8 Things You Shouldn’t Miss on Culebra


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Culebra is a picturesque little island that lies approximately 17 miles east of Puerto Rico. It’s an island municipality under the domain of Puerto Rico. At seven miles wide and three miles long, Culebra is the smallest of the inhabited Spanish Virgin Islands.

Although modest in size, Culebra has a welcoming small island charm, stunning beaches and amazing snorkeling. There are no large resorts on island, but there are a few cottages, guest houses and villas available for rent. Due to a good ferry schedule, many visitors come to Culebra just for a day visit. You can also take a short flight from PR, which may give you more time to play.

What should you do if you’re lucky enough to spend some time on this pretty island? Check out this list of  the 8 Things You Shouldn’t Miss on Culebra to start your planning!

1. Flamenco Beach

Flamenco Beach, Culebra - copyright Rum Therapy

Frequently listed as one of the top beaches in the world, Flamenco is even prettier than a postcard. A long swath of soft, white sand surrounded by stunning hues of blue…
See more photos of Flamenco Beach here

2. Tanks on Flamenco

Tank on Flamenco Beach - copyright Rum Therapy
Although it’s a rather abnormal attraction to list, the old tanks on Flamenco Beach are interesting enough to seek out. On the far west side of the beach you will find one sitting in the beautiful water just off the shoreline. Painted over and over by the locals, the tank is a vivid reminder of the history of Culebra when it was used as a training site for the US Navy.
Read more about it here

3. Snorkeling

Snorkeling on Culebra - copyright Rum Therapy
You’ll find clear water and pristine snorkeling spots in several areas on Culebra. Best part? Most have beach access, so just slip on your flippers and mask and get going!
Discover some of the best snorkeling spots on Culebra here

4. Eating

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You’ll find some of the same delicious treats on Culebra as on Puerto Rico, such as this Puerto Rican Pincho served from one of the food kiosks on Flamenco Beach, but there are other dining options to explore as well. Mamacita’s serves up dishes with a Mexican flare and you can find a few other delicious options here

5. Explore by Golf Cart

Golf Cart on Culebra - copyright Rum Therapy
Culebra is not a large island and you can certainly explore a lot of it in one day. Best way to get around? You can rent a jeep, but why not just rent a golf cart? Economical and easy to zip around it!
Here’s one of the rental agencies on Culebra

6. Zoni Beach

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You may get so stunned by the beauty of Flamenco that you will forget to visit some of the other gorgeous beaches on Culebra. One of our favorites? Zoni Beach, on the islands northeast side – quieter than its famous neighbor, but still beautiful.

7. Culebrita
Just off the eastern shore of Culebra sits Isla Culebrita, a small uninhabited island that is a wildlife refuge. Only a few people visit Culebrita each day, so it’s likely that you’ll have plenty of space to explore the beaches, an old lighthouse, relax in tidal pools and snorkel. You’ll need to hire a water taxi or join an excursion to get to Culebrita.
Find out more about this pretty island here

8. Top off the day with a drink at The Dinghy Dock

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Top off a perfect day on Culebra by stopping by The Dinghy Dock to check out the huge tarpon swimming right off the dock, chat with the locals and listen to the tales of sailors that frequent the bar and enjoy a refreshing drink – such as this cold and creamy Bushwacker.

 Have you been to Culebra? Tell us about it!

 Find Culebra on our Puerto Rico Map


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8 Things You Shouldn’t Miss on Vieques

8 Things You Shoulldn't Miss on Vieques - copyright Rum Therapy
Isla de Vieques, a small island located approximately 8 miles off of Puerto Rico, is easily reached by ferry from Fajardo or a short flight from San Juan International Airport.

Considered one of the two main Spanish Virgin Islands, Vieques is probably best known for either its Bioluminescent Bay, said to be the brightest in the world, or its history with the US Navy as a former bombing test range.

Not as well known is the fact that Vieques has not been overly commercialized, has a good number of beautiful unspoiled beaches and retains its small island charm. Want huge resorts, nightlife, casinos or crowded beaches? You’ll have to look elsewhere, but if you want a quiet island with friendly people where you can get away from the grind, you might just fall in love with Vieques.

