Neither Romola Garai nor Diego Luna (Katey and Javier) had any professional dance training. Before production began, the actors spent ten weeks in Puerto Rico, training for eight hours a day with producer JoAnn Fregalette Jansen and four additional dancer/choreographers.
The movie was filmed in Puerto Rico and made to look like Cuba. Most of it was done in the colonial part of San Juan, Old San Juan a very popular hangout for Puerto Ricans and a very touristy area. In order to maintain the look and esthetic of the pre-Cuban revolution era, producers secured underground parking places for people that would visit Old San Juan during the shoot so that there wouldn't be any modern cars parked in the streets.
Writer Peter Sagal (story) is the same Peter Sagal who hosts the National Public Radio program "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!" The script is loosely based on an earlier screenplay that Sagal had written as an original story, not as a Dirty Dancing sequel.