A Walking Food Tour Of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

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Our third port of call = Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

This stop on our cruise’s itinerary was the only one we spent AWAY from the beach (gasp). Instead, we did our second favorite thing to do after “bumming on the beach” = stuffing our bellies with food. Some realllllly good traditional Puerto Rican food, I might add.

A little background: For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you may recall that I lived in NYC for couple of years. During that time, I went on my first ever walking food/chocolate tour of NYC and had such a blast. The concept of the tour was simple: we walked around the city making stops at different chocolate boutiques, tasted various creations of chocolate and learned some interesting facts about NYC’s history along the way. Pretty much all the NOM without the guilt because walking counts as fitness, am I right? Or am I right?

Fast forward three years later to the couple of weeks leading up to our cruise trip when Charles and I were brainstorming ideas on what to do at each port stop and boom! Going on walking food tour of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico popped into my head and Charles was all about it.

Decision made, I hopped on our laptop and googled different food tour companies in Puerto Rico. After doing some research and reading reviews for a couple different companies, we settled on Flavors of San Juan Food and Culture Tours and booked their walking food tour of Old San Juan. With that said, let’s get on with the tour!

Flavors of San Juan Food and Culture Tours

Once our cruise was docked at the port of San Juan at 9:00am, Charles and I were off the ship 30 minutes later and headed to the address where we were supposed to meet our tour guide for the day.  The walk was supposed to take 10 minutes… Unfortunately, we got lost along the way making a couple wrong turns here and there.

Fortunately, our tour guide, Keila, had my phone number and called me around 9:55am to check and see where we were since the tour was scheduled to start at 10:00am. Once I described to her the surrounding landmarks from where we were standing, she was able to direct us to the meeting location over the phone. Come to find out, we right around the corner haha. #facepalm

7Daqmv4aLQKiK6x1.jpg^^ Our tour guide, Keila. Isn’t she cutest?

When we finally made it to the meeting location and joined the tour group, Keila introduced herself and had everyone go around and introduce themselves as well. Once that was done, she went over the list of five restaurants we would be stopping at during the three hour tour. After double checking with the group to see if anyone had food allergies, she started walking in the direction of the first of many stops to come and everyone followed behind excitedly in anticipation.

** Disclaimer: I wouldn’t continue reading the rest of this post if you haven’t eaten anything because you’re about to get an onslaught of photos filled with food and a couple not so flattering photos of me stuffing my face.

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^^ First Food Stop: The Aroma’s Coffeehouse where we were introduced to the local sweetbread, Mallorca, which was served in sandwich form with jamon (ham), powdered sugar and a side of cherry juice, made from arecola cherries that are native to Puerto Rico. To me, Mallorca was similar in taste to Kings Hawaiian bread but with a fluffy, croissant like texture. Add in the ham and powdered sugar and you have the perfect combination of sweet and salty. Breakfast devoured, Keila rounded us up and led the way to our….

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^^ Second Food Stop: Senor Paleta where everyone in the group was able to grab an ice pop to go. Senor Paleta is Old San Juan’s first ever artisan ice pop shop and their pops are made fresh daily using locally sourced fruits or premium nuts and chocolates. I got the watermelon and mango ice pop while Charles got the strawberry cheesecake ice pop. After selecting our ice pops, Keila led us to a shady park nearby to take in the views from Old San Juan’s fortress walls.

As we ate our ice pops in the shade, Keila shared with us a quick synopsis of her country’s history. Puerto Rico was discovered by none other than Christopher Columbus during his second voyage into the unknown in 1493, making it a Spanish colony up until the Spanish-American War in 1898 when Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory. In 1917, the Jones Act gave Puerto Ricans U.S. citizen status however, despite their status as citizens of America, the country doesn’t have representation in Congress and they don’t have the right of electoral votes for the President.

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I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know anything about the country’s fight for representation in the U.S. until Keila brought it up during our ice pop break. It was a sobering bit of info to digest but very educational and I made a mental note to research more about Puerto Rico’s history and ties with America later as Keila led us down the blue cobbled streets of Old San Juan, past the Pigeon Sanctuary to our…

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^^ Third Food Stop: Cafe El Punto, a super cute art gallery/restaurant cafe/gift shop. While there, Keila brought out two trays of food for us to taste. First, we had tried the Alcapurria, a meat filled fritter dish. It was almost like an empanada but instead of the flaky flour crust, the dough surrounding the meat was made of green bananas and cassava. After finishing the alcapurria, Keila brought out the second tray which had soup spoons filled with the freshest ceviche I have ever eaten. This marked Charles’s first time ever trying it and he really liked it too!