Thinking of visiting? Check out this list of 8 Things You Shouldn’t Miss on Vieques to help you start your planning.

1. Sun Bay Beach

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Just one of the beautiful beaches on Vieques, Sun Bay has a long expanse of soft, golden sand and calm shallow water, making it a great beach for the whole family. A snack bar and restrooms are close by too. You may find horses wandering the grounds and enjoying the beach and scenery as well.

2. Horses

Horses on Vieques - copyright Rum Therapy
Speaking of horses… (see above)  It may seem an odd addition to the list, but be sure to watch for the horses that roam freely on Vieques. Find out more about these beautiful creatures here: Vieques, Where the Horses Roam Free

3. Mosquito Bay (Bio Bay)
Mosquito Bay, on the southern side of Vieques, is a bioluminescent bay. Best observed during the New Moon phase, the waters of Mosquito Bay, that are rich in a single celled dinoflagelate organism, “light up” at night when they come in contact with another organism, such as a boat, oar, or person. There are several bio bays in the world, but Mosquito Bay has claimed the title of “the brightest” bio bay in the world by the Guiness Book of World Records.

4. Hike to Playa Negra – a black sand beach

Playa Negra, Vieques - copyright Rum Therapy
Playa Negra is a black sand beach just west of Esperanza. The color of the sand is a little surprising given the goldens, tans and whites of the other beaches on Vieques, but the pretty hike down a riverbed to the beach made it worth it to us. We were the only ones on the path except for a mare and her foal who walked right past us.

5. Enjoy a rum punch at Bananas

Bananas, Esperanza - copyright Rum Therapy
Thirsty after your hike to Playa Negra? Stop at Bananas Beach Bar & Grill in Esperanza for a delightful Rum Punch. Want to stay a little longer? Check into Bananas Guesthouse – a no frills place that’s close to the Bio Bay.

6. Enjoy the shops, museum and restaurants at El Malecon, Esperanza

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The coastal side of Experanza is known as El Malecon or “The Strip”. Here you will find a few small shops, some restaurants,  a museum, a beach and a beautiful view. This is probably the busiest area on Vieques and a favorite hangout for visitors. Tours for the Bio Bay leave from this area.

7. The Rest of the Beaches

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We visited a number of Vieques beautiful beaches during our visit and were pleasantly
surprised with the beauty and solitude of many of them. If you have the time, rent a jeep and see how many beaches you can visit. They’re all a little different, but none are crowded.

8. Catch a sunset at Al’s Mar Azul

View from Al's Mar Azul in Vieques - copyright Rum Therapy
Before catching the ferry back to Puerto Rico, stop and enjoy a sunset (with your favorite cold drink) at Al’s Mar Azul – just a block from the ferry. The sunsets here are spectacular and it’s a beautiful way to end your day on Vieques.

Have you been to Vieques? Tell us about it!

 Find Vieques on our Puerto Rico Map


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Vieques, Where the Horses Roam Free


Before we visited Vieques, a small island east of Puerto Rico that is part of the island grouping sometimes known as the Spanish Virgin Islands, we knew very little of the island except that it had been used in the past for naval exercises.  As we read more about Vieques, we learned that although there is a population of around 9,350, it has no stoplights and there were herds of wild horses roaming the island.  Cool, we thought. But, as excited as we were to spot some of these horses during our visit, we eventually learned we were only half right about them…

Horses in Vieques - copyright Rum Therapy
 As we roamed the charming island on our way-too-short day visit, we were not disappointed in our wild horse sightings! Horses were lazily grazing along the road to the Vieques National Wildlife refuge.

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Horses walked right by us as we hiked to the black sand beach.

Horses in Vieques - copyright Rum Therapy

And there were lots of horses in the area around Sun Bay (find Sun Bay on our Puerto Rico Map). These two were enjoying a stroll on the pretty beach.

Horses in Vieques - copyright Rum Therapy

So what were we only half right about? Apparently, although the horses on Vieques roam freely, most of them actually do have owners. Hmmm…there’s definitely got to be a benefit to the owners in savings on feed (and not having to pick up horse doo), but there is certainly a benefit to residents and visitors alike who love to see the beautiful horses roaming freely on this beautiful island.

