If you are travelling to Puerto Rico and looking for the best nightlife scene, then La Placita should be high on your list of places to visit. It is hands down one of the liveliest areas in Puerto Rico for a long night of dancing and debauchery.
La Placita has the well-deserved reputation for being a prime party destination in Puerto Rico for both tourists and locals. Its central location in Santurce, San Juan makes it easily accessible from nearby towns, and a quick 15-minute drive from San Juan airport.
After visiting La Placita, I found that much of the information online gives the impression that it is a hip and trendy place like the meatpacking district in NYC or South Beach in Miami. Although it has its appeals, La Placita is nothing like them.
So, I’m going to give you 7 tips about La Placita in Puerto Rico and its nightlife, along with some pictures and videos of the local neighborhood and festivities from my trip there. No filters.
And in case you are wondering, “Is La Placita open?” Yes, it is open, but with restrictions. So be sure to check the Puerto Rico tourism website for travel guidelines, and the operating hours of local businesses before you go. Some tourists have been running a muck lately, so please be considerate to any COVID-19 protocols and the Puerto Rican residents.
Now on to the tips!
La Placita Del Mercado de Santurce Is Your Main Destination
La Placita is a small residential neighborhood located within Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Locally and on maps, it is referred to as “La Placita de Santurce” in Spanish. Its key landmark is, “La Plaza del Mercado de Santurce,” which is where the main attractions are and your main destination.
So if you are travelling there on your own, without a guide, don’t just navigate to “La Placita.” If you do, then you will likely end up in the wrong location.
Here’s a map you can use for directions to La Placita:
At “La Plaza del Mercado de Santurce,” you will find a small marketplace and outdoor plaza with farmers markets, small local restaurants, bars, and various street vendors. This area is quiet and calm during the daytime, or what I like to call its “family-friendly hours.”
In the evening, this area changes into a nightlife hub, as all the bars open their doors, the salsa music is cranked to the max, and both locals and tourists pour in from all over the island to dance in the streets! If you can imagine a massive block party involving a chain of bars, then you’ll have the right mental image.
So don’t go during the daytime to La Placita if you are looking for excitement. Jut keep these popular lyrics in mind, “The Freaks Come out At Night.” Even during the peak of the tourist season, La Placita is like a ghost town during the daytime when compared to its nightlife alter ego.
Nightlife in La Placita is Best From 10 PM to 5 AM
You won’t find anywhere else in Puerto Rico where you can party at night for 9+ hours straight. Normally, the nightlife scene at La Placita is active from Wednesday through Sunday, starting around 6 pm and ending by 7 am. On Mondays and Tuesdays most bars are closed for business; These are the quiet days.
But during my trip, I found that the best times to go to La Placita for nightlife are between 10pm – 5 am. Many bars start closing their doors by 5 AM, especially if business is slowing down. I discovered this the hard way when I went searching for a hand rolled cigar around 5:30 am, and found shuttered doors instead.
Also, many bars in La Placita don’t even open until after 9 PM. While most restaurants close by 10 PM. So arrive early if you want to enjoy some day drinking, happy hour specials, and authentic Latin American cuisine before the nighttime festivities.
If you arrive with an empty stomach, your only options will be empanadas or tapas (small food dishes) from the few food vendors that stay open late.
Always Stay Within The Plaza Near La Placita del Mercado
Although I loved both the nightlife experience and the people there, it is common local knowledge that La Placita de Santurce is not one of the best neighborhoods in San Juan. If you compare it to Old San Juan or even Condado nearby, those neighborhoods are in far better condition and more walkable for tourists looking for things to do.
Many articles online give the misleading impression that La Placita is a hip, artsy place, and modern place like Williamsburg, Brooklyn (my best comparison as a New Yorker). While this may apply to other areas in the larger Santurce area, most of the neighborhood in La Placita looks impoverished. Although some parts do seem to be in the early stages of gentrification.
This fact becomes evident if you walk the neighborhood, where you will see the poor state of local homes, the bad condition of streets and roads, and the numerous crumbling buildings. Where you may have expected murals, instead you’ll find graffiti scrawlings. And where you might have expected theaters, you will find abandoned businesses.
So limit your drunken meandering to the plaza near La Placita del Mercado, where the crowds are. And for your own personal safety and peace of mind, if you get drunk call a cab and go directly back to your room.
La Placita Is Best For Bar Hopping. So Dress Comfortably
If you are looking for a nightclub experience, La Placita isn’t it. There are only a few locations in La Placita that I would say come close to being categorized as clubs (which I’ll elaborate on in the next tip). The rest are purely bars and small restaurants with sound systems. This is a barhopping scene. It’s not the South Beach, Miami.
