Essential Travel Tips About La Placita and Its Nightlife

If you are traveling 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 a 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 set the record straight, and your expectations right, with essential travel tips about La Placita in Puerto Rico, its nightlife, and the neighborhood, that tourism sites won’t tell you about.

I’ll also include original pictures and videos of the neighborhood and its festivities from my trip there – no filters.

Important Travel Requirements For La Placita and Puerto Rico

In case you are wondering, “Is La Placita De Santurce open?” Yes, it is open, with minimal restrictions.

As of March 10th, 2022, most vaccination and mask requirements were lifted on the island. But, there are still a few important details about Puerto Rico travel guidelines in particular that travelers should be aware of:

  • Domestic travelers, U.S citizens, and immigrants (e.g. permanent residents) do not have to present proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results.
  • Travelers arriving by cruise ship and non-U.S. citizens arriving by international flights are required to upload proof of full vaccination before arrival.
  • Guests testing positive for Covid-19 are subject to quarantine.
  • Proof of COVID-19 vaccination and negative test results are no longer required to enter hotels and indoor dining establishments including bars, restaurants, event venues, and theaters.
  • Masks are not required for indoor establishments, outdoor gatherings, or events with less than 1,000 attendees
  • Capacity limits have been lifted across the island.
  • Safety guidelines may apply to specific venues, concerts, and events.

These are the most important travel requirements and restrictions as of June 2022 that you should know about. Still, before you go, check the Puerto Rico’s official travel 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.

Also, keep in mind that businesses are free to require masks, proof of vaccination, or other safety guidelines at their discretion.

Now on to the tips!

La Placita Del Mercado de Santurce Is Your Main Destination

Bars at La Placita De Santurce Del Mercado In the Daytime - 7 Tips About La Placita De Santurce in Puerto Rico And Its Nightlife From A Partying Tourist - Photo By C Nez Byrd Always The VIP
Bars at La Placita De Santurce Del Mercado – Photo By C. Nez Byrd

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:

Google Map Search of La Placita Photo By C Nez Byrd 7 Essential Tips About La Placita in Puerto Rico and Its Nightlife Always The VIP
Google Map Search of La Placita

So, here’s a Google map embed you can use for correct directions to La Placita, by searching for, “La Placita de Santurce”:

“La Plaza del Mercado de Santurce,” is a small marketplace and outdoor plaza in the center of La Placita de Santurce. It features a farmers markets with fresh local produce during the day, surrounded by small local restaurants, bars, cafés, 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.

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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

Calm Daytime La Placita De Santurce Del Mercado - 7 Tips About Bars at La Placita De Santurce del mercado in Puerto Rico And Its Nightlife From A Partying Tourist - Photo By C Nez Byrd Always The VIP
Calm Daytime La Placita De Santurce Del Mercado – Photo By C Nez Byrd

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.

Happy Hour Specials and Prices at a Karaoke Bar in La Placita De Santurce Photo By Clinton Nez Byrd Always The VIP
Happy Hour Specials and Prices at a Karaoke Bar in La Placita De Santurce Photo By C. Nez Byrd

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.

Shelves of Domestic Liquors with prices at a local store in San Juan Puerto Rico Photo by C Nez Byrd Always The VIP
Shelves of Domestic Liquors with prices at a local store in San Juan Puerto Rico Photo by C Nez Byrd Always The VIP

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.

Street Vendors at La Placita De Santurce Del Mercado - 7 Tips About Bars at La Placita De Santurce del mercado in Puerto Rico And Its Nightlife From A Partying Tourist - Photo By C Nez Byrd Always The VIP
Street Vendors at La Placita De Santurce – Photo By C Nez Byrd

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

Crowds at La Placita De Santurce Del Mercado at Night - 7 Tips About La Placita De Santurce in Puerto Rico And Its Nightlife From A Partying Tourist - Photo By C Nez Byrd Always The VIP
La Placita Del Mercardo de Santurce in Puerto Rico – Photo by C. Nez Byrd

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 is visibly impoverished. Although a few parts do seem to be in the early stages of gentrification.