After purchasing a map of Puerto Rico (that we plan to frame and hang a.k.a. still haven’t hung yet ’cause we’re slow) from their gift shop area, Keila led us out of Cafe El Punto to our…

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^^ Fourth Food Stop: Rosa De Triano. A super cool fact about this restaurant’s construction is that it initially served as Old San Juan’s first city hall dating back to 1523. What was even cooler was that our tour group was seated in the area of the building that used to be the jail cell. Our stop at Rosa De Triano was one of the major highlights of the tour (in my opinion). We spent the most time here and had the opportunity to get interactive with our food. On the menu for our tasting was one Puerto Rico’s most popular and signature dishes: mofongo = fried green plantains that are mashed and served with a side of meat.

Everyone in our tour group was given pilons (wood mortars and pestles) filled with fried green plantains and various seasonings. We were then instructed by Keila on how to correctly mash the plantains with our pestle so that the aromatic seasoning made up of butter, garlic and chicken broth got mixed in evenly. From there, we added in some chicken and ate the mofongo directly from our pilons. Mmmmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

As if that wasn’t enough… Following the mofongo, small plates of arroz con habichuelas (rice and beans) were brought out and holy moly, that ish was so tasty too. The rice was perfectly cooked (I’m a stickler about over or undercooked rice) and perfectly balanced out the seasoned sauce of beans. And of course, I finished everything despite feeling pretty full… Thank goodness for free flowing dresses that hide bloated stomachs haha.

After “clearing our palette” with a glass of sangria, Keila rounded up the tour group and led us around the corner to…

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^^ “So you think you can dance?” R26rjBLoGal8HRDK.jpg1PKubyATC1hcgySY.jpg^^ Who posed it better? Charles or the Lady in Red??? Let me know in the comments below ;)

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^^ Fourth & A Half DRINK Stop: Patio De Ana – Rosa De Triano’s sister cafe located in an open air cafe behind the restaurant. Once everyone found a seat in the middle of the patio, a waiter came out with a tray filled with pina coladas for our tasting pleasure! A creamy blend of coconut cream, pineapple juice and rum, this drink is another signature cocktail that originates from Puerto Rico and was so refreshing to sip on considering the how hot it was that day.

Drinks drank, we sluggishly got out of our seats (the food coma was really starting to settle in) and followed Keila through the main square of Old San Juan to our…

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^^ Fifth and Final Food Stop: VacaBrava for some dessert = Flan. Puerto Rican flan to be exact. Keila emphasized the difference between Puerto Rican flan vs. the more well known (in the U.S. at least) Mexican rendition of flan. The difference being that Puerto Rican flan is more creamy than the flan of Mexico which is a bit more watery and jello like in texture. After taking one bite out of the flan that was passed around, Charles and I immediately tasted the difference and both agree… Puerto Rican flan is sooooo much better than Mexican flan. Creamy texture for the win!

Unfortunately, this is where the tour came to end. Once our tasting plates were cleared, Keila shared a few closing words with the tour group and wished everyone a wonderful rest of their time in Puerto Rico!

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^^ After the tour, Charles and I wandered around San Juan for another hour or so (and found this cool chalkboard that I couldn’t resist writing on) before heading back to our cruise ship to take a nap (hellllo itis!). When we woke up a couple hours later, the ship had already pulled out of port and was cutting through the sea, making its way to our last port of call of the trip: Grand Turk. More on that to come later…

In the meantime, make sure to add Flavors of San Juan Food and Culture Tours’ walking food tour of Old San Juan on your list of to-do’s should you ever visit Puerto Rico. What’s nice about the tours at Flavors of San Juan Food and Culture tours is that they switch up which restaurants they stop at in Old San Juan which keeps things dynamic. So you might get the same itinerary as Charles and I did or you might try something different at another restaurant. Either way, I’m sure the food will be amazing.

Considering the fact that we only had a couple hours at port to explore, our culinary adventure through Old San Juan served as the perfect vehicle to give us a (big) taste of the country’s culture and history through it’s food. Considering how satisfied our stomachs were after the tour, I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise that we are 100% interested in coming back to visit Puerto Rico for a second filling.

