Guavate puerto rico restaurant: A Guide to Guavate and la Ruta del Lechón

Top 10 Lechoneras of Puerto Rico

James Beard, the American cooking authority, was not impressed with Puerto Rican cuisine when he was posted on the island during World War II. “I have always felt that food in the Caribbean is perhaps the worst in the world,” he wrote in his memoir, “Delights and Prejudices.” He would certainly change his mind if he could enjoy the work of the island’s modern chefs. But even back then, Mr. Beard noted one culinary saving grace: “Fortunately we had available ‘lechón asado’, the traditional roasted pig with its crisp skin and deliciously tender meat.”

Lechones (pigs) were originally brought to the island from Spain during Christopher Columbus’ second voyage in 1493, and they have been a staple in Puerto Rican cuisine ever since. Add to that a change in rule from native Taíno to Spanish to the American commonwealth it is today, and Puerto Rico’s eclectic menu reflects its historic roots with Caribbean flare. In addition to pork, the “lechoneras” serve mile-high platters of traditional dishes, from “amarillos” (sweet plantains) to “morcilla” (blood sausage). So what is a “lechonera”? Well, essentially a restaurant that specializes in roasted pork from a spit, or as Cindy Price wrote in the New York Times, “A party with a pig.”

“Lechoneras” can be found all over Puerto Rico, and several highways are known as “Rutas de Lechón” (Pig Routes) for their abundance of pig roasteries. However, the most famous is Route 184 in Guavate (Cayey), some 30 miles south of San Juan in the Sierra de Cayey mountains.

“Lechón asado” is Puerto Rico’s unofficial national dish. It’s served year-round but is particularly prevalent during the holidays – especially Christmas and Three Kings Day, marked on Jan. 6. But it’s not just roasted pig, because “Lechón asado” is a craft, a ritual, a celebration. The result, as Mr. Beard pointed out, is a whole animal, its skin brown and crisp, the meat beneath moist and juicy. Each morsel tastes of smoke and spice. The pork is customarily accompanied by “arroz con gandules” (rice with pigeon peas), “guineos” (green bananas) and “morcilla”.

For visitors who do not eat pork, there are many other tasty dishes on the menu, such as tender chicken, sausage and turkey, which is served with a variety of side dishes, including rice, tostones, beans and “mofongo” (a Puerto Rican dish with African influences, made from mashed, unripened plantains).

Guavate: Home of the Lechón

Guavate, located south of San Juan, is not the only place on the island for find great “lechón”, but it’s probably the most well known. The road up is just lined with “lechoneras”, or in simple words, a mini pork highway. Everyone you ask will have their favorite place. Some people like the first ones you come to on the road – delicious and easy in / easy out, but you can keep going up and up. The road eventually tees at Road 763. Turn right and then you will start getting into the serious “lechoneras”. Here is where the street party is – tons of people, bands and food (usually Saturday, Sunday and holidays).

Top 10 Lechoneras of Puerto Rico

Family dedicated for more than 50 years to the local pig industry. Today, the Alvarado family undertakes in his business in the preparation of 100% local roasted pig (supporting local pig farmers). In addition, Sazón Alvarado offers a wide…
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Luis “Apa” Ramos is known by some as “El Rey de lechón asado” (the king of lechón) — and it’s not only locals who swear by his pig. Chef Eric Ripert flies Mr. Ramos up to New York each year for a «lechón» feast at his Michelin-starred Le…
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Simply delicious! The «lechón» is so tasty and mouth watering and the arroz con gandules is so flavorful. For those who prefer white meat, delicious roast chicken is always available. Don’t forget to try some of the plantains and other…
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Kevin Roth, a native New Yorker and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, make one of the best «lechones» of the Island. La Estacion has been family owned and operated since 2006.  At La Estacion, Roth combines his love for Puerto…
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Years ago in his travel show, Anthony Bourdain touted this “lechonera” as the best roasted pork he had ever had. Since founded, Los Pinos never disappoints, having always great roasted pork. It is not fancy or high-end place, but a must if…
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Very popular in the «Ruta del Lechón», for serving it crispy, with crushed rice, sausage, ribs and beans stewed in chicken broth. Came in expecting to get locally «lechón», walked out with an experience like no other. The bar is rustic (of…
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“My father started this place over 60 years ago,” said Güiso López, owner of El Cuñao (“the brother-in-law”). The eatery makes one of the best gas-cooked pig in Puerto Rico, with a thin layer of fat beneath the cuero and nicely moist meat.…
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Forty years serving one of the best best roasted pork of Puerto Rico. Here you can enjoy a pleasant atmosphere for your family, at the edge of the creek and dance music for everyone. In addition to the traditional food, you can buy the best…
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For the last 21 years making traditional food in a space to share with the whole family. A very tasty «lechón» and interesting place. The pig is usually roasted for about 6 — 8 hours which ensures that the pork is pact with flavor, moist…
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A large, sturdy, roadside building, Angelito’s is the anchor of the ruta de lechón in Trujillo Alto. Many days, the line from the butcher table snakes out into the parking lot—because locals know that Rivera is a stickler for ingredients.…
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Best Lechon in Guavate Puerto Rico a town dedicated to all things pork

For those in Puerto Rico the holidays mean indulging in the traditional meal of lechon asado or roasted pig. But travelers don’t have to wait for a holiday to enjoy lechon and celebrate with family and friends. Just head to Guavate, a town dedicated to all things pork. It’s a destination where culture, tradition, and great food come together.

