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A Culinary Tour

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say San Juan is the food capital of the Caribbean. The city has an eclectic mix of Spanish, American and African influences. You can dine on everything from freshly caught fish served in a white-tablecloth setting to farm-to-table vegetables at hip cafés, and, of course, there are plenty of charming, abuela-run kitchens where you can experience Caribbean classics like garlicky shrimp and mashed plantains. In between meals, soak up the historic architecture and glistening coastline.

Day

1

MORNING
  • Fresh Start.

    The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan’s Mares dining room offers guava pancakes and views of the property’s carefully manicured tropical gardens. The kitchen runs a made-to-order omelet station and also takes its lattes very seriously.  

MIDDAY
  • Explore Old San Juan.

    Settled in 1521 by Spanish colonists, San Juan is one of the oldest European-established cities in all of the Americas. Wandering the cobblestone streets of the oldest district, you’ll pass the 16th century San Felipe del Morro, the cathedral of San Juan Bautista, and a bounty of other remnants from the city’s early days.

  • Travel Back in Time.

    An institution in the city, Café Manolin has been serving traditional Puerto Rican food to locals since the 1950s — and still has swivel chairs and U-shaped diner booths to prove it. Everything on the menu comes with a side of delicious tostones (twice-fried plantains).

AFTERNOON
  • Cool Off with Something Sweet.

    Señor Paleta turns local produce into refreshing sorbets, popsicles and snow cones, which locals line up for in droves. Go early to beat the crowds and order the tart strawberry-mojito or coconut popsicle, which has chunks of coconut meat frozen in.

  • People-Watch at the Local Market.

    In the heart of the city, Plaza del Mercado de Rio Piedras offers a colorful scene: crowds of locals congregate in the open market to browse produce stands overflowing with tropical fruit like oranges and guavas.  

  • Work Out with a World-Class Pro.

    The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan has two beachfront, outdoor hard-surface tennis courts, where you can book lessons with internationally recognized tennis pro Kamil Assad. He’s just as comfortable training with seasoned players as novices and can accommodate groups or private lessons.

EVENING
  • Savor an Old-Fashioned Cocktail.

    A wildly popular speakeasy that’s recognized by the World’s Best 50 Bars, La Factoría helped establish the cocktail culture in San Juan. Signature drinks like lavender mules and spiced old-fashioneds are made with fresh ingredients and served with warm, laid-back service.

  • Eat Fresh Caribbean-Style Fish.

    The rustic Verde Mesa caters to vegetarian and pescatarian diners, but the fish dishes, made with local catches like cobia and swordfish, are rich and delicious enough to please carnivores. The kitchen incorporates indigenous ingredients to help preserve the native diet.  

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Day

2

MORNING
  • Enjoy a Cup of Authentic Puerto Rican Coffee.

    Locals take great pride in their coffee, and Hacienda San Pedro is one of the city’s most respected shops. The family behind it has been in the coffee business for four generations, since the 1930s, and owns their own plantation.  

  • Sun, Surf, Sand.

    One of the city’s most beautiful public beaches, Balneario El Escambrón is shaded by towering palm trees and has plenty of lifeguards. It’s protected by coral reefs and filled with colorful fish, so bring a snorkel if you plan to swim.

MIDDAY
  • Admire the Work of Local Artists.

    Run by a local poet, The Poet’s Passage is a gallery space and hangout for many of the city’s most eclectic artists. Browse paintings and mosaics and pick up a handmade souvenir from the gift shop.

     

  • Go Global.

    Puerto Rico’s melting pot of African and Spanish influences is ever apparent on the menu at El Jibarito. The owner’s wife, Alda, cooks everything made to order. Don’t miss the traditional mofongo — red snapper served with mashed fried green plantains.

AFTERNOON
  • Take a Break for Some Chocolate.

    Head to Casa Cortés ChocoBar, a chocolate-themed restaurant offering luscious, savory-sweet snacks. The hot chocolate has reached legendary status: The rich drink is served with a chocolate bar and a slice of cheddar cheese, both meant to be dipped and melted in the hot chocolate.  

EVENING
  • A Memorable Three-Course Dinner.

    The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan’s BL3 Temptations offers a distinctive steakhouse experience with a three-course, prix-fixe menu that is adjusted to an individual’s preference for, say, crispy-skinned, locally caught snapper or a 6-ounce filet topped with crispy onions.

  • Sip a Piña Colada in its Birthplace.

    The beloved creamy, coconut-heavy cocktail was invented in Puerto Rico and the best one served in its capital can be found at Barrachina, the old-school, outdoor bar where many claim the drink was first served.