Cordillera Central Mountains

A favorite feast-stop among many here is Lechonera El Mojito. Try the roasted pork with crispy skin along with sides like rice and pigeon peas, tostones (fried plantains), mofongo (another plantain-based side), and chicharrones-style pork or chicken loaded with garlic. If you can’t spot El Mojito, don’t fret. There are only 71 other lechoneras in Puerto Rico to try.

Chinchorros

As you drive further, you’ll see several open-air hangouts dotting roads that snake through the mountains—many of them typified by a single sign for Medalla Light (Puerto Rico’s favorite beer) hanging by the door. Known as chinchorros, these are the perfect spots to grab a cold beer and cheap local snacks like fritters and empanadillas. On weekends, you’ll see buses ferrying locals hopping from chinchorro to chinchorro.

Casa Vieja

Located outside of Ciales, this bright blue-green chinchorro (the above photo) is something truly special. It’s worth stopping here to grab a Medalla Light or, better yet, a ginger mojito you won’t forget for a long time. Grab a seat inside and listen to some live music, or head outside for sweeping views of the tropical valleys below. Hungry? Try Casa Vieja‘s special morcilla (blood sausage) and pastelillos (turnovers).

Museo del Café de Puerto Rico

The Museo del Café de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Coffee Museum) features exhibits that recount the island’s history of coffee production including antique mills, coffee bags, and written records. It’s also a production site where Pedro Maldonado Ramírez and his family roast, bag, and ship Café Don Pello coffee. During the pandemic, Maldonado Ramirez opened a café onsite where visitors can grab a coffee or espresso. There’s just something special about a cup of joe that comes directly from the surrounding mountains.

Cooking at El Pretexto
Courtesy of Cooking at El Pretexto

El Pretexto

Back at El Pretexto, Crystal Diaz will insist she’s not a chef and El Pretexto isn’t a restaurant. In fact, she’ll say this repeatedly right up to the moment she serves you an amazing breakfast or—if you wisely book dinner here—halibut escabeche, fresh yam puree, and breadfruit tostones. At the end of an incredible meal, maybe Diaz will be kind enough to give you some pitorro (Puerto Rican moonshine). It’s the perfect finish to another unforgettable Puerto Rican evening way up in the mountains.

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