If you’ve got more than a day in the capital, you might consider exploring outside of Old San Juan for a much more authentic, if grittier, experience. It is easy to get lost in the maze of highways if driving, but bus service is quick and easy. We rode down to Condado looking for a beach and found a touristy one along the strip of hotels. Ask for directions instead to Ocean Park Beach for a long stretch of white sand where the locals play on the weekends. Head to Pamela’s on the beach for a creative (and pricier) twist on local dishes – they will serve you right on the sand.
A note about food: Traditional Puerto Rican cuisine tends to be heavy, repetitive, and shockingly lacking in vegetables (and I’m not counting plantains). That said, the few dishes it does do, it does very well. Forget your South Beach Diet and dig into a pile of mofongo (mashed fried green plantain) topped with lobster or pick up a beef empanadilla (deep fried dough pocket) at a roadside stand. I recommend Genesis Restaurant in Old San Juan for unfussy local fare – be sure to try the Chuletas Can-Can (fried pork chops!).