22 Jan Old San Juan Walk & Taste Tour with Spoon Food Tours
After zig zagging through the tiny streets of Old San Juan, we arrived at our meeting spot: the totem pole at Quincentennial Plaza. The town was relatively quiet as it was a Sunday morning; the quietness was much appreciated as we navigated the streets and looked for a place to park. We were 45 minutes early, so some wandering and checking out the city’s sites was in order. We marveled at the cobblestone streets, the bright colored buildings, the forts and the ocean views.
Since we went on a rainforest adventure on our other free day, we decided a food and history tour of Old San Juan would add the perfect balance of urban adventure to our itinerary. We were excited to be hosted by Spoon Food Tours on their Old San Juan Walk & Taste Tour. It was such a wonderful send off prior to our afternoon flight home.
When it was time to get the tour underway, we met up with our guide, Yay, and our other tour mates. Our first stop was the Ballaja building for some Puerto Rican coffee and a small treat to start the day.
After ogling over the beautiful architecture and peaceful stillness of the Ballaja on a Sunday morning, we made our way inside the adorable Don Ruiz Coffee Shop. We were all served a Café Con Leche and a Mallorca, which was a sweet bread dusted with powdered sugar and filled with ham and cheese. I loved the Mallorca’s sweet and salty notes—it had the perfect mix of flavors.
On the way to our next destination, we walked the streets in Old San Juan and learned about the island’s history along the way. Once such story we heard was about the cobblestone streets in the city; the blue pavers you can find throughout much of the old town area are the original streets from the 1700’s. Because they are getting so uneven and broken up, the city is starting to replace the streets with new and improved pavers. I’m glad we got to catch some of the original streets before they were replaced!
After several more stories and stops along the way, we made it to our second destination of the morning. Next up on the menu were several dishes from Hotel El Convento. Our first dish was a rice and bean croquette—it had a crispy shell on the outside with soft, gooey goodness on the inside.
The next item on the menu was pumpkin butternut squash soup. It was super fresh and flavorful, and I love that the restaurant focuses on using as many fresh local ingredients as possible.
In between dishes, we learned about the varied history of the hotel’s past, from nun housing to a brothel, this place has seen it all. Today the hotel is a gorgeous building with a fantastic atmosphere.
To wrap up our last plate on this stop, we were served pork longanisa sandwich, which was essentially a pork sausage slider with cheese and bacon. I’m not a huge fan of pork, but this slider was bursting with flavor and I have to say, much to my surprise, I really enjoyed it!
It was time to move on again, and we made our way through more of the narrow streets around town. We stopped at the Cristo Chapel and had a peek inside, which was lucky timing on our part as the doors are only open once a week. The chapel has an interesting history and folklore. There are several variations of the story, but the one we heard was that two young boys were racing their horses along the street and one of the boys lost control and went over the cliff with his horse. The church was built on the site of the accident to commemorate the boy and to create a barrier from the cliffs edge. Whatever the real story is behind the chapel, it is definitely a gorgeous spot to stop if you have time.
We also stopped out front of one of the narrowest houses in the world! The bright yellow building in the photo below is only a few feet wide, and it’s said that it was originally built as a house for slaves. Now, the current owners are looking into turning it into a rental property, which I think is a great idea because I would love to stay there and check it out from the inside!
The midmorning sun was starting to get a bit toasty, so our next stop was a very welcome one. We walked down the street to Señor Paleta for a refreshing popsicle. All of the flavors sounded delicious and we could pick any one we wanted. Some of the options were pistachio, coconut, nutella, a variety of fruit flavors and so much more. I opted for the pineapple and Micah had strawberry—they were both so good. We slurped them up as fast as possible to avoid them melting in the heat!
Our final stop of the day was the Princesa Gastrobar—a fantastic new restaurant that has recreated traditional Puerto Rican recipes from the 19th century. They are also in the planning stages of creating an interactive and immersive theater experience for their guests—I would love to check it out again once this portion is complete! For now, we had a look into the bar and learned all about the history of rum on the island, such as what makes a Puerto Rican rum, how it is made, and the different ages and levels of the rum.
We then returned to our table and were offered either a mojito or a pina coloda to drink. Perhaps the most fun item we were served all day was the Molletes Criollos. Our plates came out with a bun, a bowl of meat, and four mini cups filled with caramelized onions, tomatoes, sweet pepper sauce and melted brie cheese. We were instructed on how to properly assemble the sandwich, and were then given a torch to melt and sear the top of our dish.
Up next were Croquetas Espanolas, which were ham and chicken croquettes that surprisingly have over 20 ingredients and take four days to make. As if that wasn’t enough, we were then served Tostonachos, which consisted of a fried plantain topped with pork and melted cheese.
The last item on the menu for the day was dessert! We had three different pieces of flan–one was coconut, one was cheese and the other was original. I was surprised to find out the cheese flan was my favorite!
All of the food we tried throughout the day was delicious, and I am still craving several of the dishes a couple of weeks later. As I’ve mentioned in the past, Micah is a pretty picky eater at times, but he did surprisingly well on this food tour! Depending on restaurant hours and menus, I believe the food offered can change from tour to tour, but no matter what you are served, you are in good hands. We both enjoyed all of the dishes we were served throughout the tour.
We had so much fun hanging with our tour guide and tour mates throughout the day. At one point we joked that it felt more like we were exploring with old friends rather than a group on a tour. To me, that’s what makes traveling so special—having the ability to connect with completely random people from around the world is such a privilege. We have developed so many great friendships this way and we couldn’t have asked for a better group to spend the day with.
When we travel, I also love getting little glimpses into a destination’s culture, what life is like for locals, and sampling a variety of local dishes. Tours like this give you an insight that you wouldn’t necessarily find on your own. We are so glad we had an open morning in our schedule before jetting off the island—we had a wonderful day exploring Old San Juan with Spoon Food Tours and our newfound friends!
- We went on the Old San Juan Walk and Taste Tour, which is priced at $69 per person.
- Tours last 2.5-3 hours and start at 9:30 a.m. daily (10 a.m. on Sunday).
- Wear comfortable shoes and light clothing, as you will be walking around in the heat.
- Oh, and don’t forget to arrive hungry!
Have you ever been on a food tour? Tell us about it below!
Many thanks to Spoon Food Tours for providing us with complimentary tours. As always, all opinions are our own!