The holidays are coming and for those in Puerto Rico, it means indulging in the traditional meal of Lechon Asado or roasted pig. However, there’s no need to wait for a special occasion. When visiting the island, to discover Lechon in Puerto Rico, make a culinary road trip to the legendary town of Guavate, dedicating itself to all things pork.
What is Lechon?
Crispy skin, well-seasoned and brown. Smoky meat, moist and juicy. Is your mouth watering yet? Did I forget to mention that lechon is a delectable whole seasoned pig, roasted on a spit over an open fire?
How to get to Guavate
Less than an hour from San Juan, getting to Guavate is part of the adventure. Route 184 winds through the verdant Sierra De Cayey Mountains. The journey? Snake-like roads, barely wide enough for two cars, sharp bends, steep-sided valleys, and densely blanketed jungle foliage.
Dozens of restaurants make up the 3-mile route 736 known as the Pork Highway or La Routa de Cerdo. The smokiness of roasting pigs, the festive atmosphere, and the beat of salsa music let you know you’re in Guavate.
If you’re not comfortable driving to Guavate, these tours will take you there in combination with other fascinating sites on the island.
When to Visit Guavate
Any time of year is a great time to visit and the weekends are when you get the full experience. It’s the Christmas season, however, when the atmosphere gets kicked up a notch, and for many locals it’s the traditional time to visit with restaurants extending their hours to accommodate the increased amount of visitors.
Guavate is a town where locals and tourists alike come to enjoy the day for a traditional meal, a bit of souvenir shopping, and lively music, with dancing, similar to a festive block party. Open-air gazebos alongside a cooling stream are perfect for relaxing with a pina colada.
Where to eat in Guavate
Golden Lechon, proudly on display in the front windows of the lechoneras, beckons long lines of hungry customers waiting their turn to be served. Lechonera Los Pinos – one of the many open-air eateries – with its tin roof and cafeteria-style service – is my favorite.
You wait for your turn on the line to order your food. You watch, hypnotized by the sound of the carver as he chops the lechon. Here, the carver swings down his machete, cutting the Lechon with strong, swift movements.
Watch this video as the carver chops Lechon.
What to Eat in Guavate
There’s no menu. Aside from lechon, which is why you’re here, isn’t it, there is an assortment of delectable side dishes, on display behind the glass counter: yucca in garlic sauce, arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), tostones de platanos (fried green plantains), morcilla (blood sausage) and longaniza (pork sausage) – served picnic style, on paper plates and with plastic utensils – all very reasonably priced at $8-$10 a plate.
I munch on a crispy piece of skin, the best part. Several couples jumped up to dance salsa. This place does not disappoint. I ate and ate some more. So good. Go on a Saturday or Sunday to get the full experience. It’s not just a place to eat, it’s a cultural experience. Tradition, culture, family, and food. It’s what Puerto Rico is all about.
Lechonera Los Pinos, Km. 27.7, PR-184, Cayey, 00735
Carrer 184, Puerto Rico
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Looking for more things to do in Puerto Rico?
A Mixology class at the Bacardi Factory is a fun unique way to spend the day.