Scene and be seen

01

Apr
2017

Drink up the atmosphere at a bar with a view

By Peter Martin 280 0

The island has plenty of hotspots to guarantee a drink-with-a-view experience

Puerto Rico’s sizzling nightlife is the hottest in the Caribbean, but you will want to make sure you take the time to drink up the atmosphere by laying back in a bar with a spectacular view.

There are rooftop, ocean view, pool, Spanish colonial garden, and grandiose lobby bars from which to choose. These bars are surrounded by the elements of the island’s natural beauty, or a discerning artistic or cultural expression, and because looking good is the national sport on the island, the surrounding crowds are always pleasing to the eye.

At the Mist Rooftop Bar at San Juan Water Beach Club Hotel, you get a glorious view from early in the day to deep into the night. The enviable vista overlooks the white Isla Verde beach as it unfolds eastward between the verdant row of palm trees and royal blue ocean on one side, and the skyline of Isla Verde, glittering with towering hotels and condos, on the other. You can sit at the bar, or at one of the terrace seating areas, and soak up the awesome coastal view, but there is a pleasurable scene anywhere you look around this heavenly place, which is outfitted with fine art, designer pieces, and furniture as comfortable as it is chic.

Mist is a favorite spot because it delivers beyond its awesome appearance an artisan preparation of tropical drinks and gourmet cocktails and a kitchen that serves up wonderful tapas, which are perfect to dine beneath the stars. The unique, rustic pizzas and seafood appetizers will fulfill your expectations. The spot grooves all week long but things heat up a bit on weekend nights with house DJs spinning seductive electronica and house music.

Another Isla Verde spot to cue up sensational views is the Q-Bar at the InterContinental San Juan, which embodies two worlds: the elegant, brass and wood-toned lobby bar and an outdoor terrace surrounded by lush tropical gardens and vibrant pool deck. You can drink it all through the Q-Bar’s panoramic windows, with the lobby bar perfect for mingling, and the outdoor area providing quiet dreamy spots surrounded by flora, gleaming water, and lights. There’s a short tapas menu with delicious selections, but the gourmet sandwiches rule.

 

 

El San Juan Hotel has been catering to discriminating locals and jet-setting globetrotters since opening in 1957, and its gorgeous lobby remains the spot to see and be seen after a $40 million renovation. The renovation closed the hotel in late 2016, but its rebirth has brought it back better than ever.

Most of the work was done to the guestrooms. The hotel’s grand lobby, with a dazzling chandelier and Old World mahogany facade, underwent a bit of updating but still retains its classic elegant feel. Everybody loves the lobby so much, changes have been kept to a minimum, explains El San Juan chief experience officer Wesley Cullen.

The lobby remains El San Juan’s iconic feature, where Spanish big bands perform live on weekend nights, and well-dressed crowds sashay across the big, beautiful room. For decades, the lobby has retained the consistent ambiance of a sophisticated party that might have been thrown by Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, with a sense of roaring 20s splendor. The renovation is aimed at retaining that wonderful sense of elegance.

The well-known Chandelier Bar, beneath its fabulous sparkling namesake, remains the center of attention, but it has been renovated and refreshed. The Gold Bar is the now the spot for craft drinks and crazy cocktails, while the Wine Bar has world-class selections of the world’s finest wines. And the lobby’s El Cafecito serves food from early morning to past midnight in the lobby area.

The renovation, however, has opened up the lobby a bit, so that the view of the adjacent Chico Cabaret, where bands perform nightly, is better from anywhere in the large room. The renovation is also restoring the Tropicoro Theater to its past glory. Designed by the same architect of the Tropicana Hotel in Havana, Cuba, the 400-seat theater has featured performances by world-class stars since the 1950s. Club Brava nightclub also underwent renovations.

While the restoration was aimed at restoring El San Juan’s glamorous past, the revitalization of the property also included a revamping of the entire visitor experience, be you a bar patron or a hotel guest, with new venues and activities. The hotel now hosts a live music series and art show calendar, with talented local and international artists. The resort’s culinary offerings were also overhauled during the renovation.

 

 

The views are also fine over in Condado, San Juan’s other beachfront district, with amazing vistas the length of its oceanside boulevard, which is bordered by the Atlantic coast on one side, and the Condado Lagoon on the other.

