Gay Bars in San Juan’s Condado Tourist Area:
Although Condado used to be the center of all gay nightlife, over-gentrification has left the traditional tourist strip with only one remaining gay bar. But don’t worry – its a short walk under the highway to the Santurce Arts District where all the action continues just a 10 minute walk from Condado hotels.
- #1. Oasis (formerly Splash) – 6 Ave Condado across from the Marriott, next to Sandy Beach Hotel. Monday night is very popular with lots of strippers, low lights and much too much artificial smoke/fog/yuck…
Look for Walgreens and CVS and walk toward the beach. Open afternoons til night. Neighborhood bar and tapas restaurant just a few steps to the beach.
- Atlantic Beach Hotel/Oceano Restaurant Beach – Also check out the beach in front of Atlantic Beach Hotel and Oceano Restaurant which is still very gay most days. Two blocks from Oasis (formerly Splash) if walking on the beach. Look for Calle Vendig if arriving via Ashford Avenue. The Atlantic Beach Hotel is listed in many gay guides – but call them and ask if you will be allowed to bring a friend up to your room – in the past, travelers have reported a strict ‘no visitors’ policy.
- Street Cruising – Lots of gay guys and gals live in Condado – so cruise along Ashford Avenue any time of day or night!
Gay Bars and Clubs in Santurce Arts District:
If you are at any of the Condado hotels – you can get to the Santurce Arts District by just crossing over or under the highway. There are three clusters of gay bars in the Santurce Arts District:
- Stop 18 at R.H. Todd Ave & Ponce de Leon Ave near the Metro Theater and Museum of Contemporary Art.
- Stop 22 is further down Ponce de Leon Ave at the intersection of De Diego Ave near the Fine Arts Center & Puerto Rico Museum of Art.
- Stop 24 is another 7-10 minute walk near the the intersection of Ponce de Leon and Calle Bolivar or Calle San Jorge.
You can easily walk between each of the areas in about 10 minutes or grab a taxi.
Note: ‘Stops’ or ‘Paradas’ are how locals estimate location along Ponce de Leon Avenue in the Arts District. This is a remnant from the old trolley system which hasn’t run since the 1940’s. There are no signs with the numbers (even at the bus stops) but all locals and taxi drivers will understand the general location from the ‘stop’ or ‘parada’ number.
Santurce: Stop 18 Gay Bars – across the highway from Condado near Metro Theater & Museum of Contemporary Art. These are on Calle Condado (mislabeled Avenida Condado on the street sign) which is one block to the right if you are facing the Museum of Contemporary Art. The street has abandoned buildings and looks very seedy – but is generally safe. If someone approaches you just say ‘No Thanks’ and move on, just like you would in NYC. There are also a few straight bars on the block, so be careful and don’t assume everyone is gay – use your ‘gaydar’ and be respectful. If taking a taxi – just tell them ‘Stop 18’ and then go one block to the bars.
- #2. SX – 1204 Ave Ponce de Leon – Late night strippers and dance every night. Find the stainless steel door (usually with a doorman) and then go downstairs. There is a straight bar just next door at street level, so don’t get confused. Hot bartenders, strippers, loud music, dance floor in the front. Go upstairs at the back and then downstairs to find the darker, less noisy ‘hang-out’ area.
- #3.Toxic Night Club – 613 Calle Condado – late night strippers and more.
- #4. Circo – 650 Calle Condado – Multi-level video bar and disco.
Side Trip Before the Bars: Plaza del Mercado – Salsa, Food, Drink & FuN!
Stop 20 for Plaza del Mercado: If you’re on Ponce de Leon walk ‘against traffic’ past the Metro Theater and walk 3 blocks to Ruben’s Café Restaurant (open 24/7) and Calle Dos Hermanos (directly across from the big blue church) . Take this small street one long block to Plaza del Mercado – also known as ‘La Placita’.
This is the traditional neighborhood market that has been a Santurce landmark for more than 100 years! During the day you’ll find local fruits and vegetables, a juice bar, cigar maker and several food stalls and restaurants. At night, restaurants, bars and clubs surround the marketplace and side streets Tues – Sunday nights. On Thursday and Friday nights locals take over the streets for ‘street party’ festivities with lots of salsa and dancing in the streets.
Not a gay event, but lots of fun and since its between the two gay bar areas – its a great way to get the night started before going on to the clubs. Make sure to check out José Enrique Restaurant in the yellow art deco house one block from the plaza for creative Puerto Rican Cuisine (James Beard semi-finalist & Food and Wine Top Ten Chefs to Watch – 2013). Also check El Coco de Willie bar in the corner by the gazebo has the best $5 Piña Colada in the Caribbean!
Santurce: Stop 22 Gay Bars: Across the highway between the Fine Arts Center & Puerto Rico Museum of Art. If taking a taxi, tell them Ponce de Leon & Ave. De Diego – Santurce.
- #6. Tia Maria Bar & Liquor Store – 326 Ave De Diego – Neighborhood Gay Bar. Open from afternoon til midnight or 1am on weekdays, later weekends. Make sure you go on Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday nights for gay Karaoke from about 9pm until ???
Santurce: Stop 24 Gay Bars: This is the intersection of Ponce de Leon and Calle Bolivar. If you arrive from Ocean Park via Calle San Jorge, go past the San Jorge Children’s Hospital and up the hill to San Mateo Church. Then only one short block downhill to Ponce de Leon.
If walking along Ponce de Leon from Tia Maria, you go past the Ciudadela Condo Complex, First Bank, Arrivi Theater, Cobian’s Plaza (turn right for Babylon) and some vacant buildings until Abracadabra and Hotel San Jorge for Zal Si Puedes.
If taking a taxi, tell the driver ‘Stop 24’ at Leonardo’s or Cobian’s Plaza & walk one block.