This fact becomes evident if you walk the neighborhood (which I did), to see the poor state of local homes, bad conditions of streets and roads, and numerous dilapidated buildings. Where tourist sites claimed there were murals, you’ll instead find amateur graffiti scrawlings. And where you might have expected to find theaters, you will find abandoned businesses.

Is La Placita Safe?

Generally, La Placita de Santurce is safe within the immediate vicinity of La Placita Del Mercado and during its busy hours. However, this small strip is in the center of a poor neighborhood, and there is little to no police presence to assure your safety. So, if you are a tourist, you should remain cautious and aware of your surroundings during your visit.

So limit your drunken meandering to the plaza near La Placita del Mercado, where the crowds are, and you should be fine. And for your safety and peace of mind, if you get drunk, just call a cab and go directly back to your room – Don’t take any chances.

La Placita Is Best For Barhopping

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.

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La Placita de Santurce is primarily a barhopping scene with its multiple small bars just steps away from one another. It’s not the South Beach, Miami boardwalk where you are likely to stay at one club until the sun comes up.

Casually dressed Guests at bars and outdoor seating in the daytime at La Placita De Santurce Photo By C Nez Byrd Always The VIP
Casually dressed Guests at bars and outdoor seating in the daytime at La Placita De Santurce Photo By C Nez Byrd Always The VIP

Although I am a huge advocate of overdressing, you can leave your heels and oxfords at home. Instead, I recommend casual wear to get you comfortably through a long night of barhopping. But, if you want to stand out a little, you can still go all out with your sexiest outfit and still fit right in.

Just keep in mind that most party-goers here are dressed casually in short sleeve shirts, shorts, and athletic footwear. Ladies who want to turn heads often wear dresses with flats or wedges.

Crowds in Casual Wear at La Placita De Santurce - 7 Tips About La Placita De Santurce in Puerto Rico From A Partying Tourist - Photo By Clinton Nez Byrd - Always The VIP
Crowds in Casual Wear at La Placita De Santurce – Photo by C. Nez Byrd

If you do decide to wear high heels, just be sure they are comfortable because you will undoubtedly do a lot of walking between bars. Just remember what I said about the poor conditions of the streets. Take care to watch your every 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

Live Music in the Street at La Placita De Santurce - 7 Tips About La Placita De Santurce in Puerto Rico From A Partying Tourist - Photo By Clinton Nez Byrd Always The VIP
Live Music in the Street at La Placita De Santurce – Photo By C. Nez Byrd

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

There are very few bars in La Lcita De Santurce that have dance floors and offer a club vibe:

  1. Garabatos Bar & Restaurant
  2. Martullo Bar and Tapas
  3. El Techo Rooftop Bar
  4. Lokos

Besides these spots, the most bars in La Placita are relatively small, with just enough space to offer limited standing room and bar seating. So, there isn’t much room to dance inside. You could probably pull off some merengue, but no spins. Which is like 90% of the fun.

The limited indoor space is likely why many venues here have outdoor seating and loudspeakers that blast the music into the streets, or bands playing in front of the entrances. 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, social media page, or even much of an online presence for that matter.

Do Not Drive. Take a Cab

Traffic and Pedestrians Walking in the Streets of La Placita De Santurce - 7 Tips About La Placita De Santurce in Puerto Rico From A Partying Tourist - Photo By Clinton Nez Byrd - Always The VIP
Traffic and Pedestrians Walking in the Streets of La Placita De Santurce – Photo By C. Nez Byrd

Forget about renting or driving your own car to La Pacita – a bad decision. If you drive there you will likely end up wasting a ton of time between trying to find parking and navigating the crowded streets. Your best option is to take a taxi 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! That’s not a long walk you want to take through an unfamiliar neighborhood while you’re drunk at 5 AM.

