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Puerto Rico Travel Guide

This Caribbean Island Should Be on Every Foodie’s Bucket List

The diverse and promising culinary scene in Puerto Rico has visitors flocking there.

Everyone seems to be talking about Puerto Rico, and for good reason.

When asked for Caribbean recommendations, I often find myself saying that Puerto Rico is the perfect place to start. With no passport needed for American citizens and no currency exchange, plus the increasingly affordable direct flights from all over the country, it’s no wonder people seem to be flocking to this island. And instead of sticking to the main hub of San Juan, tourists are starting to explore the country like never before. That’s because while the culinary scene in Puerto Rico honors traditional cuisine, young chefs are getting creative and entrepreneurial. Restaurants across the island range from high-end fine dining to hole-in-the-wall.

Puerto Rican cuisine is heavily influenced by Spanish, African, and Caribbean food, along with the cuisine of the Taino Indigenous people of the island. The focus here is mainly on meats and seafood, with beef and pork being the main stars of many traditional dishes. You’ll find meats that are well done and marinated overnight in a Puerto Rican dry rub commonly known as adobo. This makes the perfect melt-in-your-mouth pulled meats that are found in stuffed dishes like empanadillas (flaky pastries stuffed with meat) and pasteles (adobo pork wrapped in plantain masa and green banana leaves).

The food on the island is filling and slightly sleep-inducing, bringing a warm sense of comfort and contentment after finishing each meal. The seafood is fresh, with normal catches being red snapper, shrimp, octopus, mahi-mahi, tarpon, and much more. Dishes like bacalaitos (fried cod fritters) or mofongo (fried plantain mashed with garlic, salt, and oil and stuffed with shrimp or chicken) highlight the seafood native to the island’s waters.

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My main priority while traveling has always been food. San Juan has a particularly diverse range of things to eat, especially for anyone with food allergies or restrictions. Everything you can eat or drink in Puerto Rico can be traced back to the island in some way. Here’s how to eat your way across the city of San Juan like a professional.

The Best Food Tours

There are many tours of San Juan to do while on vacation, with the best two for food and alcohol being the Old San Juan Walk and Taste tour and the Casa Bacardi tours. Spoon’s Old San Juan Walk and Taste Tour is perfect for people on cruises or vacationers looking for a great city food tour. The tour guides feel like encyclopedias of information on Puerto Rican food and history. The tour allows you to try a lot of traditional meals from the island while simultaneously learning about the city and the food’s rich history.

Condado Vanderbilt

For a refined meal (or stay), The Condado Vanderbilt Resort offers pure luxury. The amenities, traditional architecture, interior design, and the beach views alone make this hotel feel like Old Puerto Rico, but the Michelin-starred restaurant, 1919, is the star of this resort. The paired four-course meal is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that everyone should try. Chef Juan José Cuevas focuses on sustainable local ingredients to make powerful dishes that are fresh and bursting with flavor, with some of my favorite dishes being the tuna-scallop crudo and the cured Ora King salmon. This is the type of restaurant for special moments in life and will help the memory of those moments stay with you for years to come.

Where to Sip Cocktails

In San Juan’s Condado neighborhood, the Condado Hotel Collection takes pride in showing a range of Puerto Rican culture. In the lobby of the lively La Concha Renaissance San Juan Resort, you can taste espresso martinis that use coffee beans from Cuela Coffee, a company that works with coffee growers and roasters all over the island, and the hotel can even set up a tour of the coffee plantation during your stay. This hotel has many restaurants with excellent àla carte menus and four to six-course meals. The stunning view of the beach is the perfect setting for day or night dining.

Casa Bacardi is always a popular tourist destination for visitors, and a tour is very much worth it. Learning about the history of rum and the Bacardi family on the island is a fun half-day getaway from the bustling streets of Old San Juan. The house is not too far from the main attractions, but the greenery and serenity of the house make it a peaceful escape with strong cocktails that you can learn how to make yourself on the mixology tour. 

Where to Stay

If the lively yet serene experience of Casa Bacardi sounds fun, the Condado Ocean Club is great match as a place to stay. The adults-only hotel is modern, with many types of restaurants on site. The SANDBOX is the newest addition to the collection, a bar with great tapas such as mini empanadas or crispy bacalaitos, refreshing cocktails, and views of the ocean. Their restaurant, SOCIAL, serves meals all day, with excellent dining options such as Chilean sea bass with porcini risotto and beurre blanc sauce, or airline chicken breast with yuca mash and a chorizo cream sauce.

The food alone is worth the visit to Puerto Rico, but the culture, beaches, welcoming weather, and warm people make this island a simple escape or long-term holiday. In San Juan, you can discover the fantastic food and beverage scene that’s making Puerto Rico the best culinary destination in the US. 

lp1076 November 17, 2023

The food tour you mentioned is decidedly NOT the best food tour on the island. The number one ranked food tour is Flavors Food Tours in San Juan. It is the best ranked on Tripadvisor, Google Business, Yelp, Airbnb and everywhere else. Also, Flavors Food Tours was founded in 2009 and is the original food tour of Puerto Rico.