During my recent trip to Puerto Rico I had the pleasure of spending three nights at the Caribe Hilton, a seaside tropical oasis near Condado in San Juan.
Now I know the description “tropical oasis” is used quite often—to describe everything from a beach to a palm-filled rooftop bar—but in this particular case, I truly mean it.
The Caribe Hilton property is home to several oceanfront pools, including a swim-up bar, as well as a hammock garden, bird sanctuary and private beach. Set on acres and acres of oceanfront property dotted with palm trees, the Caribe Hilton offers an outdoor tropical playground for families and solo travelers (me!) alike.
It actually just recently reopened last year after a $150 million restoration following Hurricane Maria, and the result is as beautiful as ever.
The hotel now holds a particularly special place in my heart as this was my first-ever solo trip. I spent the first couple of nights in San Juan alone, and despite the hesitations I felt about traveling solo, this hotel made me feel right at home.
Honestly, I could’ve spent another week working from the balcony in my room, overlooking the sea-soaked edges of the island.
Why stay in this area of San Juan?
When deciding where to stay in a new destination I’ve never visited, I always focus on location first. I look for central neighborhoods that are either close to the attractions I plan on visiting or have easy access to public transportation.
I found that the Caribe Hilton was located smack in the middle of everything I wanted to see: It’s based on a peninsula across from Condado, San Juan’s popular beach resort neighborhood, and a 10-minute car ride from historic Old San Juan.
On the one hand, I could walk over a pedestrian bridge and be among shops and restaurants in Condado, and on the other I could take a quick Uber ride into Old San Juan. The Caribe Hilton is also walking distance to El Escambrón beach, one of the nicest beaches in urban San Juan.
Why choose Caribe Hilton?
Aside from its optimal location, the Caribe Hilton is essentially the kind of hotel that makes it hard to leave. I’d wake up each morning to golden sunlight pouring in through the balcony, only to find the Hilton’s glistening pools and private beach beckoning below.
The property couldn’t be more picturesque, and I spent each morning wandering barefoot through its sandy hammock gardens and taking in the first light of the day from its oceanfront lounge chairs.
The Caribe Hilton is also equipped with basically everything one would ever need on vacation, including several restaurants, three tennis courts, a secluded beach, a spa, a Starbucks, a glass-walled lounge and bar with ocean views, and a tour desk to book island excursions. With so much to offer under one roof, I find it’s an ideal situation for big groups of friends and families especially.
My room was a king suite with an ocean view balcony—and the latter really was the cherry on top of my stay. There are few things that make me happier on vacation than a hotel room with a view! The room itself was spacious and clean, with a big bathroom and an excellent shower.
check availability now: CARIBE HILTON ON BOOKING.COM
How to get to the hotel from the airport?
It’s an easy 20- to 30-minute drive from San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport to the Caribe Hilton. Note that Ubers aren’t allowed to pick passengers up at the airport (though they’re allowed to drop them off). Outside arrivals, I found a taxi stand that took down my information and connected me with a cab driver right away. The trip cost me $25.
What to do near Caribe Hilton?
San Juan is Puerto Rico’s vibrant capital and largest city. It’s a great destination for solo travel, a girls trip or a romantic couples’ getaway.
It’s home to Old San Juan, a historic neighborhood that offers a glimpse into Puerto Rico’s past and present, as well as a beautiful representation of its culture through lively bars and restaurants serving drool-worthy national dishes like mofongo.
The city is also home to a number of beaches, all of which offer their own versions of tropical paradise, just minutes away from one another.
Wander the colorful streets of Old San Juan
There are few places I’ve visited that I’ll always remember for how colorful they were: Cartagena in Colombia, Cinque Terre in Italy and now Old San Juan in Puerto Rico. It was difficult for me to put my camera away while wandering around the sunny streets of San Juan’s historic center—every single flowered walkway and bright green door begged for my camera’s attention. I had the best time creating beautiful photos with my friend and fellow blogger Edana of Wanderstylust!
