That's a tough question...and can only really be decided by tasting and tasting and tasting and...well, we couldn't spend all our time at it, could we? So, intrigued in advance by tales of great ice cream and unusual flavors, we identified three contenders before we arrived. They were in three different cities: Lares, Caguas and Ponce. Sadly, none in San Juan!
Unfortunately, the one that got the most mentions and best reviews, the Heladeria de Lares, closed early in 2014 when the owner died. We didn't realize that until we arrived in Lares. Fortunately we had other reasons to be there as well. The Lares Heladeria, opened in 1968, also had the reputation for the most (200) and most exotic flavors, including codfish, chicken, beer, rice and beans, beer and more.
We also made it to Kings Ice Cream in Ponce, on the southern coast. Known locally as "Los Chinos," it was opened in 1964 by Chinese immigrants from Cuba. It's a small store, right on the main plaza, that makes its ice creams right at the counter (see picture at the top!) There's a limited flavor selection each day (of which we tried too many!) and they were all rich and with good flavors.
But, in the end, we gave our vote to Jendy's in Caguas, which also seems to be the most common pick for "the best place now that Lares is gone," as attested by multiple press clippings on their wall.
It's a pretty unassuming little store, in a strip mall away from the historic center. We were originally looking for it nearer the center and had spotted a place we thought might be it. A teenage girl who told us the people there were "no good" and her grandmother who told us the ice cream is "too sweet" both assured us Jendy's is what we wanted.
Inside, we found the usual ice-cream store freezer-counters and wall displays of the various offerings, and home-made labels for the available flavors, which included soursop, guava, avocado, coconut pudding, rice pudding, and oatmeal as well as more expectable chocolate, coffee and fruit flavors. Again, this time accompanied by our granddaughter, we tasted too much. But then, it WAS research!
For more TravelGumbo articles on Puerto Rico (including our visits to Ponce and Caguas) click HERE