- #7. Babylon – 600 Calle Bolivar – Just across from Cobian’s Plaza (3 blocks from Tia Maria) on the side street. Club is open starting at 10pm Wed – Sun. No cover. Men Only!
- #8. Zal Si Puedes – 1700 Ave Ponce de Leon. Small, friendly club catering to the 40+ crowd. Open Wednesday – Sunday nights from about 10pm til about 2am. Drag shows are mostly Thurs – Sat nights about 11:45pm but a diva may show up at any moment. Friendly and Fun! Located at Hotel San Jorge. The bar has seating for about 15 people – but often has up to 50 crowded in for shows plus spill-over on the street. You’ll see all the classic Latina Divas – like La Lupe, Yolandita, Paloma San Basilico, plus Barbara Streisand and Donna Summers thrown in if you’re lucky!
- #9. Xteamworks – 1752 Ave Fernandez Juncos. Bathhouse on street-level, open from 6pm til about 2am Sunday – Thursday and until 6am on Friday and Saturday nights. A little hard to find, so check out their website for map. It’s next to a gas station with 24 hour mini-mart. Look for the doorbell next to the steel mesh gate. Very discrete from the street – very hot once you get there! Too far to walk home, so make sure that they help you call a taxi back to your hotel – or head back to Zal Si Puedes (two blocks away) or Babylon (four blocks away) and continue the fun! www.xteamworks.com
Ocean Park/Calle Loiza Gay Bars: On the edge of the Ocean Park neighborhood is Calle Loiza – the hottest neighborhood for hipsters, New Yorkers and Europeans looking for a Bohemian atmosphere just a few blocks from the best beach in San Juan.
- #10. Bears Tavern – 101-115 Cll Degetau. Join the local bears for drinks, dance and food. Very friendly crowd in the only bear-cave in San Juan.
Getting to gay bars from other parts of San Juan:
If you’re staying outside the Condado or Santurce area, you’ll need to rent a car or grab a taxi to the bars:
- Old San Juan – There are no gay clubs in Old San Juan. You can take the T3 or T5 bus to get to the clubs since the last bus leaves Old San Juan about 11:30pm. You’ll have to take a taxi home unless you party until 5:30am when the busses start again. Bus is .75 exact change each way. Taxi will be $15-20 each way.
If you stay in Old San Juan and don’t go out to the Santurce bars – Old San Juan can still be very interesting. Bars start late – after 11pm and you can have a great time at the Neuyorican Café, La Factoria, La Sombrilla Rosa, or any of the San Sebastian Street pubs. And while you’re in the old city – check grinder, adam4adam or manhunt – local guys in the old city are always online since there is no neighborhood bar.
- Miramar – You can use the T3 or T5 bus to get to the bars and taxi home. There are no gay bars in Miramar – but you could walk about 15 minutes on Ponce de Leon to the Stop 18 bars. The area in between can be abandoned at night – so use your judgement if you walk or grab a taxi for the short ride home.
- Convention Center Hotels – You can get a great deal on these hotels when there isn’t a convention in town, but you will need a rental car or taxi to get anywhere at night. Consider cost of taxis when determining if the ‘deal’ you’ll find on Priceline or Hotwire is still a good value when you add in transportation costs. If you do rent a car, its only about a 7 minute drive on Ave. Fernandez Juncos for Temptation (turn on Calle Bolivar).
- Ocean Park – Depending on the part of Ocean Park your guest house is located, you can walk to the De Diego Ave bars near the Museum of Art in about 15-20 minutes. The beach in Ocean Park can be very cruisy – but be aware at night, police have been known to check out the area if residents complain about ‘activity’. The T5 bus stops just in front of Tia Maria but only until about 9pm.
- Isla Verde – The tourist strip near the airport does not have any gay bars or discos. The T5 bus goes to Santurce and the bars and the #53 goes through Condado – but the bus doesn’t run reliably after 8pm, so a taxi is the best option. Approximately $10-20 each direction to the Santurce Bars.
- Rio Piedras/University of Puerto Rico – This area near the university is about a 15 minute drive from Condado Tourist Area or Santurce Arts District. There is no public transportation from here to the bars, but you could take the Urban Train to Sagrado Corazon stop and transfer to the T3 bus or walk to Zal Si Puedes, Temptation or Xteamworks (train runs from 5:30am – 11pm so you may have to taxi back home).
Gay Info for your Night Out in San Juan
Parking: If you rent a car and drive to the bars, please make sure that there is nothing visible in the car – like many large cities – radios, GPS systems, phones, or even an empty bag or box may be an invitation to smash a window.
Also, double-check to see if all doors are locked, since some opportunistic people may just try every door of every parked car on the street hoping to find one unlocked. All of this is opportunistic stuff, not serious crime, but can ruin a night at the clubs, since you’ll have to make a police report if there is any damage to a rental car. A little precaution should make sure you don’t have problems.
You may also come across a local parking tradition. You may meet a ‘tacato’ or ‘helpful street person’ who will offer to help direct you to an available parking space. The tradition is to give them 50 cents or a dollar for the assistance. In exchange, they will ‘protect’ your car while you are in the clubs. I’m not sure how much protection they actually offer, but everyone gives them a tip and just having someone hovering around the area of your car is not a bad idea. Most of them speak some English, so they are often also a good source of directions.
Parking Tip: even if there are parking meters or the curb is yellow, you can park late at night – but don’t park in handicap blue curbs, emergency red curbs, crosswalks, or bus stops.
Santurce Arts District: For more information on the Santurce Arts District, see www.avenidadelasartes.com
Condado Tourist Area: For more information on Condado, see www.condadoinsider.com
Ocean Park/Loiza Street Area: Community info in Spanish is available at www.lacalleloiza.com