Whenever I get a chance to spend some time in Puerto Rico, lechon is one of the foods I crave and Guavate is where I go. It’s a bit off the beaten path but well worth the trip.

How to get to Guavate

The barrio of Guavate, in the east-central hills of Puerto Rico and getting to Guavate is part of the adventure. Route 184 goes through the verdant Sierra De Cayey Mountains.

The snake-like hills and pencil-thin roads are oftentimes barely wide enough for two cars. The lush jungle opens just enough to reveal teasing glimpses of lush valleys below and verdant mountain peaks above. A few horses lazily graze close to the byway and on occasion, a lone house pops up around a hairpin turn.

What you will find in Guavate

Better known as Pork Highway, the GPS wasn’t needed to tell us when we reached our destination. Pounding music, the smoky smell of roasting pigs, and lechoneras, one after another, line the road proudly displaying lechon in their front windows.

Abundant signs for pina coladas and cervesas beckon all who pass for something cool to drink. Children pull at the sleeves of their parents in hopes of getting them to buy souvenirs and trinkets at the myriad of shops. There’s traffic, yes traffic. It comes to a stop as everyone searches for a place to park and we were directed to park in a lot for a $5 fee.

Lechon in Guavate

We wondered which establishment had the tastiest, most succulent lechon and made our decision quickly. A long line of hungry customers caught our eye at an open-air eatery with a tin roof. They waiting their turn to be served at Lechonera Los Pinos.

We joined in the line to wait, mesmerized by the carver swinging down his machete in quick succession, chop, chop, chop, as he cut up the lechon. Did I forget to mention, they roast whole seasoned pigs on a spit over an open fire?

With no menu, we selected an assortment of delectable dishes all on display in steam trays behind the glass counter; Arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), yucca, tostones de platanos (fried green plantains), morcilla (blood sausage), longaniza (pork sausage), and morcilla (blood sausage). It’s all served on picnic fare, paper plates and plastic utensils, at approximately $8-$10 a plate.

The lechon, with its crispy skin was well-seasoned and brown and the meat, smoky, moist, and juicy. Is your mouth watering yet? The side dishes were the best I had anywhere on the island.

Tradition is alive and well in Guavate. A live band started playing salsa music and a dozen couples jumped up to dance. Guavate isn’t just a place to eat, it’s a place where locals and visitors experience authentic Puerto Rican culture together.

When to Visit Guavate

Go on a Saturday or Sunday to get the full experience and get there before noon to avoid massive crowds. If you don’t have a car check out these tours that will take you to Guavate.

Lechonera Los Pinos
Carrer 184, Puerto Rico
(About 1 hour from Old San Juan)

Be sure to join me on my next adventure to Old San Juan.

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Cayey, Food, Guavate, Lechon, Lechoneras, Map, Point of Interest, Pork Highway, Puerto Rico, Things to do in Puerto Rico, Travel

lechonera los Pinos — 19 Hints (-ok) from visitors: 856

19 Hints and reviews

Filter:

  • Quality service
  • Good service
  • Good prices
  • Fun
  • Sweet hand
  • informally
  • suitable for a snack
  • cerdo
  • baile
  • piel crujiente
  • bueno para familias
  • (7 more)

  • Words cannot describe how good this pork is. The near death experience on the way there up the serpentine roads means you’re that much closer to heaven. Get the rice, maduros and lechon.

  • As seen on Anthony Bourdain. A plater & Cerveza for just $9! Magnifico! Only 40 minutes from San Juan the switchback road on the way up the mountain may churn your stomach but it’s so worth it.

  • Wonderful local joint with lots of options done counter style. Absolutely amazing lechon with crispy skin and super tender meat. If you don’t speak spanish, I hope you really enjoy charades!

  • Get the best lechon you’ve ever had! And then add some mixed rice and beans. And round it out with some sausages and plantains.

  • If you are looking for local food place and want to get GREAT ROST PORK this place for YOU! GPS 18°07’45.2″N 66°04’15.5″W

  • Absolutely must stop here if you’re on the island. .great atmosphere and amazing food..busy on the weekends but well worth the trip 🙂

  • This is the place to eat roasted pig at the Pork Paradise! If you like potatoes ask for the «relleno de papa»!!!

  • The best pork I’ve ever had… NYC / SF / Austin have nothing on this.

  • Go when it’s busy. I went when it was very slow and don’t think I experienced the TRUE lechon. It wasn’t dripping, golden and perfect, which it should be when super fresh. It was good, but not great.

  • Yelp address on google maps GPS seems wrong. Continue further about 5 minutes (right when at fork) and you won’t miss it on the right 🙂

  • The best time to come here is on Sunday. Lots of food and dancing.

  • Comida traditional. Tiene estacionamiento.

  • Morcilla, batata, ambiente de show.

  • If you want to get here, the «Waze» GPS app will lead you directly. 😀

  • Good inexpensive Puerto Rican dishes and dancing

  • 0003

  • The food here is great

  • La comida rica

  • ¡Súper sabroso!

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