October 18, 2019

Solving a problem like Maria

The lush grounds of the iconic Caribe Hilton in San Juan.


When Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico in September 2017, the devastation resulted in thousands of lives lost and an infrastructure in ruins as communities struggled without power or running water. Emergency aid to this U.S. territory was slow in coming but Oxfam America stepped in to help, as did others. Among those who assisted with relief aid was Alex Cora, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is the manager of the 2018 world champion Boston Red Sox.
There are many reasons to visit the scenic island of Puerto Rico, including the opportunity to embark on a Caribbean cruise from the Spanish-founded port of San Juan. This vibrant city’s historic walled town – Old San Juan – contains one of the best-preserved fortresses in the Americas and its cobbled streets are lined with intriguing shops and restaurants.

When embarking on a cruise from San Juan, I always spend a few extra days there and my hotel of choice is often the Caribe Hilton. Situated at the edge of Old San Juan, on a peninsula with a secluded beach and lush gardens, this hotel resort opened in 1949 and was the first property operated by Hilton Hotels outside the continental U.S.

Famous guests at the hotel’s grand opening included Gloria Swanson and David Rockefeller, and the hotel became the setting for Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary. An early bartender is credited with inventing Puerto Rico’s official drink – the Pina Colada – when he served guests a new cocktail containing rum with coconut cream and pineapple juice.

On my most recent stay at the Caribe Hilton my drink of choice was champagne by the glass. While live salsa music pulsated through the open-air bar, my husband and I strolled outside to sip our drinks beneath the swaying palm trees that dot the manicured grounds.

Our mornings were spent visiting some of the city’s historic spots, including the massive El Morro fortress, and strolling along La Princesa – a waterfront promenade which winds past outdoor cafés and fountain-filled plazas. We would return to the hotel for relaxing afternoons spent poolside.

The hotel is completing a $100 million property-wide renovation and will reopen in time to celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2019. Its beach lost sand during Hurricane Maria but regained it a few months later during a storm tide.

As for Maria, the name has been retired from the rotating lists of the World Meteorological Organization due to the extensive damage and loss of life wreaked by this deadly storm. Maria will never again be used to name an Atlantic hurricane.

Anne Vipond About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.