As an official territory of the United States, Puerto Rico is guaranteed the same LGBTQ rights and protections as the rest of the country. That makes it one of the most accepting and LGBTQ-friendly Caribbean islands. With a warm, friendly population and a thriving community of LGBTQ bars and venues in San Juan, the island is a great destination for LGBTQ travelers.
1. Visit during Puerto Rico’s LGBTQ pride parades
There are actually two annual LGBTQ pride celebrations in Puerto Rico. The first one takes place the first weekend of June (during Pride Month) at Condado Beach in San Juan. As the larger of the two LGBTQ pride parades, and in the capital city, this gay pride celebration features a lot of great events in a party atmosphere.
San Juan’s gay-friendly hotels usually host their own private parties, including one that offers clothing-optional pools, and the large electronic music festival Stereo Nights hosts special events, too.
San Juan’s Condado Pride Parade takes place on a Sunday afternoon, marching from one park to another and crossing through the city’s gayborhood (home to a handful of gay bars and clubs).
Puerto Rico’s other pride festival takes place the second weekend of June. Running since 2003, this pride parade rolls through the town of Boquerón in Cabo Rojo (on the southwest side of the island). The LGBTQ-friendly beach town fills with LGBTQ Puerto Ricans for small parties and a march through the town center for the weekend.
And, if Puerto Rico’s two summer pride festivals aren’t enough, there is even a Winter Pride Festival in December (when the weather is still hot hot hot!). This event features a jam-packed weekend of festivities including drag shows, pool parties, and international DJs.
2. Lounge Sundays at San Juan’s gay beach
Puerto Rico has no shortage of beaches, but Atlantic Beach in San Juan is among the best—especially for LGBTQ visitors to the island. Every Sunday, the beach becomes an LGBTQ hot spot on Puerto Rico when gays and lesbians take over the beach for a full day of sun.
Expect to find groups of local LGBTQ friends pumping out tunes with their brought-from-home sound systems, cruising, post-brunch drinking, and general merriment. It’s especially popular after 11 a.m. until sunset.
3. Party weekends in San Juan’s gayborhood
The Santurce neighborhood of San Juan is home to the largest concentration of LGBTQ bars, pubs, and clubs in Puerto Rico. It’s the unofficial San Juan gayborhood and the place to be every weekend. With drag shows and all-night parties with DJs playing everything from pop to techno, it’s a fun place to party safely and make new friends.
The best of San Juan’s gay nightlife takes place on Friday and Saturday nights. However, things get started early at Circo Bar with drag shows on Thursday nights. When new episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race air on TV, Circo Bar hosts viewing parties and even drag bingo (where you can win sex toys). With every drink purchase, you get a bingo board. The game is played in both English and Spanish, so it’s a great experience for both tourists and locals.
Open until 4 a.m. on weekends, Circo Bar is Puerto Rico’s largest gay club. And, with three dance floors, it’s the place to be on weekends. But other bars and clubs are good pre-game options to start the night. VIP is a smaller club on the same street as Circo with decent drink deals. And a few blocks away is the sexy gay club, SX Club. With go-go dancers and a steamy bar, it’s the perfect nightlife spot for a date.
Also in Santurce, and not too far of a walk from the gayborhood along Calle Condado, the area around La Placita de Santurce is one of San Juan’s most hip nightlife spots. The area turns into a pedestrian-only zone with swarms of people late into the night. Queer-friendly bars such as El Local, Tia Maria’s Liquor Store, and El Patio de Lila are all in the area.
4. Drink cheap & dance in San Juan’s queer college pubs
A short taxi (or Uber) ride from San Juan’s main tourist areas, you’ll find a handful of LGBTQ pubs at the corner of Avenue Eleanor Roosevelt and Calle 12 de Octubre. Near the university district, these queer-friendly pubs are especially popular on Thursday nights. But local students drink cheap here all weekend long (especially early in the night).
There are three little bars on the corner, each with really great drink specials and lively Latin and pop music playing on the dance floors. Crowds spill out onto the street where street food vendors satisfy late-night cravings.
El Cojo is the most famous of the three queer college bars, but A Pedir De Boca and La Esquina de Polo are equally popular (and next door to one another). La Esquina de Polo caters especially to lesbian women, but everyone is welcome.
5. Explore San Juan’s hipster neighborhood along Calle Loiza
Outside of the gayborhood in Santurce (along Calle Condado), the San Juan neighborhood Ocean Park is an equally hip hot spot. Even with the fast-food chains and brand-name shops, there are a surprising amount of independent shops and restaurants—and at least one gay bar!
The Bear Tavern has been an LGBTQ meeting point for years, and its location just off Calle Loisa makes it convenient to reach from the popular street. As a gay bear bar, it serves a particular clientele, though there are regular drag shows and other special events that take place. Plus, the social (and friendly) outdoor patio makes a great hangout on warm summer nights.
San Juan is one of America’s most LGBTQ-friendly destinations with a variety of things to see and do for gay travelers. Besides all of the other tourist attractions in Puerto Rico, year-round LGBTQ events, festivals, and an amazing gay nightlife scene make this island destination the perfect weekend getaway.