Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico - Review
Beautiful Pool Area
with Great Snorkeling on Artificial Reel
By Marianne Schwab | Best Travel Deals Tips Blog
[Photo: Aeriel View of Caribe Hilton provided by Hilton.]
Let me start by saying that I'm a BIG FAN of Hilton properties around the world so when my best friend, Peggy, invited me to join her for a week at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I was thrilled. Peggy was going for a business conference and wanted to bring her two boys, Py, 11, and Jo-Jo, 6, and asked if "Aunt Mari" (that's me) would take care of them during the day and I got to stay for free. I thought it was a good deal and great excuse to spend time with Peggy and her kids, plus see Puerto Rico!
[Photo: View of Caribe Hilton from the Pool.]
The Caribe Hilton is located on a a 17-acre peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and a large lagoon with a crescent beach plus has an artificial reef, promenade, and pier. This resort is also just a half-mile away from Old San Juan.
Two of my favorite features of this hotel included a three-level pool with infinity edges on the top two levels and a swim-up bar - perfect for virgin strawberry daiquiris for the kids and pina coladas for me.
I also got to teach Jo-Jo how to snorkel on the reef in the lagoon and we saw a hermit crab scurry across the ocean floor among other sea life and tropical fish. I love when you can snorkel right off the beach in easy calm water which was great for the kids and prepared them for our larger snorkel adventure in Culebra.
Now for one of the most interesting and frustrating things about this hotel. Have you ever heard of a "towel curfew?" Well, the Caribe Hilton has a "towel curfew." If you pick up a towel to use at the pool and do not return it by 6pm, they will charge you $10 for the towel even if you return it later. This makes no sense since the pool stays open until 9pm so bring your beach towels, folks. I've read tons of reviews on this hotel on TripAdvisor and I'm shocked that no one else mentioned this in their review.
[Photo: Enjoying a Hammock at the Caribe Hilton.]
On Saturday morning, I got a break from my adventures in babysitting and was able to enjoy a relaxing and heavenly morning reading a book in a seaside hammock. You do need to get there early to secure a hammock as they are quite popular with guests as you can imagine.
[Photo: Our Hotel Room at the Caribe Hilton.]
The Caribe Hilton San Juan guestrooms have patios or balconies with views of the gardens, lagoon, or the ocean. The room was spacious and had mahogany-colored furniture, a flat screen TV which the kids liked and marble-accented baths.
Here's a second bone of contention. On the second day I was there it was raining and the housekeeper came into clean the room while the boys and I were there. She did a very nice job cleaning overall, but at one point during her time in the room I noticed that I heard water running for a REALLY long time in the bathroom. Naturally, I went to investigate and saw that she was "cleaning" our drinking glasses in the sink with really hot water, but no dish soap. I was flabbergasted (and disgusted). We picked up plastic cups in the lobby where they had fresh water from then on and NEVER used the glasses again during our stay. You might be surprised what you don't know about hotel room cleanliness.
[Photo: Zoomed View from our Caribe Hilton Hotel Room.]
We had a room with a view over looking a huge roof, but I took some nice photos as we could see the ocean, but it wasn't all pretty.
The staff at the Caribe Hilton was very helpful and I had to use a computer to conduct some business while I was there and they were very accommodating. I also appreciate that the hotel manager, Nitzamarie Escalera, is very pro-active on TripAdvisor reviews of the hotel, which I find very impressive.
We took a guided tour of Old San Juan one evening and then went into the city on a Saturday and walked the streets and shopped at our own pace. I highly suggest you head into town for dinner as you'll really get a flavor for the Puerto Rico cuisine and the hotel restaurant is very expensive, unless you dine on burgers & fries for a few meals like the boys and I did. You can save a lot on breakfast and dinner if you walk to the Subway shop about 1/2 block from the hotel. This little maneuver will save you $20 per day per person easy, maybe even more.
[Photo: La Coco Falls enroute to El Yunque Rainforest.]
We also booked several excursions through the hotel concierge including a day tour the El Yunque Rainforest and a snorkeling excursion to the Culebra. Both are must do's while you're in Puerto Rico. We didn’t get to go to the Bio Bay but this is a very unique experience to the area and wish I'd known more about it before I went as I wouldn't have missed it. Other missed opportunity was the island of Vieques.
[Photo: Off the Shore of Culebra - Great Snorkeling.]
Now for the part that breaks my heart to say as a fan of the Hilton brand of hotels. The Caribe Hilton San Juan is not what I expected from the Hilton chain and for one that's rated as a four-star hotel and I have to say this hotel was a three-star experience overall. Maybe I had high expectations because I trust the Hilton brand worldwide, but this hotel just did not live up to the Hilton reputation I've come to know. It's difficult to put it into words as to why, but I think that it has to do with the upkeep of the maintenance of the exterior of the hotel's buildings. The exterior is a big part of the hotel experience when the view from your room includes it.
The hotel food, drinks, and amenities were outrageously expensive and had prices like a four-star resort. We enjoyed our trip to San Juan and overall, we enjoyed our stay, but I'd be very disappointed if I had paid the going rate for this hotel on a vacation (instead of being a guest of a friend where my hotel stay was complimentary). I will hopefully go back to Puerto Rico, but I regret to say that I will probably not be staying at the Caribe Hilton.
Update: I have heard that the Caribe Hilton has recently renovated their guest rooms. Check out more reviews before you make your final booking decision.
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