So, although I am a huge advocate of overdressing, you can leave your heels and oxfords at home. Other than that, you can go all out with your sexiest outfit. Just keep in mind that most party-goers here are often dressed casually in short sleeve shirts, shorts, and comfortable footwear. Ladies who want to turn heads often wear dresses with flats or wedges.
If you do decide to wear high heels, just be sure they are comfortable because you will likely do a lot of walking between bars. And remember what I said about the poor conditions of the streets. Watch your step and avoid cracks in the pavement or you may end up with a twisted ankle as the perfect ending to a fun night out! (Sarcasm)
Most Bars Don’t Have Dance Floors For A Club Experience
If you are looking for a club experience with a live DJ, a dance floor, and tables to pop bottles, then La Placita De Santurce has limited options. There are only 4 places that even have a dance floor. I suppose the good thing about that, is there usually aren’t any lines or obnoxious doormen to worry about.
The few bars that I found to have dance floors and a club vibe include:
- Garabatos Bar & Restaurant
- Martullo Bar and Tapas
- El Techo Rooftop Bar
Besides these spots, the bars in La Placita are all generally small, with just enough space for standing room and bar seating. So, there isn’t much room to dance inside even if you wanted to. You could probably pull off some merengue, but no spins. Which is like 90% of the fun.
This is likely why most venues have loudspeakers that blast the music into the streets, or have bands playing on the street side in front of the entrance. The streets are your dance floors in La Placita! Embrace it!
PS: Don’t bother looking for websites for the bars in La Placita. Most don’t have a website, a social media page, or even much of an online presence.
Do Not Drive A Car, Take a Cab
Don’t bother renting or driving your own car to La Pacita. If you drive there you will likely end up wasting a ton of time between parking and navigating the streets. Your best option is to take a taxi cab there and back.
And if you’re thinking of taking mass transit, I wouldn’t recommend that either. The nearest bus stop is almost a 15-minute walk away!
If that’s not enough to convince you, here are 3 reasons why taking a cab to La Placita is your best option:
- Since La Placita is a residential area, it has very limited street parking available throughout the day.
- There are only 3 parking lots in the area. And only two of them are public, while the third is privately owned by a restaurant.
- After 6+ hours of partying and drinking, you won’t be in any condition to drive
Driving to La Placita just isn’t a good idea. Unless you have a designated driver who loves boredom, hates alcohol, and came on your trip just to watch you have all the fun.
When you are there, you may randomly see a poor soul attempting to drive through the narrow streets of the plaza, struggling inch by inch to get through the crowds. That’s when you will thank yourself for listening to this advice while you are sipping on your Tito’s or Don Q as you sing the hook to that Marc Anthony song everyone loves.
Don’t Rent A Room In La Placita Unless You’ll Party There Every Night
While it may seem convenient to rent a room in the center of this party area, it’s not the best idea if you plan to do anything else or like your beauty sleep. People who rent out rooms here won’t warn you about the noise levels or how long they last. I found this out the hard way when I rented a room dead in the center of La Placita De Santurce. Although the party was right outside my door, it was the worst decision ever.
First, the music is played so loudly in La Placita that it sounds like it is literally coming from inside your room. And don’t expect any thick walls or soundproof windows to protect you from the noise or their vibrations. Most buildings here aren’t designed with noise reduction in mind. Remember what I said earlier, this isn’t a modernized neighborhood.
Secondly, beyond the bars and restaurants near La Placita del Mercado there isn’t much else to see or do here. It’s not near any beaches, popular shopping centers, or noteworthy attractions to keep you occupied during the day.
Lastly, after a long night of partying in La Placita you will likely be incapacitated the next day. So any day trip plans will likely go out the window. And if you are on this trip with your significant other, that’s an argument in the making.
So, party in La Placita, but book a room somewhere nicer like Old San Juan or Condado if you want walkable neighborhoods and more local attractions.
PS: Whatever you do, don’t book a room from a guy named “Erick” or any Avocado rooms in San Juan. Besides the cold showers and water leaks, he lied about the quiet hours in La Placita. It was my worst Airbnb experience ever!
Watch a Short Video of The Nightlife At La Placita
You know I had to save the best for last. Here’s a short video that I took while barhopping at La Placita:
Overall, I had a great time at La Placita de Santurce. So if anything came off as negative that was not my intention. It was just me being honest.
If I had known what I explained in this article beforehand, I would have planned my trip very differently. So, I hope these tips help to make your trip even better.
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