An unincorporated U.S. territory, there aren’t many American landscapes that can match the lush tropical shores, dense jungle foliage and rainbow-coated cities that Puerto Rico provides. Situated well southwest of the Florida Keys, island life here is entirely its own, offering unique and exciting experiences in a myriad of ways. One part that stands out more than anything is its cuisine.
The island’s culinary culture is richly diverse, drawing inspiration from all sorts of global sources. As such, the current-day culmination is comprised of dishes of utter decadence, meal after meal of life-changing forkfuls of flavor. For a bite-size introduction into why Puerto Rican food is so mouth-watering, here’s a run-down of the can’t-miss tastes you’d have on any given day.
A quintessential Puerto Rican day is all but guaranteed to begin with coffee. Coffee is a constant on the island, having played a prominent role in its colonial history that now translates to island-wide fervor. Accompanying the robust beverage is a pan de mallorca—a sweet yeast roll coated in powdered sugar and stuffed with ham, cheese and eggs—it’s the perfect compromise for the indecisive torn between sweet or savory. Couple the coffee and mallorca with the sea breeze of a serene beach for a complete Puerto Rican breakfast.
There are near endless options as to what to order for lunch, but the quintessential order is mofongo. The island’s unofficial comfort food, mofongo is plantains picked green, fried and then mashed with garlic and pork rinds. The result is packed tightly into a ball (or a bowl, depending on where you order from), and accompanied by some variation of fried meat, seafood and broth. You’ll find it filling for both the stomach and the soul.
While every dish in Puerto Rico has the potential to be a stand-alone main course, two options rise above the rest as the best dish to end a day on the island. The first is less a dish and more an experience—Lechón Asado. An adult pig, roasted over an open fire and seasoned with barely much more than salt and pepper, is best served in the open air with music; think part picnic and part festival. The other can’t-miss option is more of a traditional sit-down meal: arroz con gandules. A combination of rice, pork and pigeon peas, the secret to the dishes’ savory-ness is the sofrito—a paste of onions, cubanelle peppers, garlic, ajices dulces and cilantro applied to the foundation of the dish for the sake of elevating the complexity of flavors. The end result is a forkful similar to the color scheme of a tropical sunset: a beautiful blend of magic, with no clear-cut outlier, all working in tandem.
No matter what you order or where it’s likely you’ve noticed Puerto Rico’s affinity for rum—the island didn’t earn the title “Rum Capital of the World” by chance. There’s no wrong way to sample it: The bars dotting the island provide lively settings for savoring, while any piña colada or mojito is certain to hit the spot. But, for the most quintessential and memorable rum experience you can have, a pilgrimage to the Casa Bacardí is a must. The world’s largest distillery of Bacardí rum, over 100,000 liters of rum flow through the Art Deco palace, museum and distillery a day. A tour of the grounds provides a rare peek at their fabled distillation process, a treasure-trove of historic brand artifacts and mementos, and most importantly, a regal setting to enjoy the island’s nectar.
Can’t wait to set sail and savor some of these can’t-miss tastes of Puerto Rico? Talk with one of our travel agents before you do—their specialized knowledge on destinations means that you’ll have insider recommendations before even setting foot on the shore. Additionally, their working relationships with leading names in travel like Norwegian Cruise Line allow them to provide you with bespoke amenities you never even knew you were missing.