Odds are that if you’ve made it to Fajardo, Puerto Rico you’re there for one of the mega-resorts in the area. The El Conquistador (where I was staying) is the most popular but there are a few others in the area. There are also a few smaller hotels and B&Bs around. Either way, getting away from the hotel is nearly always a better option for dining and that certainly held true in Fajardo. We had several meals on the resort and, with the exception of one, they really weren’t very good. The meals we had off property, on the other hand, were nearly all delicious. Moral of the story: Go out to eat.
As for where to go, there are a number of options. Some are easily walkable from the resorts and some are a bit further afield. Fortunately we had a car to make those also feasible.
The best meal all week (at least to me) was at La Estacion. The restaurant is run by a New York City couple who moved to Puerto Rico, set up shop and haven’t looked back. Along the way they’ve churned out some of the best food in the region, day in and day out. Everything is fresh, with the menu changing depending on what’s available from the market that day. The two options for preparation are pretty much grilled and smoked, with a variety of meats and fish to choose from. I had the grilled lobster while Matt had the grilled red snapper. Both were spectacular, though I have to admit that the snapper was better.
Both mains were served with tostones and a mango salad, making for quite a full meal. Of course, even though we didn’t actually save room for dessert that didn’t stop us from eating some. When glazed bananas are deep-fried in dough and served with ice cream I’m never going to be able to say no.
I didn’t get to try the New Yorican Hot Dog (wrapped in bacon and garnished with a sliced avocado. I’m going to have to go back for that some day.
La Estacion is located about a half mile from the main gate of the El Conquistador. That’s not very far but the main gate is far enough from the hotel itself that walking it would be quite a schlep, particularly with the hills. We drove.
The following night saw us at, Pasion por el Fogon, a tapas restaurant about a mile and a half the other direction from the resort. The sangria was too sweet, but that was the only real negative I remember from the evening (possibly because we still finished the pitcher). We had six different small plates, from mushrooms sautéed in garlic sauce to the less traditional fried plantain and bacon balls. Squid stuffed with crab meat was particularly delicious, while the smoked salmon was just OK.
For the main course we had a mofongo stuffed with mahi mahi. The folks at the next table over raved about the chorizo (I’m still not sure why I didn’t order it) and there were a few other options on the menu that looked delicious. Definitely a solid set of choices covering both the traditional and local varietals of tapas to make for a good meal.
The other two meals we had off-property were walkable from the resort, so long as you don’t mind heading out down an unmarked and unlit street with no clear indication as to where it leads. We did it at lunch time but there were plenty of folks doing it at dinner time, too. It is plenty safe; the road is actually one of the employee parking lots for the resort. From the marina area of the resort head out past the ferry dock and the dive shop and through the gate that leads off the property. Walk along the water for 10 minutes or so and you’ll find yourself in the park and town where there are a bunch of dining options to choose from. Some of the smaller stalls weren’t open while we were there – it was decidedly shoulder season at best – but most of the larger shops were open, leaving a few choices to try.
Lunch number one was at Blue Bahia. It was just OK. The beer was cold and the food was reasonable, but it wasn’t particularly great so it is a bit lower on my recommendation list. The other meal we had was at Racar Sea Food, just past Blue Bahia.
Racar’s is all outdoor and very simple fare, mostly seafood with a few meat options, too. A plate lunch, including rice and beans, was about $6 and it was pretty darn good. The shrimp arepas I ordered was even better, though not quite as filling.
There were a few other restaurants in the area, both out on the main road and along the walkable water front, but we didn’t get to them. Something about being lazy with a pina colada on the beach seemed to get in the way.
All of the meals off-property were, for me, better than the meals on-property. Dinner at Strip House was on par with the better of the other dinners if you really don’t want to leave the resort. But if you can muster the energy I highly recommend getting out and exploring the little town. Your taste buds will thank you for it.