Go snorkeling at Escambron Beach
While I didn’t get the chance to snorkel at Escambron, which sits just a few minutes away from the Caribe Hilton, I’ve heard the beach is one of the best in San Juan for the activity. There are a couple of snorkel and scuba diving shops conveniently located near the beach.
Dine out in Condado
Condado is a walkable neighborhood home to oceanside resorts, a long stretch of sandy beach and tons of restaurants. It felt a lot like walking through Miami Beach; sidewalks were lined with chic boutiques and outdoor restaurants boasting international cuisines as well as Puerto Rico’s traditional dishes. Condado Beach seems like it stretches on for miles, with a very Miami-like backdrop of low-rise buildings and hotels.
Enjoy the Hilton’s private beach
On the Hilton property I found a decently sized secluded beach offering sun beds and umbrellas for hotel guests. The beach is quite calm, almost lagoon-like, thanks to a bed of rocks that seclude the bay from crashing waves.
Beaches To Visit Nearby: The Best Beaches in San Juan
I took a day to explore nearby beaches on my second day in San Juan. My personal favorite was Playa Escambron, though I also checked out Condado and Ocean Park.
Considered one of the best beaches in San Juan, Escambron is a palm tree-lined beach with soft, white sand and plenty of shade. It’s the most picturesque beach I visited, and an added bonus is that people can also snorkel and scuba dive here.
If you’re a fan of Miami, you’ll be a fan of Condado Beach. It’s a long stretch of sand lined with trendy hotels, restaurants and boutiques.
Isla Verde Beach
Isla Verde is a tourist hotspot as it’s surrounded by beachside resorts. It’s also a mecca for watersports and dining, making it an ideal spot for vacationers.
Ocean Park Beach
Ocean Park Beach’s laid back vibe attracts both tourists and locals, though it tends to be less crowded than Condado and Isla Verde beaches. There are restaurants nearby, making it easy to grab lunch when spending the day here. Unfortunately the beach was extremely windy when I went, to the point that I had to leave!
Pinones Beach is described as more natural and wild than the other beaches on this list. I wish I had the time to make it here as it sounds like an untouched escape from the surrounding city, though it may not be the best for swimming. It’s a mainly local spot, and the surrounding area is known for its fried street food kiosks and fantastic seafood.
Where to eat in San Juan?
Puerto Rican cuisine is the kind of home-cooked food I expect to find at my grandmother’s house. It’s warm, soothing and filling—and usually served on a massive plate. Below are some of my favorite restaurants I dined at during my stay at Caribe Hilton.
Jose Enrique Puerto Rican Restaurant ($$$)
Chef Jose Enrique consistently delivers solid renditions of local dishes at his namesake restaurant, which may just be the most famous restaurant in San Juan. Be prepared to wait, or call ahead to see if they take reservations. Online it says they don’t but when I arrived, the hostess asked me if I had one. Since the wait was too long, I chose to dine at La Cueva Del Mar instead.
La Cueva Del Mar ($$)
A lively Caribbean restaurant known for their seafood and fish tacos. The sangria was delicious, too! Expect a wait on weekends.
A traditional Puerto Rican bakery located in a residential neighborhood near Ocean Park Beach. The pastries are endless and the coffee on point—I ordered the famous Puerto Rican mallorca bread, which came stuffed with an overwhelming dose of ham and cheese. I wish I had someone to share it with!
I’d eat breakfast at Caficultura every day if I could. The coconut coffee is to die for, and brunch here was incredible. Everything from the food to the vibe makes it such a lovely dining spot. We ordered the avocado toast and French toast, and both topped my expectations, especially since I don’t commonly go for the avocado toast.
El Jibarito ($)
For a traditional Puerto Rican meal of mofongo (mashed plantains) and garlicky chicken, head to El Jibarito—which sits far enough away from Old San Juan’s cruise ships to feel quite local.
And that’s that! I hope you enjoyed learning about where to stay in San Juan and everything that the Caribe Hilton has to offer. If you have any questions about visiting San Juan, please don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments below.
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