- Puerto Rico
What better way to explore Puerto Rican culture than through its enticing food traditions?
Known for its gorgeous beaches, rich history and vibrant cultural scene, Puerto Rico is the Caribbean island destination with too many flavors to pass up. Get adventurous with your taste buds. Set off in search of an authentic taste of Puerto Rican delicacies and flavors on a chinchorreo. This local tradition is a fun-loving bar and restaurant hop – think drinks, good food and maybe even some dancing thrown into the mix.
Guavate, The Pork Highway
Hidden in the mountains in the town of Cayey, discover the neighborhood of Guavate. This is the home of lechón – specialty pork roasted in a pit for six to eight hours. Only 48 kilometers from San Juan, this little foodie town’s main road is lined with lechoneras (roast pork restaurants and cafes) offering the delicacy in a casual indoor/outdoor atmosphere. Things tend to get exceptionally festive on the weekends, so get an early start. Three favorite restaurants include El Nuevo Rancho, Los Pinos and El Mojito. For something extra special, try the pasteles (close relative to the tamale) stuffed with moist shredded pork, squash and plantains. Wash it all down with an icy glass of Medalla, Puerto Rico’s signature light lager.
A plate of freshly roasted lechón and traditional sides from a restaurant on The Pork Highway
Ruta de la Longaniza
Traverse winding roads (PR-155 and PR-156) from Morovis to Orocovis in pursuit of Puerto Rico’s famed savory sausage. Longaniza (originally brought over by Spaniards) is a pork and chicken sausage seasoned with herbs, then cooked over a wood-burning stove often accompanied by rice or other Puerto Rican dishes like frituras (fritters made of plantains, cassava or potato and stuffed with meat). The strategy is to not fill up in just one place; sample this local delicacy at a few spots to make your own food tour. Try traditional dishes at La Sombra and Cafetín Los Amigos. For a twist, drop by Ciclón Sports Bar & Grill for a juicy longaniza burger or La Terraza for a supreme pizza topped with the sausage, vegetables and fresh shrimp.
Traditional longaniza sausage paired with tostones (fried plantains), beans and rice
Kiosks at Luquillo
If you prefer eclectic food offerings versus a specific delicacy, then Luquillo is the place to be. Grab an authentic taste of Puerto Rico at more than 60 kiosks, food stalls and restaurants (vendors vary from skilled cooks to Culinary Institute of America trained chefs). Beach proximity, ample parking and restaurant variety make this a family-friendly stop if you have kids in tow. Dine with an ocean view on delicacies such as pinchos (pork skewers), empanadas (flaky pastry turnovers typically stuffed with meat), tostones (fried plantains), fried fish, lobster and more. Beyond delightful food discoveries, the main strip also offers plenty of cute shops to explore. If you’re in town the second or fourth Saturday morning of the month, check out the Farmers Market in the Center of Art and Culture. Make time to explore the gorgeous beaches, mangrove swamps and saltwater lagoons in this quaint seaside town on the Atlantic Ocean.
Street Food in Piñones
Take a detour you won’t forget to the small beach neighborhood of Piñones, 20 minutes east of San Juan in the town of Loíza. It’s the ultimate street food atmosphere with kiosks and restaurants offering tempting delights such as tripleta sandwiches (decadent combination of chicken, ham and beef topped with fried potato sticks), fried plantains and croquetas (fried crunchy bites stuffed with ham, chicken or seafood laced with bechamel sauce). Seafood lovers will appreciate Restaurante Andín, popular for its fresh fish catches. If you’re on the hunt for traditional Puerto Rican cuisine, don’t skip El Boricua – a fan favorite restaurant famous for their alcapurrias (beef or seafood stuffed fritters). Dos Palmas is another popular spot for traditional dishes like bacalaítos (fried cod fish fritters).
Ordering from a street food vendor in Piñones
Fly into Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico and rent a car to drive to any of these food trail destinations.