Puerto Rico’s nightlife is abundant and varied. The streets are lively in the evening. Many shops are open late, and the visitor can sit in the squares of old San Juan and indulge in people-watching. A recommended walk is down La Princesa Promenade, lined with antique street lamps. Meeting places include a Bogart-style cigar bar and cocktail bars. Hotels provide some of the entertainment, but there are also different types of clubs, both modern and more mainstream. Many Puerto Ricans favour traditional Latin dance clubs with large dance floors, which often have live bands playing salsa and merengue music. Puerto Ricans are passionate about their nightlife, and often dress up. Casinos are intimate and friendly, generally opening at noon and closing at around 4 am daily. Hotel casinos are open to guests and non-guests alike.
San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico's after hours nightlife. Most clubs, discotheques, and casinos are located in the Isla Verde, Old San Juan and El Condado areas. In Ponce and Mayaguez, you will find some additional excitement, albeit less intense as the big city. Tipping is a must. The laws for drinking alcoholic beverages are the same as the United States. Only adults over 21 are permitted.
While San Juan's entertainment options shouldn't be compared to Las Vegas or New York, there is still plenty to do here. Sanjuaneros, or the people of San Juan, are serious party-goers, and they know how to keep the party scene alive and well. Playing hard seems to be part of the island's culture.
Old San Juan is without a doubt the place for those who love classic and contemporary culture. The art, music, and fine dining are available at every turn in this historic pocket of the big city. San Juan is inviting to the night owls who want to groove in hot clubs such as Club Lazer, where you can party till dawn. Or, find fun at lively bars like Nono's and Don Pablo's. The best place to have a festive cocktail is along San Sebastián and Cristo Streets.
Condado attracts an upscale party crowd who flocks to its clubs and ubiquitous small cafés and bars. Stargate, with its wild bashes, is a prime choice for the party-hearty crowd. Among the pubs, Dunbar's in the Ocean Park sector stands out for its fun-loving people and tantalizing food. Take to the dance floor and learn the latest salsa moves at any of the hotel lobbies that provide this type of entertainment for visitors.
Isla Verde in recent years has been converted into a mega-party district, housing super clubs like Babylon and Area 51. There are plenty of cafés and street-side bars along this strip. The lobbies of the InterContinental San Juan and the Ritz-Carlton have excellent entertainment, but the ever popular El San Juan Hotel & Casino is, without question, the place to be.
Bars & Pubs
More than any other place in the Caribbean, San Juan has a nightlife that successfully combines New York hip with Latino zest and the music of the Spanish tropics.
First, head for a pair of holes in the wall across the street from the El Convento Hotel. El Batey, Calle del Cristo 101, and Don Pablo, Calle del Cristo, are battered side-by-side hangouts with a clientele of locals, expatriates, and occasional visitors. Whereas El Batey's music remains firmly grounded in the rock 'n' roll classics of the 1970s, with a scattering of Elvis Presley hits, Don Pablo prides itself on cutting-edge music that's continually analysed by the counter-culture aficionados who hang out here. El Batey is open daily from 2 pm to 6 am; Don Pablo, daily from 8 pm to 4 am.
These bars, along with the dark and smoky Café Bohemia, just across the street, in the cellar of the El Convento Hotel, Calle del Cristo 100, are hip hangouts for late-night dialogues. At this hideaway you can often hear live jazz while enjoying fruity cocktails, drinks and light meals. Older locals mingle with hotel guests, the patronage mainly in the post-35 age group.
You might also stumble into Carli Café Concierto, Calle Tetuán 206, off Plazoleta Rafael Carrión. This is one of Old Town's best spots for drinking margaritas and watching the world go by. Owner Carli Muñoz, who earned fame as one of The Beach Boys, plays jazz and piano classics nightly, often with invited guests. There is no cover charge.
Many visitors come to Puerto Rico on package deals and stay at one of the posh hotels at the Condado or Isla Verde just to gamble. Nearly all the large hotels in San Juan/Condado/Isla Verde offer casinos, and there are other large casinos at some of the bigger resorts outside the metropolitan area. The atmosphere in the casinos is casual, but still you shouldn't show up in bathing suits or shorts. Most of the casinos open around noon and close at 2, 3, or 4 am. Guest patrons must be at least 18 years old to enter.
The casino generating all the excitement today is the 18,500-square-foot (1,719 sq m) Ritz-Carlton Casino, Avenue of Governors, Isla Verde, the largest casino in Puerto Rico. It combines the elegant décor of the 1940s with tropical fabrics and patterns. This is one of the plushest and most exclusive entertainment complexes in the Caribbean. It features traditional games such as blackjack, roulette, baccarat, craps and slot machines.
One of the splashiest of San Juan's casinos is at the Wyndham Old San Juan Hotel & Casino, Calle Brumbaugh 100, where five-card stud competes with some 240 slot machines and roulette tables. You can also try your luck at the Wyndham El San Juan Hotel & Casino, Avenida Isla Verde 6063, or the Wyndham Condado Plaza Hotel & Casino, Avenida Ashford 999. You do not have to flash passports or pay any admission fees.