Savor the Flavors of Old San Juan on a Guided Food & Walking Tour
They also offer this tour as a lunch tour during the day (from 11am to 1pm) where you stop at 3 places for food along the walking tour route. Contact them for more info.
Exploring Old San Juan is one of the "must do" things for any visitor to Puerto Rico. There are many ways to tour Old San Juan — a self-guided walking tour, riding a Segway, or even a horse & carriage ride. All of them are fun, but walking around on foot gives you the most flexibility. And all this exploring works up a real hunger and thirst.
So, when we heard about the Flavors of San Juan Dinner Tour, which is a walking and food-tasting tour of Old San Juan, we knew that we would have to check it out.
Ray and I have been to Old San Juan many times, and we have walked around and explored much of this town and its restaurants. We know we don’t know everything about the old city, but we have a pretty good knowledge of the area. We knew that a guided tour would be a good way to increase our knowledge. Besides, finding new places to eat and drink is always fun.
We met Leslie Padró (the tour guide and owner of Flavors of San Juan) for the tour at Plaza de Armas, and we knew right away she was very friendly and down to earth. Leslie is a "transplant" (like ourselves) and she lives in Old San Juan. She was able to give some personal insight into living and working on the island as seen by an "outsider", but also info about her own personal experiences in Old San Juan. We were also delighted to meet the other couple on our tour (Dave and Cindy) who were in Puerto Rico for their first time. This tour would be their first taste of Old San Juan and seeing it all through (their) new eyes gave us another way to experience this trip.
I believe there is a maximum of 12 people per tour, but having a small group was fantastic. We could all gather around in a small group to hear & see everything, and take the time and get to know each other and have some more unusual discussions.
Our tour started off in the heart of Old San Juan, we walked down toward the bay and then back up into the city again. Leslie told us about a bunch of stuff — describing the history of Puerto Rico and Old San Juan, the architecture, cobblestones, buildings, monuments, historical figures and other sights along the way.
In addition to the historical information, we stopped in local stores to see & learn about antique, wooden carved Santos and other typical Puerto Rican crafts, like vejigante masks and various musical instruments.
She touched on a little bit of everything, from the thinnest apartment to the last remaining city gate in Old San Juan, old history and new stuff in the making. We stayed in the western part of the town, and really only covered about 10 blocks. We stopped along the way a lot, so no one was tired from the walk.
I am sure Leslie must have a "tour script" of stuff she wants to talk about, but she was very open to questions about anything. So we also ended up discussing more local things like politics, crime, the cost of living, where to find certain items, tipping and what it is like to live here (the types of things that I know many tourists are very interested in). Leslie’s husband and his family are Puerto Rican, and she shared a number of stories her in-laws told her about "back in the olden days when we were young …". It made the tour much more personal.
The Food & Drinks
Our tour started at 5pm, and as usual, we were ready to eat. Each place we went to had tables & chairs waiting for us, and the food and drinks appeared right away. The food is served family style, where everyone gets to try some off a larger plate.
Our first stop was at Barrachina for a really tasty Piña Colada. The on-going feud over the "original" creator of the Piña Colada does make me chuckle — but the drink still tastse good, no matter who invented them! Then we went to a Cafe El Punto (a small, local place in amidst stores on Fortaleza Street). We had a delicious mango frappe and mini mofongos. And my favorite — a really good rice and beans (arroz con habichuelas). Leslie went into the kitchen and brought back local fruits and vegetables they use to make these local dishes, so we could all see them.
Next, we went to El Picoteo in El Convento Hotel (which is a bit more "upscale" and, as always, beautiful and delicious) where we had Spanish olives and sausages, Gazpacho soup with bread and a yummy white Sangria. Our last food stop was at Aureola on Calle San Sebastian, where we each got dessert sampler with 4 pieces of different dessert and a choice of Puerto Rican coffee or hot cocoa.
Of course, the restaurants and food offerings may vary from tour to tour. Though, I am sure you will enjoy where you go and what you have just as much as we did. We all felt satisfied with the quantity of food, though you are always welcome to purchase additional drinks and/or food choices during the tour if you wanted.
Some Final Thoughts
I thought it was a really nice tour. Leslie said she is constantly doing more research and meeting with more people "in the know" to get more information about Old San Juan. I know some of my own knowledge about the city did not match what she was telling us — but that is what makes things interesting and makes one search for the true factoids. And even with our knowledge of the place, Leslie did show us and tell us a thing or two we didn’t know.
The food was very good, and we were able to try a few restaurants that we had yet to try on our own. So, we thought it was a very worth the time and money. Though the tour is slated to be 2 hours, ours lasted about 3 hours since we were all having fun. I think this tour is a good primer for continued exploration of Old San Juan on your own at a later time.
I contacted Dave and Cindy after the tour to get their impression. Dave said
"As a tourist, I found the tour met my expectations perfectly at what I would consider a very reasonable price. I think the length of the tour was perfect as well; Not too long or too short in that it would also allow any tourist time to continue their sightseeing after the tour. All in all, I would say that the tour was the highlight of all the activities we did."
So there you go … everyone agrees!
The cost of the tour is $79/person, plus tax and ticketing fee. The price includes all food & drink tastings combined with an historical tour.
If you're happy, let them know it — Don't forget to tip your your bartender, tour guide or trip operator if you enjoyed yourself. Gratuities are appreciated and typically aren't included in the price they charge you.
Tours begin at 5pm, rain or shine. Private and/or custom tours can be arranged.
Tours are given in English and Spanish.
The minimum age for this tour is 18. Children are not permitted on the tour. Children are permitted on the lunch tours.
This is a walking tour. Wear clothing and practical shoes that are comfortable for walking the cobblestone streets in Old San Juan. No high heels!
Allow 2.5 hours for this tour.
You can call them at 787-964-2447 for more information.
You can visit their web site for more information or to make a reservation. They also now offer a similar tour but at lunch time a few days a week for $69. Call for latest info.
Tour size is up to 12 people maximum.
Tours start at water the fountain in Plaza de Armas, on the corner of Calle San Francisco and Calle San Jose in Old San Juan.
Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.