An unforgettable trip does not require endless planning… it is spontaneous, adventurous yet well directed.
On a recent trip to San Juan, I had very limited time to plan ahead. I had no idea what sites to see, what restaurants to experience or what cocktails to order. I realized, however, that paradise is not a place to stress and asked for guidance from my new best friend – the local bartender!
1. Lima Restaurante ( Ponce de León 667, San Juan)
This Peruvian Restaurant was two blocks from my hotel, and it received excellent reviews on Yelp. Admittedly, it is a bit on the pricey side, but it does feature some amazing cocktails, ceviche and tostones (fried plantains). I arrived around 6pm and was able to locate a friendly bartender who essentially planned my entire trip while I sipped on fruity cocktails.
Below are his suggestions, which I broke down by location:
An upscale area of San Juan with a great selection of restaurants, bars and of course beaches – it is walking distance to all the good stuff! I’ve visited San Juan a number of times, and this is my favorite place to stay. Accommodations range from Airbnb (which I used for the second half of my trip) and HomeAway.com to affordable Guest Houses and Chic Resorts.
2. Budatai (1056 Ashford Avenue, San Juan)
Topping my bartender’s list, this Asian Fusion venue features a beautiful restaurant, bar and terrace overlooking the ocean and high end shops. Be sure to try the dumplings! Website
3. La Placita (Parada 18, between Ponce de Leon and Baldorioty de Castro,San Juan)
La Placita is a large farmer’s market during the day. At night, it features more than a dozen bars and clubs within a few blocks. This is the go-to place for some serious bar hopping and mingling with the locals. Happy Hours are popular in San Juan, so be sure to take advantage of the 2x1 specials early in the evening.
4. Jose Enrique (Calle Duffaut 176, San Juan)
With a focus on Puerto Rican produce, Jose Enrique incorporates natural and organic products. The drinks are incredible, and the food is even better. Since they are incredibly popular and do not take reservations, I suggest putting your name on the list and bar hopping in the area before dinner. Website
A historical neighborhood in the district of Santurce – it is mainly comprised of middle- to upper-class residences. There are some notable sites worth mentioning such as Nuestra Señora de Lourdes Chapel and the Music Conservatory, as well as excellent restaurants littered throughout, including Lima which I previously mentioned.
5. La Unidad (562 Calle Cuevillas, San Juan)
If you’re craving some of the best cocktails on the island, be sure to check out this place. Their mixologists are the best of the best, and you won’t be disappointed. Website
OLD SAN JUAN
You cannot visit Puerto Rico without visiting Old San Juan for at least a day or two. According to fellow travel blogger, Zain Deane, Old San Juan “is over 500 years of history, beautiful colonial architecture liberally splashed with tropical colors, and a timeless magic that makes it one of the most enchanting destinations in the Caribbean.” A better description surely does not exist.
6. La Factoria (148 Calle San Sebastián, San Juan)
La Factoria serves simple drinks with fresh ingredients. The Latin décor, dim lighting and diverse crowd effortlessly contribute to an unforgettable atmosphere. p.s. don’t pass it by - there are no signs!
7. Cubanita (100 Calle San Francisco, San Juan)
Serving up classic cocktails, this local dive bar has an old school “market” feel. Be sure to try one of their rum specials during your night of bar hopping in Old San Juan!
8. La Taberna Lúpulo (151 Calle de San Sebastian, San Juan)
As a beer lover myself, I was happy Lúpolo made my bartender’s list. The cozy bar has about 40 taps and features a solid line-up of craft beers from Puerto Rico.
9. El Batey (Calle de Cristo 101, San Juan)
Best dive bar in all of San Juan – need I say more?!
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