercise, shop or find entertainment.
Have a chat with the two colorful resident macaws, Lola and Pancho, who reside in the lobby in an oversized birdcage. Speak Spanish to them if you want to get a response. They may repeat “Hola,” while you’ll be greeted with silence if you say “Hello!”
Caribe Hilton Location
Puerto Rico is an approximate 3 ½ hour flight from my New York home. It’s an easy trip, without so much as a passport or customs to enter or leave. The Caribe Hilton, at 1 San Geronimo Street, is in a great location: about 15 minutes from the Luis Muñoz International Airport and less than 10 minutes to the convention center.
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If you’re up for a stroll, it’s a leisurely and scenic 2-mile walk along the waterfront or a 10-minute cab ride to explore the cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, historic forts and local culture and cuisine of Old San Juan. Taxis and rideshare services are easily available.
Caribe Hilton Guest Rooms
The best thing about this hotel: 95% of the 652 guest rooms and suites have balconies. To me, this is a must when in the tropics, especially when the views are this great.
The hotel is divided into three separate buildings: the quieter low-rise Garden Wing with views of the tropical gardens; and two high-rise towers, the Beach Wing and the Wave Wing. The latter was most recently renovated.
There are also 33 suites, including one that’s a duplex. All the buildings are connected by open air common space with dining, shopping and lounge areas.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Ask for a high floor to avoid views of the rooftops of some hotel areas.
My Beach Wing room (in the original building) had a perfect waterfront palette. One wall was sand-colored and another pale seafoam green. The ceiling was cloud white and the abstract carpet looked like the ocean.
There was a fold-out couch that became a single bed, lots of storage and a roomy bathroom with good counter space for toiletries. I also had a tub with a shower; a plus for families with young kids. (Note to parents: If you want a tub, be sure to ask for a room with one when making a reservation.)
All rooms have either two doubles or one king bed and include amenities like wifi, coffee makers, mini-refrigerators, a safe, HDTVs and black-out curtains. Cribs are also available.
There’s a whole schedule of activities you’ll get upon check-in, or look for updates on the digital screens located throughout the lobby. Try limbo, Latin dance lessons, aqua aerobics, yoga and beach tennis.
My favorite activity however, was the complimentary pina colada sampling at the Bagua beach bar, daily at noon.
As the official birthplace of the pina colada in 1954, you can learn the hotel’s role in the creation of the frosty coconut drink on one of the lobby’s history walls. There’s also the original recipe for Puerto Rico’s national cocktail.
A second wall nearby traces the hotel’s history, through videos, photos and newspaper articles. You can read Conrad Hiton’s original letter bidding on the right to operate the hotel. He wrote it in Spanish and won the deal. The hotel opened on December 9, 1949.
The resort is home to the modern, 8,500-square-foot beachfront Zen Spa Océano full-service spa, with 15 treatment rooms and a hair and beauty salon. They also have a hydrotherapy room, sauna and steam rooms and an outdoor whirlpool.
Indulge in an aromatherapy Shiatsu massage, an avocado clay body wrap, hydrating facial, wax or pedicure. You and a partner can even get a hot stone couple’s massage on the beach. Then relax with a cup of herbal tea in the sanctuary of their relaxation room.
Next to the spa is the modern, 24-hour fitness center. You can work out on state-of-the-art equipment while watching the waves, not a TV.
Guests can also enjoy one-hour per day of complimentary tennis time on their three courts named for 2016 Puerto Rican Olympic Gold Medalist, Monica Puig. Forget your racket? You can rent one and buy a can of balls.
Then sign up to snorkel, scuba or SNUBA (a cross between the two). Explore the underwater reef and ocean life with on-site partner Aqua Adventures.
There’s also a basketball court on the property.
While there’s no official kid’s program at the Caribe Hilton, the resort offers myriad family activities. Kids will love the sand art projects, beach tennis and bingo sessions. There’s also a beach area playground with a small climbing wall and an oversized chess set. Floats and snorkeling equipment are available for rental.
Some days the front desk will have food to feed the ducks and geese in the pond in the tropical garden and bird sanctuary.
The Caribe Hilton offers one of the only private beaches in Puerto Rico. Rent one of three beach cabanas or pull up a lounge and umbrella to the gently lapping waves. The ocean is calm here due to a wave-breaking rock jetty, making it the perfect place to float or snorkel in the warm Atlantic.