Have you ever been on a food tour before? If so, what city/country did you tour? If not, get on the web and google walking food tours in your town, city or area and sign up for one right now! :)

** Charles and I received 2 complimentary tickets from Flavors of San Juan Food And Culture Tours in exchange for my honest review. We had already decided we were going to book a walking food tour with them when Charles suggested that I reach out and see if they were interested in partnering with setarra.com. This is the first time I’ve ever pitched anything before in regards to this blog and to my surprise, they responded positively to my proposal! Thank you Flavors of San Juan Food and Culture Tours for this opportunity. And thank you. Yes, YOU – reading this post for supporting the brands that support setarra.com. No matter the cost or comp, all opinions are and will always be my own.

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  • Flavors of SJ

    Thank YOU Setarra for letting us be the guinea pig in your first partnership! The blog post is lovely and we’re thrilled this is your honest review of our food tour :D Looks like you had a blast eating your way through Old San Juan with Keila!!

    • No, thank YOU Flavors of SJ. Charles and I had a really great time and Keila was such a great tour guide! :)

  • Whitney

    This looks so cool!!! I would love to do a walking tour like that. Wonder if they have any around DC….I’ll be back in the spring :)

    • Yes, there are food tours in D.C.! I recommend checking out D.C. Metro Food Tours. Spring is a perfect time to visit D.C.! Let’s try and link up if your schedules connect :)

  • One of my favorite ways to get to know a city is by eating my way through it. We’ve talked about doing a food tour because it would be a great way to try multiple places without having to eat a full meal there. It looks like y’all had a blast and that you really got to experience the flavors of Puerto Rico!

    • Hi Ashley! I totally agree with your point about getting to know a city through its food! I highly recommend going on a food tour whenever you have a chance. :)

  • I am from Puerto Rico and this post is killing me slowly. I haven’t tried in here some of the stuff you present in here. You photos of all San Juan are so great. It reminds me of the school trips of my childhood (specially the pigeons).

    • Hey Ruth! Your country is beautiful! I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the pigeon sanctuary in Old San Juan and thought it was really cool! I hope you make it back to visit PR soon! xx

  • Oh my Lord! I love this!! I miss PR so much and you did such a great job of sharing your foodie experience and the pictures are amazing!! I can’t wait to go back to visit my family.. oh the memories :) and yes we make the best FLAN ever!! My favorite is flan de queso (sorta like a cheesecake) type.

    • Thank you Bella! And the flan de queso is exactly what we ate! It was soooooo good!!!

  • Yum, food tours are so great! I love all the colours, both of the town and the food. That ceviche and those ice pops look incredible :)

    • Aren’t they? I think I’m going to make it a point to go on a food tour at every country/city we visit because it’s such a great way to eat, see and learn about a place. :) Thanks for stopping by Jessi!

  • I LOVED PR! I mean, I was only there for like 2 days, but it was awesome!

    • Ahhh! 2 days is alot more time we had in PR so I can only imagine how much more you were able to see and do. Charles and I definitely want to come back and explore more of the island at some point in the future! :)

  • I don’t know what I love more- the bright colored buildings or the yummy food?!

    • I totally understand your dilemma Courtney! It’s a close tie! :)

  • TA

    Hi, Thank so much for your blog, now we are super excited for our turn this september 2016! Now I have question, is the area difficult for a stroller to move around? I want to bring my little one and I am wondering if it make sense to carry a light folding stroller for all the walking. I am having trouble finding out if the terrain is up and down and all about or it is just fairly flat walking.

    Thanks!

    • Hi TA!

      So exciting that you’re going to Puerto Rico! I think that for the “Old San Juan” area, having a stroller is totally doable. There are a few inclines but nothing crazy steep and everything was sloped for the sidewalks, I don’t recall walking up or down many stairs. Overall, tho, it was fairly flat. Some of the streets are cobblestone so that actually might be fun for your little one to get bounced around while exploring in the stroller :) Also, I highly recommend sunblock and bug spray for when you’re out and about. The mosquitoes were in full force during the day (they loved me while I was visiting haha) and many of the establishments have an open door, indoor/outdoor set up so there’s alot of exposure to the sun and bugs. Hope that helps!