Two of them are in residence, along with two mute swans (the pretty ones), a Bantam Rooster, an astounding male turkey (and mate), and many other birds outside and three inside.
After you read this, you will wonder why 4 stars? The beach and pool areas are spectacular, the location is great, the view is lovely, there are two good places to eat, and the massages were excellent. And, of course, the bids. So, despite many issues, it was great, a good value since I got it for a modest number of points as a Diamond member. (By the way Diamond members, there is no Executive Lounge and the amenities consist of a truly lousy continental breakfast.) The place is more expensive than the Condado Hilton nearby probably because that has no private beach and is a large casino.
Watch out for check in during peak times. The hotel seems to be primarily a business convention place, with groups bussed in, and the Gold/Diamond check in line (the only one) can have 50 people in it. Apparently, it is also used for pre-cruise stays with busloads of older pre-cruise people in and out occasion. It can take a while to check in or out.
My room was small by current standards but acceptable except for the sliding bathroom door which seemed to move on its own (open or close) and did not offer more privacy than a shower stall.
Watch out for noise if it bothers you. Even numbered rooms in the main building face an incredibly noisy fan that runs most of the time - white noise, but it was annoying white noise. I would have opened the sliding door for fresh air, but there is no screen and the noise was too much to take, so lovely tropical breezes were wasted. My room (528) across from the elevator had a lot of elevator noise in the bathroom. It was generally drowned out by the fan outside in the bedroom, but the elevator noise became a real problem the few times the fan shut down.
The AC unit in my room had not been serviced in a long time and was spewing out mold. It seems they wait until they get a complaint, because the maintenance guy came prepared for a thorough cleaning.
The beach is great - the best I have seen for a hotel beach. Private, small, clean, and with sheltered swimming due to a breakwater. The palm trees are great, and the hammocks as good as they get. There are two very small scenic forts, one of which you can visit.
As for hotel food, there are only two places I recommend, Morton's (yes, the American Steak House chain) and Lemongrass, an indoor/outdoor place near the birds. Lemongrass has excellent food and service, and makes at least one very interesting and unique drink. Morton's food and service are as good as anywhere, but other than the bar it's décor is sadly lacking. The manager is exceptionally friendly and helpful, while the maître de was not either one, and the receptionist was more interested in the internet than in being helpful. Go for the happy hours specials at Morton's - the only moderately priced food and drinks in the hotel worth eating.
The Italian place is so overpriced, most people order the mediocre pizza. (They serve a truly bad continental breakfast there, so if your room says breakfast included, go to the other place and get a good buffet breakfast for $10 more.) The food in the Pina Colada was very poor - how do you ruin Puerto Rican deep fat fried chicken (no batter) - it was noisy and it was expensive - we should have walked out like the next couple. By the way, the PR chicken was great at the pool bar - not greasy at all since the skin cooked off, very moist and tasty.
For more food choices, walk to Condado and eat on the beach (less than a mile) or any of several chain restaurants (mostly higher end) or there is a Sizzler about 1/3 mile away. The place we found was a much better value!
The help/travel/concierge desk was especially helpful.
The location is now a little out of the way, since most hotels are on Condado and the Sheraton is at the convention center, each less than a mile away. The famous Normandie Hotel next door closed for the third or fourth time a couple of years ago, and is awaiting another renovation - it is not totally derelict, but really run down locked up. The rest of the nearby buildings are empty new condos and office buildings. But, the hotel is very convenient to Old San Juan - you could literally walk it if you want - which I recommend since walk is really nice and Old San Juan has been largely renovated and now serves not as a real place to live, but as apartments, some for rent, some not.
The woman at the Hertz counter was the worst representative of a car rental company I have seen in more than 35 years. She absolutely refused to take a reservation, saying something vague like I am not sure when we will have a car for you, even though I went to my room and found several could be reserved on line. She insisted we had to go across the street to a little hole in the wall rental - it must be owned by a close relative, since she was obviously directing business away from Hertz to him.
Avis at the Sheraton Convention Center about a mile away was a piece of work as well. Two guys ahead of me reserved a car on line and was not told of the large airport drop fee on line. The guy ahead of us reserved his car for drop off at the airport, but the car they had for him could not be dropped at the airport since it belongs to that franchise - they said he would be charged over $150 if he went and dropped it off there anyway. Avis charges quite a lot for road service. They equip their cars with something like EzPass, which is great except they don't tell you of the large daily fee you have to pay them whether or not you use it in addition to the tolls (budget $15-20 a day for the fee and tolls). And be careful about sand in the car - you could get hit with up to a $250 detailing fee for too much sand. After some really nasty scenes with the last two guys, the couple who own and operate the place where very nice to me. Be aware that charges for a car to be returned at the airport are MUCH higher in addition to the drop fee - the hotel franchise is undercutting prices of the airport franchise.
Don't get discouraged by all this - rent a car and drive to the Rain Forest (spectacular), Observatory (amazing) and maybe the caves. The back side (southern entrance) to the Rain Forest is a spectacular drive by itself - it has the same route number but you have to drive around because the road does not go through. Get lost on back roads along the way, and discover a different way of life - but drive very carefully on the narrow roads. The island is wet to the north, and almost a desert to the south, so it is very interesting.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Caribe Hilton, the ultimate beachfront hotel in San Juan, is set on an exclusive peninsula made up of 17 acres of lush tropical gardens. This Puerto Rico Hilton is ideally situated between historic old San Juan and the exciting Condado area, offering a secluded beach, lavish accommodations and amenities tailored to families, couples and business travelers alike. This San Juan hotel is just a 15-minute drive from Luis Munoz Marin Airport and the closest resort to Old San Juan area. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Caribe Hilton San Juan Hotel San Juan
- Hilton Hotel San Juan
- Hilton Hotel Caribe
- Hilton San Juan
- San Juan Caribe Hilton Hotel