12 Bars in San Juan, Puerto Rico for an Unforgettable Night Out

Bars in San Juan are serious fun. Puerto Rico’s energetic culture is at its highest when the sun goes down, and La Placita de Santurce transforms from a sleepy produce market to a crowded street party.

Nightlife in San Juan offers a little something for everyone. You could spend your night dancing at dive bars and hopping between stalls at La Placita, or you could enjoy innovative drinks and gastronomic bar bites at the best cocktail bars in San Juan.

Then there’s La Factoría, one of the most prized bars in the city, that bridges both.

La Placita de Santurce, one of the best neighborhoods for bars in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
La Placita de Santurce is the ultimate nightlife destination in San Juan.

San Juan’s vibrant bar scene just makes sense. The island is home to Casa BACARDÍ (the Bacardi rum distillery), and salsa and bomba dancing have long been part of the island’s culture.

Rum distilling contributes heavily to bars in San Juan—so much so that my taxi driver needed to make sure that I had tried a mojito with Puerto Rican rum on my way back to the airport.

Distilling aside, Puerto Rico is largely credited with popularizing reggaeton, a type of music that blends reggae and hip hop with Latin influence that’s often heard all over bars in San Juan. Speaking from experience, it’s impossible to listen to without wanting to dance.

I spent a few nights in San Juan recently and loved hanging out at the city’s best bars. Don’t step foot in one of them before reading this:

Best bars in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

1. Bar La Unidad

Bar La Unidad is one of the best speakeasies in San Juan. Located in historic Miramar, the dimly lit bar boasts a mixology-driven cocktail program and tapas-style bar food.

Bring a date—Bar La Unidad has a reputation for being one of the most romantic bars in San Juan and makes for a great pre-dinner drink or nightcap.

Drinks represent a balance between the refined approach of classic cocktails and tropical ingredients local to Puerto Rico, like the CocoLoco (rye, peanut butter whiskey, and coconut water) and the Smoky but Berry Fresh (mezcal, fresh herbs liqueur, lemon juice, pink grapefruit juice, passion fruit juice, berry muddle, cava).

The bar’s food menu features hamachi tartare, foie gras jibaro, caviar tacos, and other similar items, which play into its underground luxe feel.

Reservations can be made by calling Bar La Unidad directly, and are recommended due to its popularity.

Cocktail at La Penultima, one of the best bars in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

2. La Penúltima

There’s something inevitably cool about La Penúltima, the nonchalant neighborhood bar that crowds up with locals as the night drags on.

It’s sparse, romantically grungy, and tiny. The outdoor patio in the back helps mitigate the foot traffic.

Over time, cocktails at La Penúltima have gotten increasingly more sophisticated, attracting the attention of World’s 50 Best Discovery. Yet, they still don’t feel pretentious or unapproachable, holding true to the bar’s position as a neighborhood spot.

The fruit-forward Isla Borinquen Fizz (gin, rum, coconut, pineapple, lime, soda) is a perfect introduction to San Juan. Still, it’s the bar’s simple Cheap Thrills (vodka, lime, soda, choice of passionfruit or guava) that won me over.

Sure, La Penúltima’s more elegant concoctions are a little more interesting, but something about the simple drink felt right in the bar’s stripped-down space, like how the bar’s robust beer list, including local breweries, just makes sense.

Gooey poached eggs cover the disco fries, which are a must-order for the late-night crowd. The portobello sandwich (barbecued beet sauce, sautéed portobello, blue cheese, and coleslaw on a brioche bun) is a far more satisfying vegetarian option than the boring veggie burger bars won’t stop putting on their menus.

3. The Mezzanine

You’d be forgiven for thinking that St. Germain Bistro & Cafe is strictly a simple, casual vegetarian restaurant in San Juan.

The unassuming eatery hides a secret away upstairs.

The Mezzanine, a stylish cocktail bar and open-air terrace is located on the second floor of the colonial building that St. Germain calls home. This building formerly housed the headquarters of the island’s Nationalist Party, according to Fodor’s.

An al fresco space strives to evoke the spirit of San Juan’s golden age, nurturing a cocktail program of classic cocktails and slight derivatives.

