While studying in San Juan, you’ll want to check out the delicious food scene throughout the city. Old San Juan is rich in history, color, art, and tradition and is home to several one-of-a-kind Puerto Rican restaurants. We’ve gathered a list of favorites, including traditional Puerto Rican cuisine, cafés, bars, gelato, and even the local farmer’s market.
Where will you go on your first food trek throughout Old San Juan?
Locals say El Jibarito – the little hillbilly – is the best authentic Puerto Rican food downtown. The brightly colored, traditional restaurant pulls influences from African, Indian, and Spanish cultures, which transcend into delicious dishes. They’re known for making the best mofongo in Puerto Rico, a dish made from fried green plantains with garlic and crackling pork rinds. Bring your friends, and make sure El Jibarito is one of your first stops on the island!
This small bar has been making all kinds of “Best of” lists for years, often ranking in the top 50 best bars worldwide. Most recently named the Best Bar in the Caribbean 2022, La Factoría seems like a hidden gem tucked into the northwest corner of Old San Juan. Hosting live music and some of the best mojitos around, it’s no wonder La Factoría makes the top of our list.
A small gelato shop located in the heart of Old San Juan, this is a spot you don’t want to miss. With a variety of flavors, including chocolate, raspberry, s’mores, and several more, Chocolato has the perfect post-dinner dessert. Get creative and order a gelato cocktail for around $6.00 before heading out for the night!
Mercado Agrícola de Viejo San Juan
You’ll always have Saturday morning plans with the local farmer’s market. Close to El Morro and the water, browse through the vendors to gather fresh produce, sushi, fruit salad, coffee, or various street foods. What a great opportunity to meet locals and practice your Spanish language skills! Make sure to bring cash and enjoy some tasty treats, including vegetarian and vegan options.
Located next to the ferry harbor, this homey café has a great selection of pastries, coffee, and juices to kickstart your day. With a great view of the water, enjoy your breakfast or mid-day pick-me-up in their outdoor seating area. Often recommended by local tour guides, Café Cola’o should definitely make your list of local food stops.
Another great café and breakfast/lunch option, Bien Papayas, is located across from El Castillo San Cristobal. The café boasts eccentric and breezy vibes, and the servers will feel like instant friends. Fill up on tropical smoothies, omelets, breakfast wraps, sandwiches, pastries, or even a boozy coffee if that’s your taste! Their mallorcas – sweet bread rolls – are known to be some of the best in the area.
Cayo Caribe is located only a couple of blocks from the harbor and offers a great seafood selection. Favored by locals and tourists alike, this is a fantastic option for lunch, dinner, or even drinks as the night descends. All of their seafood is received fresh weekly from local fishermen and is used to make famous dishes like paella, stews, or fish tacos. They even have a small vegetarian menu!
Known as one of the fastest-growing small businesses in Old San Juan, Señor Paleta serves fruit and creative popsicles. Flavors include pineapple, passion fruit, strawberry mojito, nutella, and more. Their popsicles are a great, refreshing option on a hot day while exploring the city!
Lote 23 is the place to go for dinner with friends, hosting a variety of vendors in a food truck-style experience. Offering everything from fish, steak, tacos, pizza, Asian cuisine, pastries, and more, we recommend checking it out. Lote 23 has plenty of seating and a stage for live music, making it the perfect hangout spot for groups.
We know that San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a great choice for you. Make sure to meet with an advisor at your college’s education abroad office, as they will also be able to direct you toward the right program for your degree path.
Check out our website or email [email protected] with any questions you may have. We’re more than happy to help!