Six Days of Culinary Adventures in Puerto Rico
Discover what makes Puerto Rico one of the Caribbean's premier culinary destinations.
Food is an integral part of Puerto Rican identity. It's the centerpiece of most celebrations, it brings family and friends together, and is the ultimate expression of love. Traditional criollo cuisine reflects the island's cultural and historical heritage, and as the modern culinary scene evolves, it also reflects the changes in modern Puerto Rican society. With this itinerary, you'll use food and drinks as a road map to explore the island.
Day 1: Old San Juan Food Tour and Bar Hop
One of the best ways to get a crash course on Puerto Rican cuisine and explore Old San Juan at the same time is to take a food tour. A local guide takes you on a walk around the old city, stopping at different coffee shops, restaurants, and stores to sample local dishes while also visiting key landmarks and covering the history and culture around them. Tour companies, including Flavors of San Juan, The Spoon Experience, and Get Shopped, offer morning and afternoon tours as well as evening cocktail tours. Be sure to ask the tour guide for recommendations of where to go after, they usually have great tips!
If you're still hungry, enjoy dinner at one of Old San Juan's gorgeous restaurants, offering both wonderful food and great ambiance. Princesa Gastrobar on Paseo de la Princesa is great for large groups. Bari Handcrafted Pizza's dining room is a picturesque courtyard where they serve Argentinean-style pizzas as well as mofongo and other Puerto Rican dishes. For a truly unique and delicious culinary experience visit Verde Mesa, a creative farm-to-table restaurant. For live jazz and fine dining, reserve a table at Carli's Fine Bistro and Piano.
After dinner, explore Old San Juan's bar scene. Local favorites include La Factoría (once again voted one of the top 50 bars in the world), La Cubanita, The Mezzanine and Al Fresco Wine Bar (occupying the second and third stories of the same building), La Taberna Lúpulo which offers the largest selection of craft beer in the Caribbean (including several local microbrews), or go bar hopping along Calle San Sebastián where you'll find many interesting dive bars with great deals and even better music.
Day 2: Santurce Art and Food Crawl
Start your day at Kudough's Donuts and Coffee Bar on Calle Cerra where donut flavors include Guava and Cheese, Tres Leches, Chocolate Pistachio, and Bacon (there are also vegan donuts), or go for one of their heartier breakfast options like the Egg Dough Foccacia or French toast. If it's the weekend, you may want to opt for nearby Musa or Latidos, sit down restaurants offering creative brunch plates and cocktails. On certain Sundays, Latidos also hosts live bands and even a popular drag brunch.
After breakfast, take a stroll along the blocks surrounding Calle Cerra and enjoy the many impressive murals created by both local and international artists as part of the yearly urban art festival Santurce es Ley. From there it's a 10-minute walk to the Museo de Arte y Diseño de Miramar (MADMi), just look for the large pink house. The interactive exhibits focus on contemporary art and design, the decorative arts, and modern Caribbean architecture.
Across the street is La Hacienda Meat Center where you can browse the selection of fine foods (especially good if you're planning to cook) or enjoy an expertly prepared latte from the in-store Hacienda San Pedro coffee kiosk. They also offer a daily lunch menu, salads, prepared foods to go, desserts, and wines by the bottle or by the glass that you can sip on the terrace.
If you decide to stay in Miramar and you're looking for great dining, there's a fantastic selection of restaurants all within a few blocks of each other on Ponce De Leon Avenue including Rare 125, Melanzana, Pizza e Birra, Puebla, Jamón Jamón, Innato, Cocina Al Fondo, Pure, Gustos Café, and Comedor and Ariel Restaurant, both in the Courtyard by Mariott hotel. If you're having a late lunch or an early dinner, afterwards you can catch a movie at Fine Arts Cinema or a concert at the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico.
Once the sun goes down, head over to La Placita de Santurce, a hub of restaurants, bars, and clubs where locals and tourists come to eat, drink, and dance. Choose from local restaurants serving traditional cuisine such as Chicharrón or La Tasca del Pescador, international cuisine like Thai food at Mai Pen Rai or American barbecue at San Juan Smokehouse, or Puerto Rican and Cuban-inspired fine dining at restaurants like Santaella or Asere Cubano Kitchen, both of which also have great cocktail bars. There are several parking lots available around La Placita but taking an Uber tends to be the easiest option.
Day 3: Coastal Road Trip - Piñones to La Croabas
Head out of the metro area for a road trip along the northeastern coast of Puerto Rico, where you'll enjoy fried food, beaches, and many worthwhile detours.