Visit in the early evening of a sunny day for some of the best people-watching in San Juan.

A cocktail at La Factoria, one of the best bars in San Juan.

4. La Factoría

La Factoría is nearly unrivaled in San Juan. The legendary bar in Viejo San Juan, the city’s old town, makes some of the best cocktails on the island. It’s attracted international attention, hailed as #24 of North America’s 50 Best Bars and the best bar in the Caribbean by the World’s 50 Best Bars.

It’s easy to miss and a maze when you’re in. Six different rooms, each with a distinct menu occupy this rustic space, which feels equal parts living room and moody nightclub.

Sit in the bar’s first room for light conversation and a drink that plays off Puerto Rican flavors. Here, first dates get to know each other and old friends catch up.

If you’re seeking a party, step back into La Factoría’s back room, where music blasts from the speakers and salsa fills the dance floor on Sundays. I was disappointed that we missed salsa night when we visited on a Sunday—only reason to go back.

5. El Batey Bar

Graffiti is sprawled across nearly every surface at El Batey Bar—the tables, the rail, the bathroom, everything.

It’s the epitome of a dive bar in a way that’s equal parts endearing and messy. A shot and a beer cost $5, a roughed-up pool table occupies the back room, and asking if they serve food will expose you as a visitor (they don’t).

Carpenters rub shoulders with sunburned tourists, the friendly bartending team chats it up with all of them. Cheap beers slide across the rail, and rum flows nonstop, but bartenders aren’t bothered by whipping up a non-alcoholic mocktail.

It would be unfair to say that El Batey mimics similar NYC East Village bars because even though the atmosphere may be reminiscent, the bar is quintessentially Puerto Rican in its own way.

El Batey Bar has existed since the 1960s and, by the looks of it, will continue for decades longer.

6. Patio de las Flores

Patio de las Flores is unabashedly Puerto Rican and wants everyone to know it.

A colorful bird mural is splashed across the bar, accented by trellising florals and plush seating, a nod to the bar’s name (“Flores” translates into flowers from Spanish).

Cocktails are served in everything from bird-shaped glasses to conch shells and coconuts.

The team behind Patio de las Flores seeks to elevate Puerto Rican gastronomy through their craft cocktail and tapas menu.

The signature cocktail menu, though brief, offers an intriguing drink selection, like the combination of coconut horchata, pineapple skin, pistachio, and matcha dust, and Cacao Bitters in the C.R.E.A.M., paired with Don Q Reserva 7 Rum and fino sherry.

Also available are a couple of seasonal cocktail picks and an “incógnito” menu, presumably only for the in-the-know.

7. Los 3 Cuernos

Los 3 Cuernos, which translates into “3 Horns,” isn’t a place for $20 drinks and tufted seating—leave the heels at home.

Instead, the casual bar in San Juan is loved by locals for its Chichaitos, strong, cheap shots native to Puerto Rico. These shots are made with anise liqueur and rum that come in flavors ranging from nutella to pistachio and fruit punch.

Bring cash, though you won’t need much of it. Inexpensive drinks start at just 75 cents for a beer. Chichaitos are $1 each.

If you want a bite, stop by during the day when Los 3 Cuernos is known for making one of Viejo San Juan’s best Cuban sandwiches.

Nightlife at La Placita de Santurce in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

8. La Placita de Santurce

La Placita de Santurce is a party and a good one at that. When the sun sets, Puerto Ricans flock to the otherwise unremarkable produce market, transforming it into a raucous romp.

Describing La Placita as a singular thing doesn’t feel fair. It’s a block party with dive bars, street food vendors, and salsa dancing. Somehow, a couple of indoor nightclubs are thrown in that mix, and you definitely shouldn’t be surprised when you see partiers posing for photos with illegal exotic animals like large snakes and monkeys, brought in by balaclava-clad men.

Partiers of all ages push through the narrow entrance to the market. Barely 18s go all out wearing this season’s freshest in clubwear and elaborate makeup that took hours to finish. The seasoned, over-50 veterans walk around with a certain laid-back confidence that mimics that of the most popular kid in school. Motorbikes somehow manage to whiz through all of them. Police don’t seem to care.

