Going out in San Juan can be a raucous, all-night affair. Weekends are especially lively and Calle de San Sebastián in Old San Juan becomes jam-packed with people out to party. It tends to get busy around 11pm and winds down after 3am, though many bars and clubs – especially in the beach districts – keep going well beyond dawn. Lovers of rum, cocktails, salsa and, not least, thumping reggaetón, are particularly well catered for; in addition, the gay scene is the most sophisticated in the Caribbean. If you want something a little less intense, the large resorts offer plenty of activities as well and you can always hit the casinos.
Old San Juan has the highest concentration of historic, local cantinas full of character. Many SoFo restaurants double as lounge bars at the weekend, if that’s more your thing. In Condado, the hotel bars overlooking the beaches are the best places for drinks, but there are several pubs inland and Santurce is just a short drive or walk away, home to some of the biggest clubs, a thriving gay scene and the lively bar and restaurant area known as La Placita, centred on the Plaza del Mercado. Come here on a Thursday or Friday night, when the whole area becomes a wild salsa party. Isla Verde nightlife is fairly self-contained but just as animated, with most bars open until dawn, especially on weekends – here also many restaurants double as bars and discos.
The major clubs in San Juan tend to serve up the usual mix of hip-hop and house variants, but as elsewhere in Latin America, almost all of them splice in (or have nights dedicated to) Latino sounds such as salsa. This being Puerto Rico, there’s also plenty of reggaetón around.
San Juan is one of the world’s great centres of salsa and if you love Latin dance you’re in for a real treat. Lessons are a good way to get warmed up for clubs that specialize in salsa beats, but there are also shows and live performances, many in the resort hotels, where you can watch popular salsa bands and professional dancers do the work. It’s also worth checking with the tourist office for upcoming events and salsa festivals: the annual Salsa Congress (t787/449-2002, wwww.puertoricosalsacongress.com) is usually held at the Puerto Rico Convention Center every July. You can generally get tickets to watch the main competition for $10, while other performances cost $10–25.