What I really wanted was the Lechonera in town, it's a must if you go to Puerto Rico. However, I must warn you, finding the road side stands disappeared once we leave the north west side of the island. San Juan is too Americanized.
After disappointment, and a conversation that apparently I could understand in our group with the man at the Lechonera, we opted for a Puerto Rican pizza place in town that was recommended.
It was where the locals ate.
There were no locals there, and it wasn't until a few days later that I finally found someone to tell me when they ate. Turns out during the week Puerto Ricans really only eat out at lunch.
Before I get to the beach a local told us about, let me address our hotel.
We stayed at El Buen Cafe, it's a bit of a road house that's cafe is filled with locals and truckers all day. On the weekend evenings the locals fill up the bar, so be prepared to hear music all-night-long. The food was amazing, the prices were cheap, the hotel was very reasonable (with the best pool I saw the whole trip), and the locals and staff - while not speaking more English than I did Spanish - were more welcoming and helpful than you'd believe.
Now the beach, Playa Sardinera.
Even though we hit this one at sunset it was still beautiful, and full of Puerto Ricans. Not an American in site that wasn't with us.
And yes, I gauged the greatness of areas on this trip on just how few Americans were there... but only after going to San Juan.
The beach here was surrounded by a little reef of sorts and seemed to be slightly protected from whatever was in the ocean. Especially since it was dusk and about 20 people were still swimming.
It wasn't the cleanest beach ever, it's right next to a camp ground.
It did have the best shells though. I didn't see a single shell on the beach in San Juan just so you can gauge how the tourist areas are in comparison.
His take was that it was all locals, beautiful, and since nothing in the island is more than an hour and a half away... why not go there.
Sadly, by the time we had our free day and could have come to Manati we were so exhausted no one was willing to make the drive from Isla Verde.
Pardon the trashcan, but the moon was just too pretty.
The beach had a little faux peninsula that jutted out (you can see it if you follow the beach just to the large rock) and had great shells. It was neat to be nearly surrounded by the ocean as the tide was coming in on a little piece of sand that seemed it could be covered any minute.
So, if you ever go to Puerto Rico, stay far from Isla Verde and find yourself near Arecibo and their amazing beaches.