Three factors contribute to the popularity of Puerto Rico's bars. The first is the presence (you could say omnipresence) of the national drink, rum. The two chief brands of rum here are the internationally known Bacardi and the localley beloved Don Q.
Second, the legal drinking age here is 18. And finally, people on this island love to drink. Mix all that together, shake once, and you have yourself a roaring bar scene. Here are some of my favorites.
1. Plaza del Mercado
I'm cheating a bit here, because this is not a bar, but rather an end-of-week tradition. On Thursday and Friday nights, locals fill the market square, or Plaza del Mercado in Santurce, which transforms into an open-air bloc party. In addition to the many local bars, the plaza has several fondas, or small eateries specializing in Puerto Rican fare. La Placita, as it’s called, has a relaxed, pleasant vibe, and it’s definitely off the beaten path; although you wouldn’t know it from the almost-impossible parking around the place.
At Dos Hermanos and Capitol Streets, Santurce, San Juan
2. Bodega Chic
Located on Cristo Street right near Plaza San José, Bodega Chic lives up to its name. The laid back bar is indeed chic, located adjacent to the restaurant and home to some much respected drinks (mojitos and bloody marys are among highly touted). The blue-hued bar is a wonderful low-key hangout to mix drinks with absolutely awesome French fries served with a homemade garlic mayo.
51 Cristo Street, Old San Juan
You can’t beat the location: a colonial building atop a hill on the corner of Cristo and San Sebastián Streets. You can’t beat the ambience, with pool tables on the second floor and a long bar area with seating that spills out onto the street and Plaza San José. In addition to daily drink specials, you can get succulent burgers here from the neighboring restaurant El Patio de Sam. And you can’t beat the hours: Nono’s will stay open until four.
100 San Sebastián Street, Old San Juan
4. El Batey
The home of grunge in Old San Juan, El Batey occupies a unique niche on one of the most historic streets in the city. Its collegiate-atmosphere décor, highlighted by graffiti, jukebox, lampshades made of business cards, and wooden bar weathered by numerous (if not famous) autographs. Its unpretentious dinginess is one of its most appealing qualities.
101 Cristo Street, Old San Juan
With two branches, in Old San Juan and Isla Verde, Lupi's is an injection of Spring Break in an otherwise chic neighborhood. The food is Tex-Mex heavy, the drinks massive (with an impressive array of margaritas), and the bar colorful and hopping on the weekends (especially the Isla Verde branch, which also has live music nightly).
6369 Isla Verde Avenue, Isla Verde, Carolina
6. Colmado Bar Moreno
Colmado Bar Moreno is not a likely candidate to make a list of top bars; during the day, it's a relatively quiet and unassuming liquor and general store. At night, however, the store takes advantage of its location fronting a mini plaza off Tetuán Street to set up an outdoor bar area. Throw in the homegrown reggaetón music, dirt-cheap drinks served in plastic cups, and it's no wonder that customers line up to the counter.
365 Tetuán Street, Old San Juan
7. Señor Frog's
Across the Caribbean (and Mexico), Señor Frog’s has been sending college kids crawling home happy. You can count on this joint for a youthful, raucous scene, blaring music, live bands, karaoke, girls dancing on stage, and freely flowing alcohol. The Puerto Rico branch of this chain is located behind the Sheraton. Señor Frog’s is a full-service restaurant as well, but you can eat at one of Old San Juan’s fine restaurants and then come here to party.
104 Comercio Street, Old San Juan