Horses in Vieques - copyright Rum Therapy
Have you seen the horses on Vieques? Tell us about it!

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A Day Trip to Vieques

A Day Trip to Culebra


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A Day Trip to Vieques

A few days after our day trip to Culebra (read “A Day Trip to Culebra” here), we headed back to Fajardo to board the ferry to the other main Spanish Virgin Island – Vieques. Vieques lies about 8 miles east of Puerto Rico, and is an easy ferry ride from the mainland. Although there were a few raindrops on our ride over, we were greeted with a full day of warm sunshine upon our arrival.

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Wanting to explore as much of the island as we could in a day, we rented a Jeep from a small car rental agency just a few blocks away from the ferry.

So what did we do during our day on Vieques?

Vieques is known for its beautiful beaches, and our goal was to see as many on the south side as possible. We left Isabel Segunda and headed down island, entered the US Fish and Wildlife Reserve on the east side and took the road as far as we could. There are still some areas of Vieques off limits due to the cleanup of former military exercises (see a brief history here) and several of the beaches in this area were closed during our visit. It was a pretty, but bumpy ride through the Reserve and the area had an abundance of horses roaming around.

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We got a chance to peek at several beaches, including Pata Prieta, Red Beach (or Caracas Beach), Navio Beach, Media Luna and Sun Bay. Our favorites that day?

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Media Luna because it was shallow, sandy and calm…

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And Sun Bay. A beautiful long expanse of tan sand with calm clear water. Sun Bay also had a small restaurant/bar/gift shop and a bunch of wild horses meandering the area around the beach.

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After an hour or two in the surf and sun, we wandered into the small beachside town of Esparanza. The town was quiet and laid back – just the type of town we could see ourselves hanging around for a while. Thirsty, we stopped at a colorful place called Bananas for a beverage.

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Rum Punches were the Happy Hour special, so we ordered a couple.

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The drinks were delicious and the view across the street wasn’t bad either.

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We could have stuck around Bananas enjoying a few more cocktails and chatting with the locals and other visitors, but we were determined to find the black sand beach – and headed west. We took a hike down to the beach on a dry river bed and spent a couple of minutes enjoying the contrast of colors with the sand and the cliffs.

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The afternoon was flying by and we started back to Isabel Segunda to return the Jeep. We made a stop at Al’s Mar Azul (read more) to grab some dinner and a drink and enjoy a phenomenal sunset before heading back the the ferry for our ride back to the mainland.

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copyright Rum Therapy
As wonderful as our day on Vieques was, we just couldn’t squeeze everything we wanted to see into just one day, including more beach time, time to roam around some of the towns to check out the local shops, restaurants and bars, learn more about the history of the island, enjoy more wild horse sightings and take an evening excursion through the Bioluminescent Bay. Another visit of several days or more will remain on “our list”!

Have you been to Vieques? Tell us about it!

 Find Vieques on our Puerto Rico Map


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Bacardi Rum Factory Tour

On our list of things to experience in Puerto Rico during our recent stay was, of course, the Bacardi Rum Factory Tour in Cataño, PR.

Cataño is on the north side of Puerto Rico – west of San Juan. Although it’s a very popular excursion from hotels and cruise ships in San Juan, we decided to drive on our own since we’d rented a car for the duration of our stay. Surprisingly, the factory wasn’t all that easy to find, although we did eventually arrive after taking a scenic tour of Cataño!

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At the time of our visit, the Bacardi Rum Factory Tour was free of charge and included two free rum drinks which you could choose from the menu below.

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(Since our tour in November 2014,  Bacardi has began charging $12pp for the tour, which apparently includes a rum drink)

The building where the tour originates is quite interesting architecturally – perhaps bat like in shape?

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Tours leave every 30 minutes and we had to wait only about 15 minutes before our tour began, which gave us just enough time to enjoy one of our drinks.

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We boarded a shuttle which slowly toured the grounds while the driver gave us information on the different buildings in the compound.