Staying cool in the water is easy here with the beachfront pool complex. There’s an infinity pool, two other pools, a kids’ fountain pool, two hot tubs and a swim-up bar. There’s plenty of room to swim laps or do your own thing without ever feeling crowded.
Even during a full capacity vacation week, when most poolside chairs were taken, there were plenty available on the beach and in the shaded hammock area. Staff members are happy to set up an umbrella for you.
One unique feature is the round sundeck peninsula that juts out into the water with comfy pillows for lounging. But sunscreen alert: there is no shade there.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of a large resort, visit the serene tropical gardens and bird sanctuary for a relaxing reprieve. Stroll over a bridge, sit in a gazebo overlooking the pond and enjoy the wildlife. There are geese, ducks, turtles, koi fish and black and white swans. If you’re lucky, the resident peacock will show off his tail feathers. Coming soon: meditations in the garden.
A short walk from the Caribe – and on full view from many hotel rooms — is the 17th century San Geranimo Fort. It is currently closed to the public. On the other side of the hotel, you will also see the remains of Fort Escambrón, another piece of the defense system that once went around the entire island of San Juan. What you’ll find there are amazing views of the ocean and hotel. It’s also a fabulous spot for photo ops.
The concierge is available daily to help you plan off-property adventures. Visit El Yunque rain forest, a bioluminescent bay, go nighttime kayaking in the nearby lagoon or taste local delicacies on a food tour of Old San Juan.
Caribe Hilton Dining Options
The Caribe Hilton has ten on-site dining options. Restaurants range from casual to fancy. If you want to head off campus, it’s also a short walk over the nearby bridge to the Condado area where there are dozens more.
On the higher end, there is Morton’s the Steakhouse, with gorgeous ocean views. Enjoy a dinner of prime-aged beef, succulent local seafood and decadent desserts.
At Mojito’s Carribean Fusion, you’ll find local dishes with both Caribbean and Spanish inspiration, including paella, mofongo and jerk chicken.
There’s a double menu at Lola’s/Rustica Ristorante where you can order either Northern Italian or Puerto Rican cuisine with dozens of varieties of pasta and lots of seafood.
Breakfast is either at Starbucks or Néctar del Caribe, where there is an extensive buffet and omelet station. Some days, plump sweet plantains even showed up as an option. If you are a gold or diamond Hilton member, you may get a free continental breakfast (which includes all the cold items, fruit, yogurt, cereals and pastries.)
Swim-up to the pool bar and restaurant at Bagua with a large menu of sandwiches, wraps, burgers and tacos. (And the daily pina colada tasting.)
For a late-night (or anytime) snack, Ice Cream & Cookies Co. serves smoothies, açaí bowls, ice cream and cookies.
Caribar is the lobby’s lively restaurant/bar and heart of the hotel. It serves food and drinks from 5 pm to midnight. Try the new menu introduced in April incorporating more local flavors. It features passion fruit red snapper ceviche and chicken chicharron tapas and main dishes including, deep-fried whole red snapper on a bed of rice and beans and cauliflower pizza. Ask about their vegan menu (secret code “Garden Grown”).
On weekends there is live entertainment. With several large screen TVs, it often turns into a sports bar, especially when a Puerto Rican team is playing.
Additional Guest Amenities
- Children’s menus
- Cribs and highchairs available with advance reservation
- Babysitting (for a fee)
- Room service
- Air conditioning
- Several gift and clothing shops
- 2 ATMs
- 2 guest microwaves
- Lactation room for nursing moms
- Currency is USD
More Hotel Services at Caribe Hilton
- Free wifi and internet access throughout the hotel and grounds
- Dry cleaning service
- Luggage storage
- Coin-operated laundry
- Photocopying & printing service
- Car rental desk by Enterprise Rent-A-Car
- 6,500-square-feet of event space and meeting rooms
What Families Need to Know About the Caribe Hilton
- Kids ages 18 and younger stay free in their parents’ room when using existing bedding.
- Free breakfast for kids ages five and under with a paid adult at Néctar del Caribe.
- Caribe Hilton’s daily resort fee covers wifi, fitness center, tennis courts, private beach with chairs and umbrellas, daily recreational amenities and 20 percent off select spa services.
- Self-parking and valet parking available.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Join the Hilton loyalty program and download the app before you book, for access to the best rates and to unlock your room with Digital Key. Other perks include free continental breakfast if you’re a Gold or Diamond member. Plus, you’ll earn points for future stays.
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