Funky Piñones is little more than a collection of open-air seaside eateries. Sand floors, barefoot patrons, and tantalizing seafood—traditionally washed down with icy beer—have made it popular with locals, especially on weekend evenings. Chilled agua de coco is served right from the coconut. During the day you can rent a bike and follow the marked seaside trail that meanders 11 km (7 miles) through the mangrove forest and along the northern coastline. It takes about two hours to bike from one end and back, but allow some time to stop and take pictures, grab something to eat, and explore the scenic beach areas.

The area has grown as a nightlife destination, too, as fancier establishments, some with live music, have opened up. As midafternoon turns into evening and people begin to leave the beach for refreshments, the air is thick with smoke from grilled fish, beef and chicken kebabs (called pinchos here), and the kettles of oil used to fry codfish and crab fritters. When the giant orange Caribbean sun starts to fall behind the San Juan skyline, salsa and merengue—not to mention reggae and Latin pop—start to blare from jukeboxes and sound systems at dozens of ramshackle establishments dotting Route 187, the main drag. Traffic on the two-lane road into and out of the area is daunting on Friday and Saturday nights, when many of these open-air bars host merengue combos, Brazilian jazz trios, or reggae bands.

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