12 Best Places To Dance In San Juan: Experience Life As A Local

Published on April 13, 2023

The island of Puerto Rico is well-known for its music all around the world. And some of the most iconic artists have originated from this small and talented island in the Caribbean. Those wanting to experience the joy and soul of Puerto Rican music are in luck. Its capital, San Juan, is filled with venues catering to those itching to get on the dance floor, as dancing in San Juan is a favorite local pastime.

Here are a few places to keep on your radar.

1. La Placita

La Placita is a popular farmer's market during the day — a place to try authentic Puerto Rican food and discover local fruits and vegetables. But at night, it transforms into a festival of sorts with music playing every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The plaza is surrounded by restaurants and bars, each catering to a specific audience. One spot might be playing salsa, while the neighbor is playing reggaeton. Revelers dance on the streets, hopping from place to place for a change of beats. Both locals and tourists gather here at sundown and the party keeps going well into the wee hours.

2. La FactorÍa

This speakeasy bar holds four different spaces, each with a theme, and the one in the middle is where the dancing happens. Some of the best DJs on the island come here to play old-school salsa, with hits from stars like Héctor Lavoe, Willie Colón and El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico. They play modern salsa as well, but locals always request the classics songs, like "Brujería" and "Mi Gente." Each hidden bar has its own music, but the salsa bar has the best dance floor — a rich, all-wood floor with super high ceilings, a reminder that this spot is hundreds of years old.

Book Now

If you're coming into San Juan, bring along your dancing shoes and take a spin through some of the best spots to dance like — and with — the locals!

3. Brava

This is perhaps Puerto Rico's best nightclub, a sultry and modern venue inside the classy El San Juan Hotel. It combines the high-energy scene of a dance club with the relaxed atmosphere of a sexy lounge. Music varies depending on the night, but DJs play everything from reggaeton and salsa, to merengue and hip-hop. The decor is elegant and dreamy — a giant chandelier hangs over the stylish crowd, reflecting speckles of light, while neon shades move around the space. There are two floors, each with its own music, bar and ambiance.

4. Triana Tapas

Puerto Rico's culture includes influences from Spain, and flamenco is another popular type of dance on the island. In Triana, you can enjoy dinner and a vibrant flamenco show, all in a charming venue in the heart of Old San Juan. You can also come and dance flamenco almost every day (six days a week). You'll find a big crowd of beginning dancers with expert flamenco teachers showing every visitor the style and allure of this magnetic dance. After all the flamenco dancing, linger for a bit and enjoy some tapas and Spanish wine with live Spanish guitar music in the background.

5. El Boricua

El Boricua, in Rio Piedras, is one of those hidden treasures locals adore and only a few visitors are lucky enough to come across. Found in a college town, right by the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus, El Boricua incorporates elements from the beloved local chinchorro (the roadside kiosks serving fried food) with live music and dancing. Their menu is filled with succulent staples like frituras (fried food), tapas, and even Puerto Rican sushi (made with plantain, skirt steak and avocado). Renowned musicians come here to play salsa, but also play the ancient bomba and plena, two genres with African roots.

6. El San Juan Hotel Lobby    

While Brava is the place for those looking for serious nightclub-type dancing, the lobby of this hotel is an elegant option for balada (slow music) and salsa, and one of the best places for dancing in San Juan. Live bands play Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to a nice crowd of lively dancers of all ages. The entire lobby turns into a club and there are two different bars to order cocktails or maybe even find a dancing partner. There is a dress code here, and locals, as well as visitors, are not shy to wear their Sunday best for the occasion in this ultra-posh and historic hotel.

San Juan is filled with venues catering to those itching to get on the dance floor.

7. BahÍa Urbana

Bahia Urbana is a hub of culture and live events, especially dancing. They host a variety of jamborees like rum, margarita, mojito and taco festivals; symphony concerts; and salsa dancing conferences. All events offer some type of dancing opportunity and feature a designated dance floor. During a rum festival, for instance, you can sample all the rums available from the different rum companies in Puerto Rico, while also sampling local food — all included with your ticket. There is live music playing and people dancing all day (and night) long.

8. La Vergüenza

La Vergüenza calls itself a Puerto Rican chinchorro. This pet-friendly bar is found on Norzagaray Street in Old San Juan and features three floors with vast views of the Atlantic Ocean. This place is usually packed with people and has live bands playing many genres from salsa and merengue to bachata, while serving some truly delicious local cuisine. The dancing takes place on the lovely lane that takes you to the famed San Sebastian Street. You'll also find local vendors selling everything from jewelry to bottled coquito (a coconut drink similar to eggnog).

9. La Respuesta

This music and art bar devotes its space to the promotion of local artists with lively shows, poetry readings, indie films, theater and urban jams. They also hold art exhibits and music festivals. Some of their most popular events are those held by resident DJs like Velcro. They also support surrounding venues and local artists with initiatives to revive social and cultural elements of Puerto Rico through the arts. La Respuesta could be seen as a hipster concert venue, with recurrent reggaeton, Afro-jazz and Latin rock live performances. There's even some break dancing.

10. Cambio En Clave

Cambio en Clave is dancing central, a place to not only jam to local beats but learn the intrinsic art of Puerto Rican dance. The main instructor here is Rafa Cancel, known for his warm, inviting attitude. People change couples every 30 seconds to reinforce flexibility since everyone dances differently. Students often refer to the dancing lessons as medicine for the mind and body, a time to decompress and indulge in tropical moves and sounds.

11. El Callejón De La Tanca

This spot is well-loved for being one of the best places to hear and dance to Afro-Caribbean music. During the afternoon, jamming sessions take place on this lane in Old San Juan, where locals and tourists gather to listen to traditional percussion, bomba and plena. Many from the nearby La Perla neighborhood come to dance, meet new people, play dominos and drink a few beers. You'll see local women with big flowing skirts giving onlookers a lesson on bomba dancing, then inviting them to join a beautiful dancing circle.

12. Yolo

Bohemia, or romantic ballads, used to be all the rage in Puerto Rico decades ago and finding venues that play those songs can be difficult. But every Wednesday, Yolo welcomes legendary Bohemia singers and musicians like Martin Nieves, Angel "Cuco" Peña and Chucho Avellanet to reminiscence on the good times of romantic dances, which used to be held in town plazas. You'll see people of all ages, but especially seniors, dance ear-to-ear for hours. While you're enjoying the mellow sounds, order from the menu, which features local creative cuisine and tropical cocktails.

Get Royal Deals, Sign Up Today


15 Best Traditional Puerto Rican Dishes


Previewing: Promo Dashboard Campaigns

My Personas