Buck the conventional local beaches and jet off to the Caribe Hilton on the ‘Island of Enchantment’

by Dara Klatt

Sitting in back-to-back traffic on the Bay Bridge. Running into that co-worker baring his belly on the Bethany Beach Boardwalk. Not having fun at Funland. Perhaps it’s time to trade in the local beach vacation with the family and dash off to the palm trees and tropical breezes in Puerto Rico.Worlds away (with the same currency and cell phone service), the whole family can be oceanfront in no time. Offering an “iconic beachfront paradise in San Juan,” the Caribe Hilton is a luxury vacation spot set on 17 acres that offers fun and sun for everyone. We took in the sites, sampled the bites and sipped a few pin?a coladas while the kids perfected their cannonballs to give you the details you need to know for a posh, yet swim- diaper friendly get-away.

Caribe Hilton History:

Self-described as the “The Gem of the Caribbean since 1949,” the Caribe Hilton was the first international Hilton hotel. Since its inception, it has played host to a myriad of celebrities, politicians and royalty including Gloria Swanson, David Rockefeller, Elizabeth Taylor, and President Barack Obama. Call it a scene that is still serene if you will. Built next to the San Geronimo Fort located between the fashionable Condado neighborhood and historic Old San Juan, the property now includes nine restaurants, island-inspired rooms, a fitness center, on-site boutiques, a full- service spa and a multi-tiered oceanfront pool complex.

Post Hurricane makeover: In 2017, the hotel suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Maria and was forced to close for 15 months. A $150 million renovation brought modern facilities and refreshing brightness to the rooms and common areas, with the resort reimagined in a contemporary style but including vintage signage giving a nod to its past.With 652 rooms, it’s one of San Juan’s largest hotels, yet its singularity among its own peninsula make it feel more intimate, with a self-contained cove and a beach that feels private.

Claim to fame: The pin?a colada, the iconic official drink of Puerto Rico, was concocted at Caribe Hilton in 1954. Ramo?n “Monchito” Marrero created the rum, coconut and pineapple juice blended drink in 1954 while a bartender at the hotel.The hotel was presented with a proclamation in 2004 by Puerto Rico Governor Sila M. Caldero?n celebrating the drink’s 50th anniversary. Our sampled pin?a colada (Ok, there may have been a few) were smooth, frosty and the perfect breezy beverage poolside.

About the rooms: Spacious, with minimalist de?cor in tones of bright-white and seafoam, the rooms feature eye-catching balcony views of the Atlantic or the property’s lush tropical gardens. From our balcony, we had a panoramic view of the sea as well as the San Geronimo Fort and tennis courts that were opened in partnership with Puerto Rican Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig.

Fellow Guests: Creatures of comfort ranging from dads in color-blocked Fair Harbor swim trunks, teens in cheeky bikinis, toddlers bearing white zinc cheeks and honeymooners in casual resort wear. My 10-year- old son instantly made buddies while exploring the infinity pool and kids’ fountain pool. He even practiced his 3-pointers on the property’s basketball courts with a very patient 6 foot 4 NBA hopeful.

What to explore: The resort partners with Aqua Adventure for “sea trekking,” where you use a helmet for underwater walking and other experiences. Designed for guests age ten and up, where swimming skills are not required, we put on our specialized headgear with the help of a guide and explored hundreds of colorful fish right on the Caribe Hilton property in shallow waters. Feeling like an underwater astronaut, it was instantly a highlight of the trip for the kids!

Don’t miss: The ducks and resident peacock that shows off his tail feathers in the resort’s tropical gardens and bird sanctuary.

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