Day Trips from San Juan: El Cerro de Nandy

Okay, so let me start off with admitting that El Cerro de Nandy hardly fits one’s usual definition of a “day trip” since it is a restaurant and last I checked, going to lunch is typically just a 1-2 hour affair rather than a day trip.  But let me tell you, this wonderful hidden gem of a restaurant can (and should!) be a day trip if you let it!

Getting There:

We heard about El Cerro de Nandy on a travel channel show (I think either Zimmern or Bourdain) and thought it looked like a great opportunity to branch out from our regular San Juan restaurants and experiences.  So we rented an SUV and headed toward San Lorenzo.  Good news: the drive can be done in less than an hour.  Unless you are us.  And get lost.  But hey, it was a nice area to get lost, as it was beautiful! 😉

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enjoying the scenery along the way

Once we reached the parking area, we then had to wait for a ride up to the restaurant.  Driving el cerro requires a 4×4 vehicle and we thought it best not to chance it.  Something told us that the Hertz company would not appreciate our sense of adventure! 😉

We waited around for quite a while, as we had arrived a bit before the first shuttle (despite our best efforts to waste time by getting lost!) and had to wait for the first shuttle up.  But it was a beautiful place to linger.  We also had some company when one of the employees got there and also had to wait for a ride.  And if that wasn’t enough, we were surrounded with the lovely presence of mosquitoes to keep us entertained.  Note to self: bring repellent next time!   When our ride finally rolled up, we were pretty excited.  Check out this 4×4 military truck!

The ride up from the parking area to the actual restaurant was an adventure in itself!  The drive probably took about 15 minutes and it was a fun little trek up–“bumpy” would be an understatement!  If you are planning to make this trip and don’t have a 4×4 vehicle, be sure to bring $5 per person for roundtrip shuttling to and from the restaurant.

Lunch at Cerro de Nandy:

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Nandy greeting us as we drive up…

When we got up to the restaurant, Nandy himself was sitting outside awaiting customers.  And I can only imagine he is a good guy to work for, since as the restaurant came into view, the employee riding up with us cheerfully bellowed, “Naaaaaaaaandyyyyy!” and he waved back enthusiastically with a big smile.  Before heading to the restaurant patio, we had to take some time checking out the view.  Pretty impressive, right??

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the view is killer!

Once we got settled up on the patio, we ordered a huge lunch to share among our group.  We came prepared to order the chuleta can can (the delicious pork dish that we had seen boasted on the Travel Channel) as well as some chicken, beans and rice, and plantains that our new friend had encouraged us to order.  This food was ridiculously good!  No joke, we are counting down the days to our next trip to Puerto Rico so we can eat here again!

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chuleta can can with rice and beans

Even though it did not take us long to eat devour our tasty meal, our time up at Cerro de Nandy was at least 2 hours long.  When we were not eating, we were just enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the patio and the natural beauty all around us.  So by the time we were ready to leave, got a ride back down, and headed back to our hotel, we were probably out and about for 4-5 hours, so you can see why I call this a day trip!

Lessons Learned and Tips to Share:

  1. Print out some really good directions beforehand.  And have a map app open while driving.  And still be prepared to do some extracurricular sightseeing! 😉
  2. Bring mosquito repellent, for goodness sake!  Those little guys are persistent!
  3. You can take your own 4×4 vehicle up to the restaurant, but taking their truck is kind of fun too!
  4. Bring $5 cash per person if you are hitching a ride to the top.
  5. Trust the employees when they advise you on what to order–they will be right!  😉
  6. Be sure to give yourself enough time to enjoy the experience at El Cerro de Nandy.  It is not a meal that you should just squeeze in!
  7. Start saving money for a return trip to Puerto Rico, because you will want to come back!

Next Up:

A Few Last Day Trips

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