Start in the Piñones neighborhood of the town of Loíza, where you'll find several miles of open-air restaurants serving local fritters known as frituras, fresh fruit frappe stands, and a handful of beachfront seafood restaurants. Try the alcapurrias, empanadillas (also known as pastelillos), and arepas which can be stuffed with ground beef, chicken, fish, or seafood. Save room for bacalaítos, a fried codfish dough, and piononos, ground beef wrapped in sweet plantain.
Continue on your journey to the town of Luquillo. On the way, you can take a detour to El Yunque rainforest for photos at the Yokahú Tower and La Coca Waterfall or plan a hike. Otherwise, continue down the highway to the Luquillo Kiosks, conveniently located next to one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, Balneario La Monserrate (also known as Luquillo Beach). Many of the kiosks serve frituras and some Puerto Rican food, but there's also a wide variety of restaurants. Need a break from eating and drinking? Book an ATV or horseback riding tour at nearby Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park.
From Luquillo head to neighboring Fajardo, where you can visit Seven Seas beach or go straight to the third stop on the food road trip: La Croabas. Since this is a fishing community, the frituras will be more seafood-centric. Arepas stuffed with stewed crab meat or octopus are a specialty. Las Croabas is also where kayak tours for the bioluminescent bay depart. Once the sun sets, groups kayak into the mangroves leading to the Laguna Grande, where the water glows in the dark.
Day 4: Guavate
One of the most iconic food destinations in Puerto Rico is Guavate in the town of Cayey, also known as the "Pork Highway." Every weekend, hundreds of visitors come to enjoy traditional food, live music, and dancing along Route 184. The area is famous for its lechoneras, open-air, cafeteria-style restaurants serving slow-roasted whole pork, heaping portions of rice and pigeon peas, yuca al mojo, mofongo, and other traditional Puerto Rican dishes.
To make the most of your day in Guavate arrive before noon, especially on weekends because in the afternoon traffic becomes gridlocked. The first lechonera once you get off the highway is Lechonera Los Amigos and next door is Café Prieto, a charming coffee shop with a roofed terrace overlooking a stream. Head up the mountain and you'll immediate come across many other lechoneras like El Mojito, Doctor Lechón, El Rancho Original, Lechonera Los Pinos, El Rancho Nuevo, and more. After your meal, you can get in on the dancing if there's a live band or take a walk around the roadside stands to see if any souvenirs catch your eye.
Day 5: Visit a Coffee Hacienda
If you love coffee, don't miss the opportunity to visit a working coffee hacienda in the mountains of Puerto Rico. Picking the right one for your trip really depends on how far into the Cordillera Central you're willing to drive.
The hacienda closest to the metro area and most easily accessible is Hacienda Muñoz in San Lorenzo. You can take a walking tour of the plantation and learn about coffee production in Puerto Rico. Sample some fresh coffee at the coffee shop or enjoy a traditional Puerto Rican lunch at Yiya's Restaurant, both on-site. Deeper in the mountains you'll find historic Hacienda Lealtad in Lares; the popular Hacienda San Pedro and Café Tres Picachos, both in Jayuya; Hacienda Tres Ángeles and Sandra Farms in Adjuntas, to name a few. If you're a history buff, then you'll want to book a tour at Hacienda Buena Vista in Ponce, operated by conservation nonprofit Para La Naturaleza. You'll be transported to the 19th century and learn about the unique relationship between land, water, and slavery. You can also visit the Museo del Café (Coffee Museum) in Ciales and sample their locally produced Café Don Pello.
Most of these will be full day excursions so check the Regions page to get an idea of restaurants and touristic attractions in the area, that way you'll get the most out of your trip.
Day 6: Visit a Rum Distillery
Discover Puerto Rican rum at the source. There are several rum distilleries open to the public, the most famous ones are Casa Bacardí, where you'll learn about and sample the most popular rum in the world, and Hacienda Santa Ana, home of the iconic Ron del Barrilito.
At Casa Bacardí, you're greeted with a welcome drink in a souvenir glass at the Bat Bar Pavilion, where you can take in an impressive view of Old San Juan from the opposite side of the harbor. Choose from three different tours: The Historical Tour, Mixology Class, or Rum Tasting Tour. Enjoy interactive exhibits, spend time in tasting rooms preparing cocktails or sampling premium rums, then visit the gift shop, where you can fill your personalized bottle of Bacardí rum.
Hacienda Santa Ana in Bayamón has been making small-batch rum since 1880 but only recently opened to the public. Their tours consist of the Heritage Tour, where you learn about the history of Ron del Barrilito and their unique production method; the Mixology Tour, which includes a bartending class; and the Tasting Tour, where you can sample the full range of rums.