Old San Juan is a captivating city that draws in tourists and locals alike all year long. Most people know about all the classic places to visit like Old San Juan, El Morro, or Barrachina. But what about the places that aren’t so obvious? What about the places that you have to do a little extra searching to find? Lucky for you, we’ve come up with this list of our favorite hidden gems of Old San Juan.
Visiting Verde Mesa is like walking into your trendiest Pinterest board. In a sea of deep fried cuisine and heavy meat foods, Verde Mesa is a beacon for vegetarians and seafood lovers. But even if you’re not a vegetarian, you can still enjoy the complex and interesting culinary combinations that Verde Mesa serves up, like their Purple Cloud dessert made from lavender and merengue. Make sure to arrive early to get a table because they don’t take reservations!
If your knowledge of Mexican food comes from the school of Taco Bell, then prepare to to get a new lesson from Acapulco Taqueria. With a sign in their restaurant listing what they’re proud to not serve (spoiler alert: melted cheese and store bought tortillas are on that list), Acapulco delivers some of the most authentic Mexican food in all of Puerto Rico. This cozy restaurant is so tiny you might just overlook it, but it’s a hidden gem you don’t want to miss out on.
Bed & Breakfasts and Guest Houses
If you plan on staying in Old San Juan for a few days, opt for a B&B or guest house instead of a hotel. There are so many options to choose from with different features and characteristics, like beachfront properties or others that are more centrally located. Some great places to stay are Dreamcatcher Inn, Tres Palmas, and Casa Castellana. Many of these places are family owned and serve dinners at night, or even have restaurants attached to them.
This place is the closest thing to an actual hidden gem that you’ll find on this list. No really – if you don’t know where to look, you will seriously miss it! Eddie’s Limbers can be found through an iron gate in an unmarked building near the famous La Rogativa statue. What exactly is a limber? It’s is the perfect combination of a piragua and sherbet, served in small paper cup, costing you only 75¢. Not only is eating a limber delicious and refreshing, but it’s also like participating in a small piece of history because this mysterious little place has been around for over 40 years.
Parque De Las Palomas
Plaza de la Palomas is a charming little park that is located directly next to Capillo del Cristo. While some people may not see this place as a hidden gem (it is literally right next to a huge tourist spot), this park is very easy to disregard, making it a true diamond in the rough in Old San Juan. To most people, the thought of willingly surrounding yourself with hundreds of pigeons doesn’t sound too pleasant, but the pigeons at Plaza de las Palomas are different. As the only spot in Old San Juan where you can feed the pigeons, the birds are calm and peaceful because they know they have a steady stream of food. Adorned with holes in the wall for the birds, small bronze shoes scattered around the park, fantastic views of the bay, and incredibly old and twisted trees, Plaza de las Palomas is an eccentric and easily overlooked place to take a pause while exploring Old San Juan.