San Juan

From Thursday through Sunday it's as if there's a celebration going on nearly everywhere in San Juan. Be sure you dress to party, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights; Puerto Ricans have flair, and both men and women love getting dressed up to go out. Bars are usually casual, but if you have on jeans, sneakers, and a T-shirt, you may be refused entry at nightclubs and discos.

Well-dressed visitors and locals alike often mingle in the lobby bars of large hotels, many of which feature bands in the evening. Some hotels also have clubs with shows and/or dancing; the cover generally starts at $10. Casino rules have been relaxed, injecting life into what was once a conservative hotel-gaming scene, but you still won't be allowed in wearing a tank top or shorts. There are more games, plus such gambling perks as free drinks and live music.

In Old San Juan, Calle San Sebastián is lined with bars and restaurants. Salsa music blaring from jukeboxes in cut-rate pool halls competes with mellow Latin jazz in top-flight nightspots. The young and the beautiful often socialize in Plaza San José. Mid-January sees the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, one of the Caribbean's best street parties.

Young professionals as well as a slightly older bohemian crowd fill Santurce, San Juan's historical downtown area, until the wee hours. The revitalized Plaza del Mercado (Calle Dos Hermanos at Calle Capital) has structures—many painted in bright colors—dating from the 1930s or earlier. On weekend nights the area's streets are closed to vehicular traffic. You can wander from dive bars to trendy nightspots and sway to music that pours from countless open-air establishments and the marketplace's front plaza.

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  • 1. La Factoría

    Old San Juan | Bars/Pubs

    La Factoría, the former Hijos de Borinquen, is hands-down the best mixology bar in San Juan. Artisanal cocktails are crafted with the highest...Read More

  • 2. Bar La Unidad

    Miramar | Bars/Pubs

    Dark, sexy, and romantic, this hidden speakeasy is a lovely spot for a cocktail. There's a cigar lounge in the backroom, and the sliders are...Read More

  • 3. Birra y Empanadas

    Old San Juan | Bars/Pubs

    As the name suggests, this small bar is known for its beers and its small but tasty selection of baked empanadas. Ask for the homemade sauces. ...Read More

  • 4. El Batey

    Old San Juan | Bars/Pubs

    This legendary dive bar won't win any prizes for decor, but it has an irresistibly artsy and welcoming vibe. Add your own message to the graffiti...Read More

  • 5. Esquina el Watusi

    Santurce | Bars/Pubs

    For a non-touristy experience, head to this lively dive bar in the heart of Santurce, and order a Medalla or a rum drink with fresh juice. There...Read More

  • 6. Junglebird

    Santurce | Bars/Pubs

    Run by the same guys as La Factoría in Old San Juan, this tropical tiki bar is steps from La Placita. Although it has a charming patio, its...Read More

  • 7. La Taberna Lúpulo

    Old San Juan | Bars/Pubs

    If you love beer, don't leave Puerto Rico without visiting Lúpulo. At the island's largest craft beer bar you'll find over 25 varieties on tap...Read More

  • 8. La Verguenza

    Old San Juan | Bars/Pubs

    This lively, three-story bar has spectacular views of La Perla and the Atlantic. On weekends, it's popular with locals (be prepared to wait...Read More

  • 9. Mist

    Bars/Pubs

    On the roof of the San Juan Water Beach Club Hotel, this sexy spot offers some of Isla Verde's best ocean views. On weekends there's a DJ, and...Read More

  • 10. Oasis

    Bars/Pubs

    This gay-friendly bar is just steps from Condado beach. ...Read More

  • 11. Scryer Rum

    Old San Juan | Bars/Pubs

    Scryer Rum is a small-batch, premium spirit that's distilled in Barbados and aged on-site in Old San Juan. The first floor is home to the finishing...Read More

  • 12. The Mezzanine

    Old San Juan | Bars/Pubs

    Set in the former headquarters of the Nationalist Party, this contemporary take on a 1920s speakeasy is a chic space that's conducive to sipping...Read More

  • 13. Bar Gitano

    Bars/Pubs

    One of the few late-night dining options in Condado, Bar Gitano keeps the tasty tapas and sangria flowing until around midnight during the week...Read More

  • 14. Barlovento

    Bars/Pubs

    Packed on weekends, this chic outdoor bar that's on a breezy plaza is a great place to sip tropical drinks oceanside. It also has a menu if...Read More

  • 15. Coaches

    Hato Rey | Bars/Pubs

    This typical sports pub is well outfitted with televisions if your travel plans coincide with that game you just can't miss. Local Ivy League...Read More

  • 16. Cups

    Santurce | Bars/Pubs

    This women-oriented bar in the middle of Santurce has been a mainstay of San Juan's nightlife since 1980. Karaoke on Thursday night is especially...Read More

  • 17. El Barril

    Bars/Pubs

    If you stop by this neighborhood bar at, say, 9 or 10 pm, you may find yourself alone with the bartender. It doesn't get going until 11 pm at...Read More

  • 18. Jam Rum Bar + Bistro Moderne

    Bars/Pubs

    You can come here earlier in the evening to eat a terrific meal, but this hidden spot in the heart of Condado is also a great place for a drink...Read More

  • 19. Junior's

    Santurce | Bars/Pubs

    Open every evening, this neighborhood bar attracts nearly equal numbers of men and women. The jukebox plays a constant stream of salsa, which...Read More

  • 20. Nuyorican Café

    Old San Juan | Bars/Pubs

    Something interesting happens nearly every night (it's closed Monday and Tuesday) at this hipper-than-hip, no-frills, wood-paneled performance...Read More

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