A Culinary Adventure in Old San Juan// Flavors of San Juan Food Tour
San Juan has become a new favorite destination of mine. While popular for its beautiful beaches, lush landscapes and historical sites, San Juan is also home to some of the most delicious cuisine in the Caribbean. As I've entered adult-hood and begun to expand my palette, I've become enamored with Caribbean food. The fresh, spicy and bold flavors keep me interested and coming back for more.
During my most recent visit to San Juan, taking a food tour was a top priority of mine. While there's no shortage of cafes cooking up cocina criolla (thanks Yelp!), I wanted to learn more about the history of San Juan while eating my way through this historic city. And what better way to learn about a city than through its cuisine! Taking a food tour allows you to learn more about a place's culture and get inspiration for the rest of your trip. To help me with this endeavor, I turned to Flavors of San Juan Food and Culture Tours and joined one of their daily Old San Juan Food tours.
While I won't dive into details about every single sip and bite on this tour- there were far too many delicious ones to recount!- I will say that by the end of this three-hour tour, both my tastebuds and my stomach were satisfied.
Our culinary adventure in Old San Juan began with our guide leading us through the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan explaining how Puerto Rican cuisine is a fusion of African, Spanish and Taino (native inhabits of the island) influence. From the spices, to the fruits and vegetables to the cooking techniques, this fusion of cultures provided new food traditions that are unique to Puerto Rico. Throughout the tour we sampled traditional Puerto Rican tapas like croquetas filled with a savory chicken and ham mixture and alcapurrias which are starchy fritters comprised of ground beef and green plantains.
As our small group sampled our way through Old San Juan on the warm Sunday afternoon, the streets were filled with locals and tourists alike, dancing to salsa music, enjoying a rum-filled piña colada at one of the many outdoor cafes, or shopping at one of the outdoor markets. A typical Sunday in Old San Juan. Our guide explained how Old San Juan came to be the epicenter of life in San Juan and how its complex and rich history is reflected in its cuisine.
Towards the end of the tour, our group sat down to a delicious meal at what used to be the city hall. At this stop on the tour, we mashed our own mofongo, Puerto Rico's signature dish. This interactive experience was enhanced by the flavorful chicken criolla, the quintessential side dishes of rice and beans and a tall glass of sangria roja. I couldn't believe that there was one more stop after this treat!
The tour culminated with a taste of Puerto Rican coffee from a local coffee-house that harvests , roasts and brews its own coffee. The smooth coffee paired with a quesito (cheese pastry) provided the perfect ending to an afternoon of indulgence. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Old San Juan with a knowledgeable guide because it allowed me to learn a great deal about Puerto Rican cuisine and culture. By the end of the tour, I was totally ready for a nap. But, as this was our last night in San Juan, we tipped our amazing guide and headed off to continue exploring Old San Juan.
I'm fairly new to food tours, but Flavors of San Juan definitely set the bar high. From the knowledgeable and personable guide to the variety of cafes and cuisines, this was the perfect tour to get acquainted to Puerto Rican culture. I'd advise you to take this tour on the first day of your trip because you'll definitely want to revisit some of the stops during your trip! You can also receive discounts and coupons to some of the cafes and shops simply for participating in this tour. I can't wait to try Flavor of San Juan's foodie adventures in St. Thomas and St. Maarten.
Flavors of San Juan offered me a complimentary tour in exchange for this review. I only share restaurants, tours, and properties that I would visit myself and recommend to those closest to me, and ensure that everything I post is my honest opinion.