Loisse Herger's O:LV Embodies the New Puerto Rico

Loisse Herger's O:LV Embodies the New Puerto Rico

The hotel mogul talks rebuilding and looking forward.

The hotel mogul talks rebuilding and looking forward.

In the past two years, Puerto Rico has related to the mythical Phoenix more than ever. 2017’s Hurricane Maria was very much the flame that set the bird afire. But in the wake of unthinkable damage, the island has risen from the ashes, seizing what they can of a very faint silver lining: with destruction comes the opportunity to start anew.

Loisse Herger and Fernando Davila, the founders of O:LV Fifty Five and O:live Hotel, know this process well. O:LV, which is a newer hotel than the latter, has become one of San Juan’s newest and most buzz-worthy establishments. Raya, the restaurant on the ground floor, has more or less become an absolute must-visit for culinary enthusiasts, and is more often than not packed with tourists and local food aficionados alike.

“The destruction created an opportunity for construction, for innovation, and for businesses to start afresh,” Herger says of the storm. But during Maria’s devastating visit to the island, it was hard to have as positive of an outlook on the island’s future. Herger and her team spent the storm caring for their 30 hotel guests at a time when acquiring food and water was a daily struggle.

“We had to be very creative. We played card games, watched old DVD’s…even my dogs became therapeutic for our guests. And alcohol, of course,” she explains.

One powerful change has come in the way that local business owners like Herger view the island’s agricultural resources. Increasingly, smaller farmers are coming to restaurants to offer their produce. And increasingly, these restaurants are excited to work with them.

“Nowadays, we see chefs not only supporting local agriculture, but also getting inspired by it,” she says.

This includes Mario Pagan, San Juan’s local celebrity chef who runs both Raya and Sage Italian Steak Loft at O:live.

“The storm, with its sustained winds of 160mph and gusts of up to 180mph, flattened the landscape, destroying almost all of the crops on the island,” he recalls. “I went back to my Puerto Rican roots, serving up day-to-day comfort food, from stewed goat to crackling porn rind white rice, or pumpkin beans, [maybe a] simple Guava Flan.”

Like Herger, Pagan is looking forward. “With the benefit of hindsight, now more than ever, I believe that we have to embrace our sustainable local growers and those on our neighboring islands in light of our geographic locations and the likelihood of stronger natural events in the future,” he says. “Today, almost 40% of our ingredients are locally sourced for all our restaurants. Our tourism is thriving more due to all the new culinary offerings opening at an incredible rate. There’s probably around eight to ten restaurants opening in San Juan every month.”

From the kitsch, jazzy rooftop at O:live or the sleek, more minimal city views at O:LV, it’s hard to tell that such a torrential storm ever hit Puerto Rico. But the two hotels embody the island’s new spirit, which means taken advantage of an opportunity to get back in touch with local roots.

O:live Boutique Hotel

UP NEXT

Why This Ukrainian Milliner Is a Celebrity Favorite