The ‘gayborhood’ in San Juan is on the other side of the highway from the tourist areas of Condado & Ocean Park. Its an easy 10-15 minute walk from most hotels to the three main clusters of bars, discos and bathhouse. The closest hotels are Doubletree Hotel at Gallery Plaza and Hotel San Jorge.
Almost all of San Juan’s Gay Bars are located in the Santurce Arts District on the other side of the highway from major hotels in the Condado beach area. If you follow the arrow routes it is a 10-15 minute walk.
Walking in San Juan is considered safe, but like any major city – leave the jewels and Rolex at home, don’t appear drunk and cross the street if you see anything suspicious. Think NYC, San Francisco, Chicago or Philadelphia – and take similar precautions.
Taxis are easy to find and your bar or club can always call you a taxi to go back to your hotel. Like taxis anywhere, ask the price before you get into the taxi unless it is metered. Because of many one-way streets in the Arts District, you may seem to take a convoluted route, but this is normal.
Using the purple routes on the map – you can find the easiest way to reach the gay bars:
- If you are near La Concha Hotel, Marriott Resort, Atlantic Beach Hotel, Coral Princess Inn, or Le Consulat – it is less than a 10 minute walk on Condado Avenue – go under the highway, past the banks and fast food places to Ponce de Leon where you’ll see the Metro Cinema and Museum of Contemporary Art for Stop 18. (Turn right on Ponce de Leon one block for the bars.)
- If you’re closer to the Raddison Ambassador (recently closed) or DoubleTree by Hilton at Gallery Plaza, its less than 10 minutes on Avenida de Diego – pass the 24 hour SuperMax, follow the avenue over the highway and past the Puerto Rico Museum of Art to the Stop 22 bars.
- From the boutique hotels of Ocean Park – follow Calle San Jorge over the highway and past the San Jorge Children’s Hospital. Go up the hill to historic San Mateo Church and then down to Ponce de Leon Ave at Leonardo’s for the Stop 24 bars. This will take about 15 minutes because of the hill. Look to the left for Hotel San Jorge.
To go between the gay bar areas on Ponce de Leon is easy:
- From Stop 18 to Stop 22 is about a 10-14 minute walk past the big blue church (the street across goes to Plaza del Mercado for Thurs and Friday night street party, bars and restaurants) and then past the Fine Arts Center to Ave. De Diego. Here you’ll find Tia Maria (sign says Liquor Store) and The Palace.
- From Stop 22 to Stop 24 is another 7-10 minutes walk past the Ciudadela Condo Complex (the upper plaza level has a 24 hour Pueblo Supermarket and Planet Fitness), the Arriví Theater and Cobian’s Plaza. Turn right on Calle Bolivar and go down the hill for TEMPTATION – across from Hotel Bolivar.
Back on Ponce de Leon – continue past Abracadabra counter-café until you reach the Hotel San Jorge and Zal Si Puedes bar on the right side of the street at the intersection of Calle San Jorge.
If you want to go to XTeamworks – just take a right at Calle San Jorge, walk past the entrance of Hotel San Jorge and La Casona Restaurant. At Fernandez Juncos Avenue, turn left and it is one block more next to a 24 hour Total gas station.
- Fun Fact! While you’re walking along Ponce de Leon Avenue, notice the large number of unique ‘Rainbow Eucalyptus’ trees along Ponce de Leon between Tia Maria and Temptations – the bark changes color at different times of the year and makes this part of the Arts District one of San Juan’s most colorful gay-friendly neighborhoods.
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). Celebrity Chefs Roberto Treviño’s Chicharron (tNext Iron Chef) and José Santaella’s signature restaurant Santaella at the marketplace. Chef Mario Pagan (Next Iron Chef) has his restaurant Laurel nearby at the Puerto Rico Museum of Art.
For the best tropical drinks at the marketplace – check El Coco de Willie take-out bar in the corner by the gazebo – it famous for seafood salads/ceviche and has creative Mojitos and the best Piña Colada in the Caribbean!
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).
Helpful 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