An Insider’s Guide To Sampling The Best Of San Juan’s Food Scene

written by local expert Michael Gwiazdowski

When visiting the captivating capital city of Puerto Rico, one of the best parts of this extraordinary experience is sampling some of the most sensational local cuisine available inside the coastal town of San Juan. For those new to the island, finding the best-of-the-best in a foreign land can be challenging but far from impossible.

If and/or when asking for recommendations from the locals doesn’t quite pan out (pun intended), check out this insider’s guide to some of San Juan’s best restaurants.

Get A Good Breakfast Along With A Great Cup Of Coffee

While there seems to be a Starbucks on almost every corner nowadays, including multiple locations in Puerto Rico, tourists are better off visiting one of these local cafes and quaint little coffee shops instead. Here are a few of the best choices to get a great cup of coffee along with a bite to eat to start off your day before you go off and play:

● Puerto Rico’s Café Cola’o specializes not only in coffee but also breakfast and lunch with rave reviews on social media sites
● At Hacienda San Pedro, four generations of proprietors have served as baristas at this coffee house, and their food menu has a selection of vegetarian-friendly options
● At Cafe Don Ruiz, guests can enjoy a menu full of sweet and savory breakfast items, along with a superior selection of specialty coffee drinks

At the Don Ruiz spot, visitors are able to explore their roastery, museum, and store (or tienda) which opens daily at 7:30 a.m., later at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays and shoppers will enjoy a museum opening soon that will be showcasing the history of Puerto Rican rums. Yum!


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Inside A Beautiful Background Bar Scene

Before arriving at the table for an evening meal, hitting the bar scene is a popular option to enjoy a few cocktails prior to dining. For superior ambiance, be sure to stop by PiñaCo, the intimate bar located between the lobby and pool deck inside the stunning Serafina Beach Hotel.

Whether you’ll be imbibing your beverage poolside or taking it further outdoors for breathtaking views on the beach, as the oldie-but-goodie Jimmy Buffet song Escape shared, “If you like Piña Coladas,” you’ll definitely want to order this signature selection from the bar.

While you’re there, the hotel’s romantic signature restaurant, aMare (meaning to love), is an excellent place to pair a couple of Piña Coladas together with a sharable entree like Branzino al Sale or Tomahawk Steak.

Open seven days a week, (their Sunday Brunch is fantastic!) the Mediterranean-inspired seafood is sensational with a wide selection of lunch and dinner selections, and all are served alongside amazing ocean views. serafina hotel

Dining Outside The Box

As a tourist visiting San Juan, you might imagine endless rice and beans topped with meat, which is never a bad thing, but as you explore the city’s culinary options you start to see there is so much more to experience, as the city has been quietly building a growing reputation for inventive and flavorful tastes.

In thinking a little bit out of the box when it comes to restaurants, and to explore a range of tastes, both local and worldly, visit Lote 23 in Santurce, where 14 kiosks allow for up-and-coming chefs to experiment, validate concepts, and grow before going full scale.

Visitors are met with an exciting blend of intoxicating smells as well as a visually stimulating environment of murals and art by local artists. Lote 23 has quickly become a destination and social epicenter for both travelers and locals to congregate, eat and drink.

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The Best Restaurants in San Juan by Cuisine

Along with aMare and Lote 23, there’s plenty of other great restaurants in this region to explore the best of local Mediterranean and Caribbean cuisines from quaint, hole-in-the-wall locations to five-star fine dining experiences. Here are some excellent places to discover the best choices available according to these different delicious categories:


American: Those from the United States who might be a little homesick, some American fare is found at Pannes, who are also recognized for their authentic Puerto Rican cuisine and ranked on TripAdvisor in the top #1 slot as one of the best places to eat breakfast. Another location offering U.S. staples like hamburgers and hot dogs is Prros Locos.

Brazilian: The Fago de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse combines South American flair to their well-rounded menu of beef, poultry, lamb, pork, seafood, and award-winning wine selections.

Steakhouse: For another top-rated steakhouse in the area visit the Cayo Blanco which also offers seafood and an excellent surf-and-turf combination of prawns and filet mignon.

Seafood: Speaking of seafood, the namesake Oceano restaurant is home to some of the best in maritime menu items including a killer Ceviche.

Barbeque: The best barbeque is on the fire at the San Juan Smokehouse in the historic district where they’re renowned for their humble hospitality, cold beer, and ribs.

Italian: If you’re in the mood for pizza, other Italian flavors, and flair, be sure to check out Sofia’s Old San Juan also famous for their steaks and pasta.

italian food san juan

Caribbean: More local flavors are available at the Asere Cuban Cubano Kitchen/Bar with Spanish, Caribbean and Cuban selections on their extensive menu along with a full bar.

Cheap Eats: For those on a tight budget or simply looking to explore everything this region has to offer, try Vagón for some excellent take-out, dine-in, or eat outdoors on the patio.

Fine Dining: At the five-star Marmalade Restaurant & Wine Bar, diners aren’t disappointed by the selection of food and beverages available there, including a “liquid” menu with a variety of colors, textures, and tastes put into place.

Hopefully, you’re already drooling with excitement like I am, if you are still looking for accommodations during your visit to Puerto Rico, I can recommend beachfront property of Serafina Beach Hotel. It is centrally located within the buzzing Condado district and is the perfect place to begin your food explorations.

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Best Restaurants in San Juan | Looking for the best restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico? Here are a few of our top suggestions on where to eat! #sanjuan #puertorico

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