I used to speak rather highly of the Bacardi tour at the factory in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They have a nice campus and a cool outdoor bar.
Here you could do a tour for free and they even gave you four free (miniature) drinks. The tour took you to a building where you learned a little bit about the world’s #1 premium spirit. At the bar, you had an opportunity to try out a lot of their flavored rums as well as some of the aged ones and it didn’t cost you a thing. The kids even liked it as they would let them combine various tropical juices to make a virgin cocktail. It was a lot of fun.
Times are changing at Casa Bacardi though. I arrived at Bacardi to go on a tour only to be confused. I found a line that led me to a cash register. The cashier informed me that I could do the regular tour for $12 per person or the upgraded tour for $35 per person. The $12 tour was the exact same one that they used to do for free. No longer did you get your four free drinks, but you got a single drink that came in an acrylic souvenir cup. You also didn’t have the choice of all the different kinds of rum. You simply got a choice of a Cuba Libre (Rum and Coke), Rum Punch, or Mojito. The upgraded tour was that tour plus a rum tasting or mixology class. It turns out that four months ago, they redid everything and started charging.
Begrudgingly, I paid the $35 per person and boy that was a mistake. The first part of the tour was the same. However, they had to cut the last part out to rush us over to the “upgraded tour”. As they took us over to the “upgraded tour”, we left the polished touristy area and ended up sitting in an old hallway for a few minutes. The tour guide walked us over to the main Bacardi building.
Admittedly, they never really allowed the public into this building before, so that was kind of neat. However, once inside all we did was walk to the top to an outdoor balcony. From there we could take some aerial shots, but that really was about all we got as far as a tour went.
The tour was over and now it was time for our rum tasting. The tour guide walked us into an old dirty conference room that looks like it had been there since the sixties. At each place setting, there were four small glasses of rum to try. Samples included Bacardi, Bacardi Oakheart, Bacardi 8, and Bacardi Reserve. I had always wanted to try the Bacardi Reserve as it costs at least $70 a bottle. Although it was pretty smooth, the tasting confirmed, I would never want to pay that much for a sipping rum.
All-in-all, I found the entire experience disappointing. I know the company needs to cover it costs, but this is ridiculous. I never understood why the tour was free to being with. However, I feel like now Bacardi is trying to recoup its costs for all of the past visitors. $35 per person is just way too much for a mediocre experience. If you have money to burn try it, but don’t get your hopes up and definitely don’t bother with the “upgraded tour”.
2 thoughts on “Bacardi tour in San Juan, Puerto Rico – used to be a great value, now a rip-off”
I recently visited TripAdvisor (http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g147320-d150138-r251173480-Casa_Bacardi-San_Juan_Puerto_Rico.html#REVIEWS) and it seems Corey Roth might have presented everything a bit out of proportion. All the reviews I have read about the tour are very positive and speak highly about the changes to the tour, Mixology Seminars, Rum Tastings and new Restaurant to open in 2015. These comments are sure confusing and it would be best for each traveler to draw their own conclusions. I say go to the Bacardi Distillery Tour, El Morro and El Yunque, definitely three landmarks to visit while in Puerto Rico. By the way they all charge.
Hi Mariel, I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. I went ahead and allowed your comment to be posted, but I feel that your comment is awfully biased towards Bacardi. I am guessing you (or friends and family) are directly associated with the company. I understand charging for a tour because you have fixed costs. However, I have an issue with being charged more and getting significantly less. Even if the tour was just as it was last year, it would have been probably worth it. It’s not though. If you read even the rest of the reviews on TripAdvisor from the last month they are overwhelmingly mixed. The entire experience was rushed especially the upgraded part. Most people didn’t even have time to finish their tastings before we were being rushed out of there. It’s clear Casa Bacardi is experiencing some growing pains.