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The tour culminated with a video of the history of Bacardi and a building that simulated processes involved in making Bacardi Rum. We didn’t get to see any actual rum production, but we did enjoy learning about Bacardi and it’s history, their fruit bat logo, the family behind it and of course, a few more tastings at the end of the tour.

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Upon returning to the Visitor’s Center, we meandered through the gift shop, then decided to enjoy a snifter of Bacardi Reserva Limitada (extra charge – but you get to take the snifter with you).

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copyright Rum Therapy
We would have liked to see some of the inner workings of the Bacardi Rum Factory, but I’m sure due to the throngs of people that visit Bacardi – the logistics would be difficult. Even though this tour is more commercial than other rum factory tours we’ve experienced, if you enjoy rum and Bacardi products, you probably would enjoy the Bacardi Rum Factory Tour.

Have you taken the tour? If so, did you enjoy it?

Find the Bacardi Rum Factory on our Puerto Rico Map

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El Yunque Rain Forest, Puerto Rico

El Yunque, in the Sierra de Luquillo mountain range of Puerto Rico, is said to be the only tropical rain forest in the US National Forest System. It is located approximately 40 kilometers (or about 25 miles) southeast of San Juan. El Yunque is a tropical wonderland with waterfalls and clear pools, 240 native tree species (which 26 are only found in El Yunque), 50 species of birds and 13 species of coquí and the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot!

We’d taken a tour by bus of El Yunque many years ago, but during our most recent stay in Puerto Rico, we decided to explore much more of this beautiful, tropical, albeit very wet area. Our goal this visit was to explore several of the gorgeous waterfalls in El Yunque and swim in the pools beneath them.

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Average rainfall in parts of the forest are well over 200 inches a year, so one day on our visit, when the forecast was for an all day rain, we decided to go to El Yunque! After all, we thought, we’d probably get wet anyway and maybe the rainfall would keep some of the visitors away. We stopped at the local drug store, purchased some rain ponchos and headed up to the rain forest.

Well, it not only rained that day, but it was a torrential rainfall and the park ended up closing early to flooding concerns, but we had a fantastic time anyway! Did some hiking, took some pictures of glistening flora and ended up at The Rum House at the end of the day. We’d love to go back again someday to swim in the waterfall pools AND to hike to the top of the Mt. Britton Observation Tower, but here’s what we got to see this time.

The entrance to El Yunque is in Rio Grande off of Rt 3 on Rt 191 (see map). There is no fee to drive through El Yunque, but if you elect to stop at the Visitors Center for more information on the area, there is a small charge per person. A stop at the Visitors Center is worth it if you’d like to learn more about the flora and fauna found within the park and learn the history of the area.

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We’d stopped at the Visitor Center during our previous visit, so this time we passed it and continued up the hill – by now in the pouring rain!

First stop – the overlook of La Coca Falls. Right next to the road, you can park just a few yards away and walk down to the overlook.

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Next, a quick stop at the Yokahú Tower. Given that we’d climbed the tower to take in the view during our past visit, we weren’t completely disappointed that it was closed due to the rain this day, but, when open, it’s worth the climb.

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Just a little ways up from the Yokahú Tower parking area, are a few small parking areas along the side of the road along with a Juan Diego sign. This is the least known, but from what we hear, the best series of falls to explore in El Yunque. Due to the weather and the danger of mudslides, we reluctantly decided not to hike to Juan Diego Falls that day, but you can find out more about them here: El Yunque’s Best Kept Secret: Juan Diego Falls.

Not much farther, we pulled into the Big Tree Trailhead parking area, donned our stylish rain gear and set off for a hike down Big Tree Trails to spectacular La Mina Falls.

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Big Tree Trail has a cement path that slowly winds down the rain forest towards the falls.

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The easy walk was magical with the sound of rain, a few birds and an occasional coqui. We were the only ones on the trail!

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Even with raindrops on the lens, the
plant life is gorgeous.

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After a few more stops in the continued rain
,

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we got our soggy selves in the car and headed down the hill, where we came across this…

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The Rum House.
Mofongo, rum and good conversation.

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Great end to a great day!

