Drinking In... Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico may be half the size of New Jersey, but its nightlife, from gritty dive bars to swank hot spots, is muy grande. San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, is the heart of the action. With the rhythm of salsa music pulsing through the air to the sultry tropical temps to the legal drinking age of 18, San Juan is a magnet for fiery fiesta-seekers. Here is your San Juan, Puerto Rico drinking guide by neighborhood:
Old San Juan
El Batey: Johnny Depp’s character in The Rum Diary, Hunter S. Thomas, would be here if he were alive today. El Batey is a total dive bar with bohemian charm. It may look a little sketchy when you arrive, but stick around, both the locals and tourists come out as the night progresses to play jukebox tunes and shoot pool until the wee hours. 101 Calle del Cristo
Barrachina: Legend has it this is where the piña colada was invented by a famed mixologist of the '60s named Don-Ramon Portas Mingot. Head to the small five bar stool counter and ask the bartender about Hilton’s La Caribe claim that they invented. You’ll get an earful to go with that stout, authentic piña colada made with Don Q or Barrilito rum.
Los 3 Cuernos: If you're ready to switch it up from piña coladas, say hello to chichaítos. Los Tres Cuernon, a Carnival mask shop turned bar, serves up hundreds of the trendy anise flavored rum shots in over 25 fruit infused flavors, including coconut and ginger, for $1. Students and hipsters alike pack the long bar most nights. Calle San Francisco 403
Tia Maria’s Liquor Store: Yes it’s a gay-friendly bar to buy a few drinks at, but it is not a liquor store per say. Located in the up-and-coming artist district of Santurce, the action starts around 10 pm. Say hello to Tia Maria, usually behind the bar, chatting up the spectrum of both men and women that come in for good company and cheap drinks. 326 Ave José De Diego
La Repuesta: As the heartbeat of Puerto Rico’s underground art scene, La Repuesta is a funky bar with plastic superhero toys for decor. Almost nightly, La Repuesta features art exhibits, local indie band shows like Todos Los Lunes con Velcro and legendary musicians like Jerry Medina or live DJs.
Ocean Park/Isle Verde
Hostaria del Mar: It really is the ideal beach-chic hang out you imagine yourself in when vacationing on an island: thatched roof, billowing white curtains, Buddha statues, incense burning, bare feet encouraged and ocean vistas so beautiful it would nearly impossible to flub up a photo. (The view in headline image) Grab a watermelon sangria and relax on one of their cabanas in the sand or make a new friend at the bar, the guests are eclectic and fascinating as you are.
San Juan Water Beach Club: A ride on the psychedelic blue-lit elevator will clue you in to the night ahead on the rooftop of San Juan Water Beach Hotel's Mist (pictured above). Accented in turquoise Miami-esque decor with 180 degree ocean views, Mist is where the beautiful people converge to enjoy a sunset cocktail like the Sand-gria (wine, Don Q rum, pineapple juice, passion fruit puree) or the Shore (Finlandia Vodka, Apple Puckers, cucumber juice). Nightology, DJed dance club parties, are every Thurs-Sat, 10 pm - 3 am.
Check out See Puertorico.com for more nightlife, culture and art ideas in Puerto Rico.
Photos by the author, with exception of Mist photo, courtesy of Andrea Johnson Photography.