Bad Bunny’s latest album booms through speakers as a dense crowd gets down in a way that would make your mother shield her eyes, belting out every lyric. Once in a while, the DJ throws in a throwback like Daddy Yankee’s Gasolina, which really makes the already-rowdy crowd go wild.

Next door, salsa dancers take to the alley as a live band plays classic hits. You don’t need to be a pro to get out on the dance floor—all abilities are welcome—though it may seem like most everyone is a skilled salsero. Onlookers in awe of the fast footwork line both sides of the street, careful not to get in the way.

Street vendors feed unparalleled drunk food consisting of authentic Puerto Rican snacks to those in need of a break (or something to pad the cheap shots they’ll inevitably consume).

La Placita de Santurce is free to enter. Although the government has cracked down on the uncontrollable, all-night party it once was, expect to stay well past midnight and have sore feet tomorrow.

9. Jungle Bird

Jungle Bird is a surprise. The sexy cocktail bar is in the thick of La Placita de Santurce but is far more stylish than the cheap dive bars of the neighborhood while keeping the energetic atmosphere synonymous with them.

Taino-influenced drinks are served, drawing on the Caribbean’s indigenous culture. Drinks are separated into tiki and tropical, and food, consisting of filling drunk food like mac and cheese and fried chicken sandwiches shouldn’t be overlooked. The food menu rotates regularly, keeping things new.

This is a bar for those tired of syrupy piña colada mixes—Jungle Bird’s Caribbean cocktails are made with real ingredients.

10. Casa de Montecristo

Casa de Montecristo is either a finance bro’s fever dream or a blissful way to end the week, depending on how you look at it.

The chic space is more reminiscent of cocktail bars in Williamsburg, Brooklyn than it is in Old San Juan, where it’s actually located.

Guests are invited to imbibe a selection of craft cocktails that maintain the cigar bar’s classy feel. Spirits lean into whiskey and bourbon, though the usual suspects are also on the bar list.

Though I’d never encourage smoking (I’m vehemently against it), if you’re going to, Casa de Montecristo is one of the top places for it in San Juan. Drinks support a high-end humidor, offering cigars that are hardly found in the mainland United States.

Stop by on a Monday or Thursday night for live Latin jazz, the final piece of Casa de Montecristo’s argument for slow-paced unwinding.

11. La Taberna de Lúpulo

Get ready to write some Untappd reviews—La Taberna de Lúpulo is one of the best beer bars in San Juan. The bar regularly boasts over 50 craft beers on its tap list and 150 different bottles.

Most of La Taberna de Lúpulo’s drafts are from local breweries in Puerto Rico, so expect to find brews with tropical ingredients like passionfruit.

If you’re not a beer lover, don’t worry—the bar also serves some of the island’s most beloved cocktails, such as piña coladas, daiquiris, and coquitos.

12. Scryer Rum Barrelhouse and Rooftop

Bacardí has long been known as the go-to rum distillery in Puerto Rico, but Scryer Rum Barrelhouse and Rooftop is changing that.

The rum label specializes in small-batch production of pot-distilled sipping rum. All of Scryer’s rum is barrel-finished in Old San Juan, where imbibers can see it in action on a tour of the barrelhouse.

Visiting the cozy, dramatic barrelhouse doesn’t require taking a ferry. Instead, it’s right in the heart of OSJ, not far from the San Juan cruise port. Guests can take a tour, see Scryer’s finishing casks, and experience a rum tasting—opting to try barrel-strength rum should they choose.

You won’t need to drink your rum neat or simply on the rocks. Scryer offers a sizable menu of classic rum cocktails, like the Blood Punch (Scryer Rum, cherry liqueur, sweet vermouth, orange juice, and grapefruit juice), Scryer’s take on a classic Caribbean rum punch, and a Dark and Stormy (Scryer rum, fresh lime juice, ginger beer, and aromatic bitters).

Scryer additionally has a brief cigar list.

Rum tours are $30 and should be scheduled in advance on Scryer’s website. I did a rum distillery tour and tasting in the Caribbean—it was a unique experience and a highlight of the trip.

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