The best time to go to Guavate is from about noon until early evening on Saturdays and Sundays.
Lechoneras are outdoor restaurants that specialize in seasoned whole-pig, slow roasted over an open fire. This makes the pork flavorful and delicious. Even Anthony Bourdain, of No Reservations on the TravelChannel, came to Guavate on his trip here to taste this specialty.
We have eaten at several of the stands and they are all good with different offerings for side dishes. Some of the side dishes are pigeon peas, rice, cassava, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, yellow or green plantains and blood sausage. You can also try the chicken or turkey that the vendors roast the same way as the pork for a subtle change of pace.
The cool mountain air and live music is a huge draw for the locals on the weekends but even with that the area pretty much is for daytime as most everyone departs prior to sunset.
The live music gets people dancing and singing, and everyone is eating and drinking. The area is really like a multi-mile long block party. Children play in the streams and forests behind the restaurants. Older people hang out and talk, eat and dance.
Weekends in Puerto Rico are a family affair, especially Sundays. Locals love to get together for meals and family activities.
The road up is just lined with lechoneras. Everyone you ask will have their favorite place. Some people like the first ones you come to on the road – easy in / easy out, and delicious! 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! My way of finding the best place is to look for the crowded ones – then you know you have found the best!
Once you find a crowded one and find some parking (most likely along the side of the road), walk up and get in line. These are "cafeteria style" places. The food is already prepared in warming trays behind glass. You will need to decide what you want to eat, and then point. When we were "newbies" we would just ask if anyone in line knew English, then ask for explanations and recommendations. People are always willing to help initiate a tourist into the flavors of the island. Or for the more daring, you could always just point to what looks good to you!
I always enjoy just watching as they hack up the pork with a machete. The cutting boards are all concave from years of hacking. It is quite the spectacle! And very reasonably priced. You will have a plateful for about $7.
The road up is winding and crowded. The road ends at the Carite Forest Reserve. There are vendors along the roadside selling all sorts of things like plants, honey, seasonings and Puerto Rican souvenirs.
You need to go on a Saturday or Sunday to get the most if this event. Get there early – arrive before noon. After that the road up and down becomes bumper to bumper. Of course, that is part of the experience! If you absolutely can’t make it on a weekend, some of the lechoneras are open during the week. There just isn’t the party atmosphere or the live music. But the food is still delicious! Friday has more places open than other weekdays. El Mojitos and El Nuevo Rancho are open 7 days/week usually from early am (7am) until about 7:00pm.
A number of places are open during the holidays also, many with extended hours during Christmas season.
If you can’t make it all the way to Guavate, lechon is generally available all around the island from Friday through Sunday. Just drive down the road and look for the pig on a spit, then pull in and enjoy. It is usually sold by the pound.
Even right along Route 3, between Rio Grande and Canovanas, you will find a couple places ( Mini & Johnny’s and Armando’s and sometimes a guy roadside with a roast pig trailer almost across from Armando’s) that have a pig on the weekends. Go early (before lunch usually), once the pig is gone, there is no more. On weekends, there is also a place on RT 191 (the road to the rainforest) that has Lechon).