The capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan is known – celebrated even – for its historical sites and beautiful beaches. It is also known for an up-all-night bar and party scene. From posh rooftop watering holes to under-the-radar local spots, the choice is huge. For the inside scoop, check out our list of the best bars in San Juan.
Funky neon lights welcome you to Jungle Bird, near La Placita de Santurce, a busy marketplace for fruit stands, restaurants and local sellers. After dark, La Placita itself becomes a lively nightlife spot with bars and clubs. The speciality here? The tiki and tropical drinks – the Missionary’s Downfall is made with Don Q Cristal rum, pineapple, apricot brandy, honey and lime. There’s also a food menu of delicious, Caribbean-inspired bites to mop up your drinks.
The sit-down restaurant has been a stop for locals and tourists for more than 40 years, and it’s inside a colonial building that’s more than 200 years old. There’s indoor and outdoor dining and an extensive menu of Puerto Rican and international cuisine. Be prepared for a wait, though. Barrachina claims to be the originator of the piña colada, which is the main draw to the restaurant. The ones they create here – made with pineapple juice, white rum and coconut cream – are deliciously smooth.
Away from the usual tourist spots, this is a neighborhood hangout that really pulls in locals. The highlight of Taberna Boricua is the backyard space. Seating inside the bar is limited, so head to the back patio and grab one of the tables under the string lights. As for drinks, Taberna Boricua is a beer-drinker’s heaven – take your pick from craft and artisanal varieties from around the world or ask the bartender for a recommendation for something local. They’re super-obliging.
If you love Eighties rock music, motorcycles and classic cars, do yourself a favor and head to Handlebar. The bar and nightclub is in a warehouse setting, and there’s an unmistakable flaming skull on the side of the building. Inside there are live tribute bands, big-screen televisions playing music videos, and a friendly crowd. What’s more, the beers are cold, the cocktails are strong, and the tunes are loud.
Eter Rooftop & Lounge is ideal for people who like to snap photos of their drinks between sips. The bar is perched above the Ciqala Luxury Suites, a boutique hotel in the Miramar district. It’s an upscale restaurant and cocktail bar delivering 360-degree views of San Juan, and pretty cocktails with names such as Lucid Dreams (Hypnotic, Midori, Malibu, Sprite and lime). The food is creative too – there’s a ceviche-stuffed avocado dish and mahi-mahi stuffed mofongo, a twist on Puerto Rico’s national dish, which is usually made with plantain.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Valerie Rouse.
Looking for more recommendations? Why not make a weekend of it and book a stay with Culture Trip at the best beach hotels in San Juan or opt for a more personalised touch at one of these top B&Bs. There’s plenty to do too, from these must-visit attractions to exploring the most beautiful beaches in San Juan or diving into local cuisine at these top restaurants.