Find El Yunque on our Puerto Rico Map

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El Morro, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Is it worth tearing yourself away from the beautiful beaches and rum drinks in Puerto Rico to explore an old fort built in 1539 to protect San Juan from invading armies and pirates? We say – heck yes, but check out these pictures and decide for yourself.

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Entrance to El Morro

The entrance to El Morro is majestic with its surrounding grounds of manicured green and a backdrop of blue ocean. The entrance fee is $5.00 and also includes access to the nearby Castillo San Cristobal. The fee includes a map so you can do a self guided tour, and there are plenty of knowledgeable rangers walking around that can answer any questions you might have.

We visited on a holiday, Veteran’s Day, and the grounds were dotted with families picnicking and flying colorful kites – or chiringas, which you can buy at a nearby stand.

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Walking through this majestic fort is like taking a walk back through time. The fort itself is comprised of six levels and each with it’s own features and purpose. Be sure to walk into some of the gun turrets, or garitas, and imagine being a sentry hundreds of years ago!

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The area around the working lighthouse on the top level offers some of the best views of  the  ocean and surrounding areas.

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Many of the rooms are marked with plaques or signs explaining their purpose, such as this cannonball storage room.

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The enormity of the structure, the thickness of the walls and the engineering of it all makes it quite evident why El Morro, and the soldiers that manned it, were able to stave off many attacks against San Juan, including one led by Sir Francis Drake in 1595.

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Leaving El Morro, be sure to walk by the San Juan Cemetery to gaze at the elaborate tombstones overlooking the beautiful ocean. This graveyard is the resting place for several famous Puerto Ricans.

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After walking up and down stairs and exploring in the warm sun, you might end the day doing what we did – we walked to Barrachina in Old San Juan, purported to be the birthplace of the Piña Colada, and enjoyed one (ok two) of the very refreshing libations.

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Check out National Park Website for more information on El Morro and Castillo San Cristobal.

Find El Morro on our Puerto Rico Map

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Flamenco Beach, Culebra

Flamenco Beach, in a protected cove on Culebra’s north shore, is consistently ranked in top beach lists. During a recent stay in Puerto Rico, we decided to take a day trip to Culebra to spend some time on Flamenco and check another top 10 beach off of our list.

We were a little worried that because of all the hype, Flamenco would be packed, but the moment we spotted the path to the beach and the ultra blue water of Flamenco – we didn’t care!

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As we got to the end of the path, the sheer beauty of Flamenco took our breath away. To the right was a very long, very wide arc of creamy, white sand. To the left the beach was not as wide, but it was fringed with lovely palm trees.

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Flamenco Beach copyright Rum Therapy
Walking one end of the beach to the other may take a while, but is well worth it. On the right side – the beach is very wide with very little shade.

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There were a few umbrellas and beach chairs to rent. Continuing to the right, at the very end of the beach you’ll find some very good snorkeling. 

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On the left side, the beach narrows and is fringed by some beautiful palm trees. There are some great sandy areas with shade on this side.

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Walk all the way to the end of the beach on the left and you’ll come across an old rusted tank – a reminder of a time when Culebra was used for military exercises by the US Navy.

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After all that walking, you can quench your thirst with the local Puerto Rican beer, Medalla, and a yummy Pincho at one of the kiosks behind the beach.

With its calm, blue water, long expanse of soft sand and plenty of room to relax – it’s easy to see why Flamenco Beach is one of the top rated beaches in the world.  It’s one of the top on my list now too!

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Find Flamenco Beach on our Puerto Rico Map

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Culinary Walking Tour of Old San Juan

San Juan, Puerto Rico is known not only for its rich history and historical buildings and forts, but also for a delectable array of food offerings and restaurants.

During our recent visit to Puerto Rico, we jumped at the chance to take a culinary walking tour of  Old San Juan with Flavors of San Juan Food & Culture Tours. This tour was to be a 3 hour walking tour through Old San Juan which included tastings at different interesting restaurants as well as the chance to learn more about the architecture and history of Puerto Rico’s oldest city.

We were asked to meet our guide at the corner of San Justo and Rcinto Sur Streets and were told that we would know the right location when we spotted the sculpture of a cat/giraffe in front of Banco Popular.

