If you are travelling to Puerto Rico and looking for the best nightlife scene, then La Placita de Santurce ( La Placita for short) 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 essential tips about La Placita in Puerto Rico and its nightlife that tourism sites won’t tell you. As well as some of my original pictures and videos of the local neighborhood and its festivities from my trip there. No filters.
Important Travel Requirements For La Placita
In case you are wondering, “Is La Placita De Santurce open?” Yes, it is open, but with restrictions. There are three in particular that you should be aware of:
- Recent negative Covid-19 test results and/or proof of vaccination are required to be uploaded before arrival.
- Guests at hotels and short-term rentals must present proof of vaccinations or weekly negative COVID-19 test results.
- Patrons must present proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results to enter indoor dining establishments, including bars, restaurants, and food courts.
These are the most important travel requirements and restrictions you should know about. Still, before you go, check the Puerto Rico tourism website for details about the latest travel guidelines, and verify the operating hours of any local businesses and tourist attractions that you plan to visit.
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, which is central to the nightlife area, is, “La Plaza del Mercado de Santurce.” This is where the main attractions (the bars and restaurants) are and your main destination.
So, if you are traveling there on your own, without a guide, don’t just navigate to “La Placita.” If you do, you will find many locations with “La Placita in the name and likely end up in the wrong location.
Here’s a screenshot example of all the locations that appear when you search for “la Placita” in Google Maps:
So, here’s a Google map that you can use for correct directions to La Placita, by searching for, “La Placita de Santurce”:
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. Just remember, “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 10 PM- 5 AM. Many bars start closing their doors by 5 AM, especially if the 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.
Where to find cheap drinks in La Placita
Don’t stress too much over catching happy hour specials, because drink prices are relatively cheap all day and night at every bar in La Placita de Santurce. The bars with dance floors inside lean towards the higher end.
At La Placita bars, alcoholic cocktails typically cost around $5 – $8 each. Particularly if you stick with domestic brands like Bacardi, Don Q, Palo Viejo, Ron del Barrilito, and Ron Llave, which most bars offer. They may cost more if you order a different foreign or top-shelf liquor.
Which reminds me, you can grab a bottle of any of these Puerto Rican liquors for around $12 at most local shops nearby in Condado, San Juan. So it is a good idea to load up on them for hotel pregames.
If you do arrive at La Placita with an empty stomach, your only options will be empanadas or tapas (small food dishes) from the few food vendors that stay open late.
Otherwise, you can find a diner that stays open late. There aren’t many, but the closest I found near La Placita was a restaurant called, “Ruben’s Diner,” which stays open 24 hours and had happy hour deals like 2 margaritas for $10 until 11 PM!
By the way, while you are in Puerto Rico you must try the mofongo. Mofongo is a local Puerto Rican dish with smashed plantains with meats and garlic that is just delicious.
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 closest 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 safety and peace of mind, if you get drunk, just 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 still go all out with your sexiest outfit and fit right in.
Just keep in mind that most party-goers here are 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.
Bars with Dance Floors
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!
3 Reasons to Take a Cab
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 La Placita de Santurce, it’s not a good idea if you plan to do anything else or like your beauty sleep. I found this out the hard way when I rented a room in the center of this party neighborhood. Although the party was conveniently right outside my door, it was the worst decision I made during my trip. Here’s why…
First, the music is played so loudly in La Placita that it will sound like it is literally coming from inside of your room. People who rent out rooms here will not warn you about these crazy noise levels or how long they really last. 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, La Placita isn’t a modernized neighborhood.
Secondly, besides 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, museums, entertainment, beaches, or other noteworthy attractions to keep you occupied during the day. That’s another thing rentors and tourism sites mislead visitors about. The nightlife is all that La Placita really has going for it.
Lastly, after a long night of partying and drinking in La Placita you will likely be incapacitated the next day. Especially with the lack of good sleep from the noise that I mentioned. So any fabulous day trip plans you had will likely go right out of the window. And if you are on this trip with your significant other or family members, then 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, more local attractions, and a good night’s rest.
PS: Whatever you do, do not rent an Airbnb room from a guy named “Erick” or any Avocado rooms in San Juan. Besides the cold showers and water leaking problems, he totally lied about the quiet hours in La Placita. And with the impractical window shutters it was like I was sleeping in the bar downstairs. It was my worst rental experience ever!
If you want to see it’s like in real life, click here to see a short Instagram 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; that was just me being honest.
If I had known everything from this article before I went to Puerto Rico, I would have planned my trip very differently. So, I hope these tips help to make your trip even better.
And if you are looking for another great tourist destination to visit in Puerto Rico, then read my #1 article, “A Step-By-Step Guide on How To Get To Cayo Icacos”
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Throw a shot back for me in PR, salud!