Since moving to San Juan, Puerto Rico, I have gotten a ton of messages and emails asking what to do, see, and definitely where to EAT. So I thought I would write it out for you in a Puerto Rico Travel Guide blog post. I love that so many of you are coming to visit from all over the world, because we love it here! I’ll keep adding as I find new things! Let me know if there is anything I have missed.
Places to Eat in San Juan:
The food is SO GOOD in Puerto Rico! Coming from San Francisco, a very diverse foodie city, my boyfriend and I were slightly concerned we wouldn’t have access to the same types of food here. But not only have we embraced local food (the seafood is amazzzzing) but they pretty much have every genre you could want. They even have a Korean BBQ restaurant and a place that just serves mac n cheese and a new bagel place I need to try!
Puerto Rican foods that are my favorite:
- Alcapurria: Fried yucca stuffed with deliciousness. Naturally gluten free too if you’re into that!
- Arepas: Fried cornmeal pocket, stuffed with awesomeness. My favorite is fresh ceviche!
- Tostones: Fried plantains, dip them in ketchup mayo!
- Whole fried fish (notice a trend?)
- Mofongo: Mashed plantains topped with tastiness
- Piña Coladas: Invented in PR!! And sooo good.
- Don Q: Local rum, perfect in a piña coladas or Cuba libre!
- Pinchos: Grilled skewers of meat
- Coffee! The local bagged coffee is amazing. Grab a few bags at the nearest Supermax to take home with you
- Carne Frita: Fried pork chucks (sorry kosher peeps)
- Warm Water Lobster: Sorry again kosher peeps
- Mamposteao- sort of like rice and beans meets risotto texture.
- Ropa Vieja – braised shredded beef
One of our favorite restaurants is
Coctelera on the hip Calle Loiza Update: Coctelera is closed, sadly! But Calle Loiza has tons of delicious restaurants. Other notable places on Loiza are Sabrina for modern food and cocktails, La Cueva del Mar (a small but amazing chain, I love their fish tacos), Shibo for sushi (we love their shifudo platter and they have a full vegan menu too if that’s your thing), Bottega and chic bistro or Azucena for modern Puerto Rican food. Also stop by Gemillio Speakeasy in the back of a bodega for a legit wine and liquor selection. And say hi to owner Ray! Coctelera has a friendly and knowledgable staff, the best cocktails (I love the Monkey See Monkey Do that comes with plantain chips) and delicious creative food. Their Sunday taco specials are just the best! Think pastrami spiced brisket topped with tzatziki pictured below.
Another favorite is Santaella. Their goat cheese quesadilla is unreal, and the cocktails (like my Spicy Paloma on the left below with a tahini salt rim) are so great too. Right by La Placita, it’s a must! After dinner, stop by Mijani for live music and Jell-o shots.
La Placita is one of my favorite places to go out. An area of open-air bars and restaurants perfect for dancing and noshing. While you are there, you must stop by the famed
Jose Enrique and get the whole fish! Update: Jose Enrique moved to Ave Ashford. It’s not as unique, but still good food. Mai Pen Rai is another good spot for legit Thai food by La Placita. By day, there is a farmer’s market and some open restaurants too but much less of a scene. And speaking of Avenida Ashford, it has a lot of touristy spots, but one restaurant we especially like is Paulina Escanes. Their tacos are legit, cocktails are inventive, and I love their use of local ingredients.
Lote 23 (below) is a food kiosko park in Santurce with lots of great vendors, a full bar, and free yoga on Sundays! Other spots we like in San Juan on Ashford are Oceano for beachfront dining and tasty food and Mandarin House if you are craving Chinese (They do a very good Peking duck!)
This wasn’t part of my initial post, but we went to Marmalade for Valentine’s Day and it was the best meal we’ve had since moving to Puerto Rico. Innovative tasting menus like the below Millionaire’s Halibut. The truffle soup is a must and the harissa tartare inspiring! It’s a treat, but go!
And Gallo Negro is James Beard-nominated with a unique menu ranging from Korean Fried Chicken to Halal Guys Fries to Caeser Brussels! Below is the Duck Bimbimbop. Update: Gallo Negro is closed!
Another place we love for a treat is Meat Market at the El San Juan hotel. The steak tartare is amazing, and variety of butters inspiring!
Places to Eat Not in San Juan:
If you find yourself in the suburb of Guaynabo, there are some great restaurants too. We loved Mida Cafe– an authentic Italian cafe (one of the owners moved from Italy to PR for love). We went for their truffle fest (below) and were blown away! The burrata and homemade pasta was also unreal.
Another Guaynabo must is Wilo Eatery and Bar. Everything we had from carpaccio to the creme brulee for dessert was amazing,
Places to Stay in San Juan:
- Serafina Hotel– pictured on the second row below. Stunning new modern hotel with amazing beach views. Their infinity pool was made for Instagram photos!
- AC Hotel– pictured below right. Great rooftop pool, nice rooms, free yoga! On the left is the nearby Concha restaurant. Above average food eaten in a huge shell!
- Condado Vanderbilt- Stunning hotel! I just ate at the restaurant and my boyfriend had his work holiday party here but definitely a swanky spot.
- Airbnb- lots of great options around San Juan! I recommend staying in Condado or Old San Juan. Ocean Park is great if you have a large crowd and want a house.
- El San Juan Hotel in Isla Verde just reopened and is also a great choice (below). They are a little more isolated, but have two huge pools, a swim-up bar, beach access, and lots of activities (like bands and beer pong) right on the premises. And the aforementioned Meat Market is delicious!
Things to Do in San Juan:
I LOVE Old San Juan. Cute cobblestone streets, lots of character and history. During the day, walk around and explore. At night, check out La Factoria, ranked one of the best bars in the WORLD! Each room has different music and a different vibe, and they have great food and cocktails too.
A surprise hit was the restaurant Carthage Express. Your food (we had a delicious gyro) is delivered by train, and you can get your face on a coffee! What more could you want??
You also must stop by the umbrellas on Fortaleza Street for the gram!
Day Trips from San Juan:
We have just started to explore, but here are some places we love.
Pinoñes is only a 15-minute drive from San Juan (you could uber too) but feels like a world away! Cute, colorful kioskos selling AMAZING food on the beach. Get ceviche, alcapurria, some pinchos, and whatever is fresh off the fryer! And don’t forget a piña colada. We enjoyed The New Reef Bar for the best views. Fun fact, Marc Anthony is from Piñones!
Fajardo is an hour trip east of San Juan and is great for less touristy beaches and more amazing kiosko food.
If you find yourself in Dorado, stop by the Ritz Carlton Dorado Beach for lunch and a fancy afternoon!
Vieques deserves its own post. I wrote about it here in my Vieques Travel Guide!
Ricon also deserves its own post. I wrote a Rincon Travel Guide here!
If you have more time, head to Salinas for a Caribbean view and fresh seafood right on the water! The hour drive from San Juan through the mountains is gorgeous in itself, and once you arrive, a fun day trip! We went to Salinas Marina but plan to go explore more.