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We met at the sculpture of a cat/giraffe in front of Banco Popular

It was there we met our tour guide Luli and where our group of ten embarked on a journey full of sensuous treats for our pallets and eyes.

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Luli – our tour guide

Luli explained that “Barriguita llena, corazón contento” or “Full belly, happy heart”  was a popular Puerto Rican saying and that she hoped we would experience this on our journey today. We began walking towards the first stop of the tour – Aromas Coffeehouse.

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Aromas Coffeehouse

At Aromas we were treated to a warm and creamy cup of Puerto Rican coffee and Mallorca with guava jelly – a delicious local sweet bread.

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A latte made with Puerto Rican coffee

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Mallorca with guava jelly

Onward we slowly wound our way through the magnificent buildings and blue cobblestone of Old San Juan with our knowledgeable guide highlighting many points of interest.

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Original blue cobblestone streets dating back to the 1700’s


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Next stop – Café El Punto, featuring fresh, authentic Puerto Rican cuisine with bright and lively, locally made masks and atrwork adorning the walls.

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Here we savored the tastiest ceviche, and an alcapurria – a light and flaky pastry filled with ground beef but can also be filled with vegetables, shrimp or jueyes (a local crab). We washed it down with a frosty piña colada.

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Fresh Ceviche

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Alcapurria

Next stop – a beautiful little restaurant close to Cathedral of San Juan Bautista called Rosa de Triana.

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Rosa de Triana

Here we got to mash our own plantains and experience Puerto Rico’s signature dish – Mofongo.

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Cooked plantains ready for mashing

We then filled our “plantain bowl” with a delicious mixture of chicken and spices and devoured our scrumptious Mofongo with a glass of sangria.

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Mashing the plantains

Full, but totally ready to sample the fare at our last stop, we leisurely made our way through Plaza de Armas,

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Child feeding pigeons in Plaza de Armas

and into Casa Cortés for….chocolate….

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Casa Cortés

The Casa Cortés slogan is “Where two great passions meet: Art and Chocolate”. The ChocoBar is downstairs, and upstairs in the recently refurbished building, there are two floors of beautiful paintings and artwork from Caribbean and Latin American artists.

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Chocolate delights at Casa Cortés

Several chocolate squares with cheese to dip in a warm cup of creamy hot chocolate and a churro later, we definitely had a full belly and a happy heart.

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Luli passing around Casa Cortes treats

We said goodbye to some new friends we made on the tour and our lovely tour guide, Luli, and headed back out on the streets of Old San Juan – full of excellent food and history of this vibrant city.

 The Old San Juan Food Tour is offered several times a day (except on Monday) and at the time of this writing, the cost for the tour is $69.99 per adult. There is some moderate walking involved. Included in the price: All food/drink tastings plus historical, cultural & architectural information and a savings guide for discounts at local businesses.

Follow them on Facebook!

 

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Piña Colada

The official drink of Puerto Rico, the Piña Colada has long been a favorite vacation drink of mine. The taste just reminds me of digging my toes in the warm sand and basking in the tropical sunshine…

Here’s an easy and tasty recipe for this delicious tropical beverage. (Check out an even more decadent Piña Colada Recipe here!) Enjoy!

Pina Colada Rum RecipePiña Colada
(Makes 2)

4 oz. pineapple juice
4 oz. Coco Lopez cream of coconut
3 oz. light rum
2 c. crushed ice
fresh nutmeg

Pour pineapple juice, cream of coconut and rum into a blender with the crushed ice and blend until smooth. Add more ice if needed to thicken. Pour into a glass, sprinkle with nutmeg and garnish with a slice of orange or pineapple.

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Piña Colada
 
An easy and tasty recipe for this delicious tropical beverage!
Author:
Recipe type: Drinks
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 4 oz. pineapple juice
  • 4 oz. Coco Lopez cream of coconut
  • 3 oz. light rum
  • 2 c. crushed ice
  • fresh nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Pour pineapple juice, cream of coconut and rum into a blender with the crushed ice and blend until smooth. Add more ice if needed to thicken. Pour into a glass, sprinkle with nutmeg and garnish with a slice of orange or pineapple.


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