Friday, October 14, 2016

Guide to San Juan, Puerto Rico

Over the summer, I finally took a trip to the homeland, Puerto Rico to visit my family and to marvel over the spectacular island for the first time in five years. It’s hard to think that I hadn’t been back in so long- so as you can imagine, a few things had changed since my last visit. With its spectacular, pristine beaches, it’s flavorful cuisine, and charming people, la isla del encanto has so much to offer.

The Boricua mural in one of the many cobble stone streets of San Juan

Where to Stay
Upon planning your trip, it’s best to stay local, or in this case in San Juan. El Condado and Old San Juan are good and safe options where you can be close to the heart of it all. For beach lovers, I recommend staying in El Condado area where there are many beachfront hotels or hotels with beachfront access. For those wanting to explore more of the cultural part of Puerto Rico, I would recommend staying along the narrow streets of Old San Juan (but avoid the neighborhood La Perla).

Picture perfect beach view in the La Concha Resort

Puerto Rico is known for its flavorful cuisine and while it is not spicy (it’s not Mexican food!), they do add a lot of spices and ingredients so make sure you are aware of any food allergies. Here’s a list of places to munch on:

1. Breakfast: Pinky’s; This place is seriously so amazing. Start your day off right and get a sandwich loaded with eggs, cheese, bacon, you name it. Although it may not be the best way to maintain the beach body, it definitely satisfies your tummy after a long night of dancing salsa.
3.  Brunch: Blonda; Located on the same street as Pinky in El Condado, this place has a complete, solid brunch with amazing tropical mimosa flavors- I’m talking flavors like coconut, mango, guava…like them all? No worries, you can get a sampler where they give you five mini ones…this makes my heart really happy.

Mimosa Sampler? Um yes


4. Snack/Breakfast: If you regret eating Pinky’s or need a break from all the hearty puerto rican, food these fresh juicer offers healthy selections such as eggs white omelet, acai bowls, and fresh pressed juice.
5. Dinner/Lunch: Racies; For real, authentic, Puerto Rican food, I highly recommend this place. Their waiters are dressed in the typical criollan attire and the food, although it seems a little touristy, is actually really good and flavorful. Order the arroz con habichuela with a shrimp stuffed monfongo- you’re going to love it!

6. Dinner/Lunch: Cocina Abierta; this restaurant is has a modern take on Puerto Rican food that will pleasantly alert your taste buds. Less traditional than your typical puerto rican cafeteria or restaurant like Raices, you’ll find the same ingredients used in the Puerto Rican cuisine like plantains, rice, seafood, and tropical fruits but with a delicious twist.

Typical Puerto Rican Food
Fried goodies: Alcapurrias, Fried Cod, Surruitos de Maiz, Empanadas Rellenos

Arroz con Habichuelas: Gente de Zona and Marc Anthony weren’t kidding when they say Puerto Rico gave me arroz con habichuela. Puerto Rican food wouldn’t be Puerto Rican food without its arroz con habichuela as side dishes to every meal. Usually it’s plain white rice and red beans with spices and pumpkin, garlic, and pieces of country ham.

Tostones with Adobo o Mayo-Ketchup: Essentially plantains smashed into a thin, medallion-like shape and fried. Best accompanied with a little bit of Adobo and/or mayo-ketchup (mix of mayo and ketchup).

Mofongo: Smashed plantains but unlike the tostones, they are not fried but instead pressed into a cup-like form. They can be eaten alone or stuffed with seafood, meat, or veggies.

Piña Colada: The original piña colada originated here in the Caribe Hilton by a local bartender so trying the drink is definitely recommended!

Pastelón de Amarillos: This is one of my favorite dishes- it is essentially the puerto rican version of a lasagna but instead of pasta, they serve it with sweet plantains, which is different than regular plantains, ground beef, and topped of with cheese at the top- delicious!

Picadillo: This is also a cuban dish but also adopted into Puerto Rican cuisine. It’s essentially ground beef if a whole bunch of finely chopped peppers and onions, olives, and raisins- goes great with plain white rice and tostones.

Lechón Asado: Normally eaten during the Christmas Holidays, this meal is prepared with the entire pig and slow roasted for tenderness and juicy perfection.

Flan de Queso: Custard-like cake that is a little less dense than cheesecake. A classic criollan dessert!

Pastelitos de Guava: Little puff pastries stuffed with guava paste topped off with powdered sugar.

Tres Leche: Known as three milks, this super rich cake consists of condensed milk, evaporated milk, and regular whole milk- one of my personal favorites!

Quenepas: if you see people out on the beach selling these green, rounded fruit- be sure to try it out! They are sweet tropical fruits that you take a bite on and suck on the seed till you get most of the fruit out. It’s a perfect beach snack!

Have you been to Puerto Rican? Do you have any personal favorite places? 

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