Story and photos by Alicia Kennedy
Alicia Kennedy is an impassioned food & travel writer based in Brooklyn and loves sharing everything from recipes to fascinating conversations from interesting people. To learn more, check out her blog, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Our travel writer recommends her favorite shopping, food and entertainment hot spots.
Shopping: At least 70 percent of the stock at Old San Juan boutique Luca is supplied by local designers. From the sustainable, vegan leather clutches of Negro to the housewares of Puerto Rico Hardwoods … If you’re looking for an artisanal but high-end gift, this is the place to go.
Hyperlocal Lunch: El Departamento de La Comida is a bit off the beaten path in Santurce, but it is a necessary stop for a generously portioned, gorgeously plated meal of local produce, coffee and herbal water infusions. These goods and more are all served in a space that’s also a functioning grocery store. They have a new program, too, for donating small amounts of money that will help feed the community.
Dinner and Drinks: Parcela in Condado and Gallo Negro in Santurce are can’t-miss spots — both for their delicious small plates and impeccable cocktail menus. They each serve great takes on a Dark and Stormy: Parcela adds house-made orange bitters; Gallo Negro, Haitian rum and smoky tobacco ginger beer taking it over the top.
Craft Beers: The mass-produced, perfect-for-hot-weather Medalla beer is everywhere, but craft brewing is on the rise. In Old San Juan, La Taberna Lúpulo stocks many of the island’s own brews. In the west coast town of Rincón, Rincón Beer Company always tries to have each one on tap. If you want to take a quick trip out of San Juan, visit the FOK Brewing tasting room in Caguas on weekends; they bring in food trucks to make it a party.
Music: Club 77 in Rio Piedras is the bar and concert venue to follow if you want to hear Puerto Rico’s best bands. As a bonus, it also houses El Guapo Burger.
Art: In addition to walking Calle Cerra in Santurce to see the murals painted for the arts festival Santurce es Ley, check out the Galería Agustina Ferreyra and Hidrante galleries. The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico also has an excellent selection — including a room dedicated to plantain art. It also provides a respite if you need an afternoon in air conditioning. Afterward, stop by Hacienda San Pedro for a quick latte and sandwich.
Sweets: The award-winning Double Cake bakery on Calle Loiza is not far from Dreamcatcher Guest House and serves up spiced orange cupcakes, coquito macarons, guava brioche and much more.
Be mindful of GPS directions as well as signage. The area has several one-way routes.
Parking is easy; go for a lot. They’re simple to find and affordable in Santurce and Old San Juan.
Also, giant iguanas freely cross the road. Just a heads-up.