Dancing is both a pastime and a passion in Puerto Rico. Even if you don’t consider yourself a great dancer, we highly recommend that you indulge in your playful side. From the more traditional styles like salsa, plena, bomba, merengue, cha-cha, or bachata, to more modern hip hop, house, or reggaeton, there is bound to be a music and dance style that matches your personality.  

The nightlife in San Juan simmers with energy and life. San Juan has many night spot options to choose from, whether it be classical, contemporary or downright wild!

Where to go dancing in San Juan

San Juan’s nightlife is well-known, with no shortage of places to go for a lively atmosphere. You can find people dancing nearly everywhere, from bars, clubs, restaurants, lounges, ballrooms, to the streets themselves. This article will take a dive into the diversity of dancing and nightlife options in San Juan, from the streets to salsa clubs to back-alley hip hop, meringue, bomba and plena. 

La Placita de Santurce

A good spot to start any cultural journey into the streets of San Juan is La Placita de Santurce. Don’t be fooled – locals often refer to the market streets as simply ‘La Placita’, but a maps search for said location will turn up many results that are not the famed street. 

Admission is not required to this weekly weekend dance party, which kicks into high gear starting on Thursday nights and carries throughout the balmy weekend nights. This historic market is San Juan’s veritable living room, replete with salsa bands, street DJs and plenty of local flair to get your shoes grinding on the cobblestone streets. The Santurce neighborhood is also home to many of San Juan’s best nightclubs and bars, many of which are mentioned later in this article.

The historic market square is located south of Candado, abutting the Minillas neighborhood. You’ll find the market square at the intersection of Calle dos Hermanos and  a brisk stroll or brief taxi ride from Numero Uno Beach House’s Ocean Park home.

Cobblestone streets in Old San Juan

Salsa dancing workshops in San Juan

Salsa originated in Central America between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Popularized during the 1960s, salsa evolved further to accompany the music of the times. Synonymous with Puerto Rican culture, salsa dancing can be found almost anywhere in the city. 

If you are new to salsa, there are bars and dance clubs places like Piso Viejo, where between 9 and 10 PM, you can take advantage of a free class to get you started. There is also the famous dance school, Cambio en Clave where you can take beginner classes that will get you ready to show off your smooth moves in no time! 

Additionally, taking one of the many free salsa classes offered around the city is a great way to get your bearings so you can go and dance to your heart’s content.

Best salsa clubs in San Juan

If you’re ready to burn up the dance floor, check out La Factoría. You can drink and dance the night away in one of the six bars under La Factoria’s roof. Each bar produces a different drink menu, energy, and unique vibe. But for those looking for a salsa fix, we recommend you check out Shing-A-Ling at the center of La Factoria.

Thursday nights are Salsa Nights at Piso Viejo, where you can take advantage of free salsa lessons while enjoying the live band. Whether you are being introduced to the dance for the first time or looking to brush up on existing skills, a free class is a great ice-breaker. On the other hand, if you feel relatively confident in your salsa moves and are looking for a relaxed atmosphere in which to dance, we recommend you join the live salsa and karaoke at Taberna Los Vázquez.

Cocktails on the beach at Numero Uno Beach House, San Juan

Reggaetón in Puerto Rico

A fusion of Latin American, Caribbean, hip hop, and influenced by Latin Trap music, Reggaetón was born in Puerto Rico during the 1990s. The driving beat is the genre’s foundation, with some Spanish language rapping, singing, or reggae layered into Latin music. Reggaetón has never been more popular than it is right now, with San Juan superstar Bad Bunny achieving global status in 2019.

The style started gaining popularity and first exploded on the scene in 2004 after Daddy Yankee’s Gasolina release. Since then, modern latin music has gained mainstream status in the mainland United States and beyond — and San Juan is a global epicenter, home to superstar Bad Bunny. 

If you’re looking to get down, drop by Club Vibra to enjoy a hookah and dance until the wee hours inside or on the clubs balcony overlooking the Placita de Santurce. Or check out La Respuesta to get your hip hop, R&B, fix on the dancefloor. 

Cocktails on the beach at Numero Uno Beach House, San Juan

What is Puerto Rican Bomba?

One of the most popular folk music styles, bomba, is a big part of Puerto Rican culture and is firmly rooted in the island’s African heritage. A renewed interest in this traditional dance has grown in recent years. There are venues like La Vergüenza where they host weekly bomba nights with live music to accompany the dancing. To enjoy a more traditional experience, you should check out La Terraza de Bonanza, where you can learn from the experts or enjoy live music.

In bomba, the dancer is challenging the lead drummer to keep up with his or her improvised movements, as the singer accompanies and tracks the length of each song. It is essentially a playful competition between the dancer and the drummer. By continuing the tradition of learning and teaching bomba is how the island honors and carries on this important cultural tradition.

Cocktails on the beach at Numero Uno Beach House, San Juan

Experiencing Plena in San Juan

Plena is another traditional island dance style accompanying folk music. It’s been influenced by both the Spanish and African presence on the island and shares some similarities with bomba. In the early 20th century, plena was an essential form of storytelling for enslaved people and the poor. The folk tradition of plena dance and music almost died out but has been kept alive by folk musicians and dancers. 

The dance is usually performed alongside hand drums, guitars, trumpets, and accordions, among other instruments, played by a live band. In recent years, the bomba and plena have been reemerging after some major contemporary Latin artists have released their plena and bomba songs, bringing these traditional dances into mainstream pop culture. So whether you want to take lessons or enjoy a live performance, you will want to check out Escuela de Bomba y Plena Tata Cepeda.

Where to enjoy live music in Puerto Rico

Many bars and venues around the city offer live music. If you are interested more in live music than in dancing, there are a huge variety of bars and small venues to get your fill. Bars like El Local en Santurce provide a place to enjoy drinks in a chill and hip environment. 

If you are looking for an upscale environment, look no further than the live music at the Cannon Club at the Gallery Inn. While snacking on tapas and sipping on a drink from the bar, enjoy Chamber Music or piano concerts in the sophisticated setting of the Gallery Inn. Don’t forget to make a reservation before you go.

If you’re looking for some rock and roll in a more casual setting, the Handlebar sports bar might be right for you. More spots to enjoy some live entertainment can be found at the Coca-Cola Music Hall, La Factoria, La Respuesta, and Don Tito’s Restaurant and Music Hall, to name a few. 

In such a vibrant city as San Juan, you can stumble upon live music or outdoor dancing almost everywhere. So even if you don’t plan your night out in advance, sometimes, part of the fun is just seeing where the night takes you, so don’t overthink it and have fun!