This is the largest of three distilleries belonging to perhaps the world’s most famous rum company, Bacardi. To get there, take the ferry from the ferry terminal in Old San Juan to Cataño for $.50 each way. It runs every 15 minutes and the ride across the bay is only about 10 minutes. Once you arrive, walk out of Cataño’s ferry terminal over to the building on the right. There will be several públicos (eight-passenger shared taxis) waiting to take you to the factory. You may have to wait for the van to fill up before the driver will leave, but use this time to negotiate the price (it shouldn’t be more than $3 per person). The público will take you through rundown neighborhoods that sadly contrast the brightly colored architecture of Old San Juan and the skyscrapers of Condado and Ocean Park.
Once you arrive at the Barcardi Factory, walk over to the tent (apparently, it’s abstractly shaped like a bat, but you can’t really tell from the ground). The tour is free, but you must get an admission ticket and, of course, your two complimentary drink tickets. The tour trolleys leave every half hour on the half hour. Be prepared for tedium as the large tour group scrambles on and off the tour trollies, up and down stairways, and through photo galleries. The few things you do learn, however, are interesting, like the fact that the cuba libre (rum, coke, and lime) was invented in Cuba by an American soldier, and the name of the daiquirí came from a miner who decided to try crushed ice, rum, and juice after a tiring day working in the Daiquirí mines. You also learn about the history of the Bacardi family, the distillation process, the qualities of various rums, and the bottling process. I found the bottling process to be the most interesting, but be advised that the bottling line closes at 4pm on weekdays and does not operate on Saturdays.
The trolley will take you back to the bat-shaped tent and you can have a look in the Bacardi store. They have Bacardi accessories and a good selection of many of the Bacardi rums at very cheap prices. However, they may not have all the types of rums available as some types are bottled in the other distilleries in the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. If you can’t find the type of rum you want in the Bacardi store, wait until you get to the duty-free stores in the airport-–you’ll find a better deal there than in the liquor stores of San Juan.
Finally, be sure to use your drink tickets and sample some of the rum drinks from the bar. There’s not much alcohol in them, but they’re free! When you’re finished, there will be públicos waiting in the parking lot to take you back to the Cataño ferry terminal.