3 Reasons To Always Take A Cab In La Placita

If you’re still not convinced, here are 3 unavoidable facts why taking a cab to La Placita is your best option:

  1. La Placita is in a residential area, so it has very limited street parking available throughout the day.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 perhaps you have a designated driver who doesn’t mind dealing with the above f

When you are there, you may randomly see poor souls 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 my advice while you are sipping on your Tito’s or Don Q and singing the hook to that Marc Anthony song everyone loves.

Don’t Rent Lodgings In La Placita

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, like 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 steps from 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 rooms here will not warn you about these crazy noise levels or how long they really last.

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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 few local bars and restaurants near La Placita del Mercado, there isn’t much else to see or do here. La Placita is not near any beaches, popular shopping centers, museums, entertainment, or other noteworthy attractions to keep you occupied during the day.

That’s another thing renters and tourism sites mislead visitors about. The marketplace and nightlife are the best and only things that La Placita has going for it, there are no other tourist attractions there.

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 sleep from the noise. So any fabulous day trip plans you had will likely go right out of the window.

If you are on this trip with your significant other or family members, then that change of plans is an argument in the making.

Overall, my advice is to party in La Placita but do not stay at a hotel or room there unless you plan to party every night. If you decide not to take my advice, then find somewhere that isn’t near the bars.

Alternatively, I recommend choosing lodgings somewhere nicer like Old San Juan or even Condado nearby. Between these options, you could have access to Condado Beach or Atlantic Beach, walkable neighborhoods, local attractions, and a good night’s rest.

Be Wary of Cheap Rentals

Cheap rooms are cheap for a reason. I learned this the hard way when renting a room from an Airbnb host named “Erick.

Besides the lack of hot water and leaks, which he denied despite video evidence, he blatantly lied about the quiet hours in La Placita in his listing. He also concealed the fact that the room was literally above a bar that pumps loud music all night!

Erick was the worst Airbnb host I ever encountered, and that was my worst rental experience ever. It also made me completely lose faith in AirBNB customer service which favors the best interests of hosts over guests.

So, beware of the tech guy Erick’s fruit-named rooms in San Juan, like “avocado.” Do yourself a favor and stick to reputable hotels – unless you don’t mind rolling the dice with your comfort.

Skip the Tours, You Won’t Need A Guide

Did you find a great deal for a tour of La Placita de Santurce? Unless you feel insecure about traveling without a guide in Puerto Rico, then you shouldn’t buy a tour – the neighborhood is simply too small to necessitate it. There are 3 simple reasons why you shouldn’t book in advance to visit La Placita De Santurce:

First, the perimeter around the bars in La Placita De Santurce only spans about 1/3 of a mile. So you could walk from one end of this area to the other in less than 5 minutes by yourself (according to Google Maps).

Secondly, there are currently around 20 bars and 17 available restaurants in La Placita de Santurce. And given their proximity to one another, there is no need for a tour guide to direct you to them. Most are literally within the line of sight of eachother!

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, La Placita is a bar-hopping kind of neighborhood. And since the party rocks until the break of dawn you shouldn’t tie yourself down to an agenda, a tour guide, or scheduled tour times – it would simply be a waste of money.

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 I said came off as negative that was not my intention; that was just me being honest. If you don’t like honestly, there are a ton of tourism websites you could check out that will hype it up for you.

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 in Puerto Rico that I highly recommend, then read my #1 article, “A Step-By-Step Guide on How To Get To Cayo Icacos”

If this article was helpful, please share it, and feel free to show me some love on Instagram @Nezalpha. The more love you show, the more I write to help people like you out.

Throw a shot back for me in PR, salud!

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About Author
C. "Nez" Byrd

An expert club promoter, innovative marketing executive, and entrepreneur from NYC. The founder of Always The VIP LLC, a top nightlife trend website, and creative mind leading growth marketing strategies for SaaS, B2B, and B2C companies. He is a sought after blogger, having written authoritative articles on email marketing, SEO Due Diligence, and the nightlife industry who finds deep joy in creating memorable experiences to connect people of all colors together.

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