At the Caribe Hilton’s Caribar its enchanting scene has drawn visitors since 1949, when Puerto Rico’s first resort opened and guests from around the world first started falling head over heels for Puerto Rico.

The large circular bar, which commands its own room beside the Caribe Hilton’s main lobby, has kept its iconic charm over the years, with the various renovations over time serving only to buff and polish this gem of a spot, a force in the contemporary world that brings with it that classic Hollywood charm.

The enormous room has floor to ceiling windows that open over the lush pool area and gorgeous aqua-white beach, with a view of the dramatic Atlantic Ocean that has captivated generations. It also has a view, with gorgeous crowds pressed against the bar, or spread out throughout the spacious bar table area that runs the length of the ocean view. There’s always great music playing and constant sea breezes.

Caribar is the birthplace of the Piña Colada, said to be concocted in 1954 by popular bartender Ramon ‘Monchito’ Marrero His original secret formula consisted of Don Q Gold rum, Coco Lopez, cream, and pineapple juice. The Caribar’s classic coladas are the islands best, and it also offers several versions that have been created over the years, from 1971’s “painkiller” to the “contemporary, clean, and complex” Clear Colada. This classic nightspot also has a bar menu of other hand-crafted cocktails and classic drinks, like the Moscow Mule, and Trader Vic’s Mai Tai.

The bartenders and wait staff are pros, and they mix drinks with the rhythm, skill and style of Puerto Rico’s best salsa dancers and performers, and they deliver flawless, low-key service. The bar menu has local fritter and charcuterie & artisan cheese board platters, as well as other fare ranging from charred octopus to delectable pub burgers.

The Red Coral Lounge, the main lobby bar at the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, is a handsome dark wood and tile room, with spare natural but modernist elements that overlooks both the bustling Ashford Avenue and the lush pool and beachfront areas. The San Juan Marriott has an enviable location in the heart of the Condado, and its open, airy structure blends in with its surroundings on a particularly attractive slice of beach. But if you stayed here any time at all, you’ll know the property’s best feature is not its location, but its staff and the genuinely caring service they bring you.

 

The Red Coral Lounge at San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino overlooks both the bustling Ashford Avenue and de lush pool and beachfront areas.
The Red Coral Lounge at San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino overlooks both the bustling Ashford Avenue and de lush pool and beachfront areas.

 

The Red Coral Lounge is no exception, and your bartenders also know how to make a drink. Its renowned Dragon Berry Mojito is worth a try, as is the superb Red Coral Ice Tea. The bar’s sushi and tapas menu is an unexpected pleasure, with such delights as the spicy and sweet firecracker shrimp eggroll and the chef roll special, which combines salmon, scallops, and spicy crab with avocado, scallions, and sweet plantain.

By day, the colorful pool and beach beckons through the windows — a shimmering paradise of sun and surf. While at night, the dazzling light of Ashford Avenue, lined with boutiques, bars, and restaurants pours through the lounge’s large front doors and windows.

The Red Coral always draws a crowd, with its adjacent casino one of the best in the city and live music nearly every night, from piano ballads to salsa bands to full Latin jazz orchestras. The image most likely to linger in your memory after bidding goodbye will be of beautiful people, laughing with joy as they shimmy to the sound of tropical rhythm.

 

Eternal Lobby Lounge at the Condado Plaza Hilton.
Eternal Lobby Lounge at the Condado Plaza Hilton.

 

Get decked out to fit in at the dreamy Eternal Lobby Lounge at the Condado Plaza Hilton. New York’s hip lounge scene meets South Beach style at this ultra-contemporary nightlife complex with its colorful, post-modern finish right at home in the tropics. The long, translucent bar lies across its ocean view, and there is a terrace seating area to drink in all the drama of the Atlantic.

The sprawling nightspot consists of a dance floor and three bars: Moon Bar, Ice Bar, and Fire Bar. On most nights, live DJs spin contemporary hits and the best dance music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. There is also a stage for live music performances and other special events.

It also has some of the most inventive drinks in town, and the bartenders and servers are on top of their game. You can order food here from the excellent Eight Noodle Bar upstairs, among the best Chinese in the city.

 

 

Between Condado and downtown Santurce is Asere Cuban Kitchen Bar. The bright establishment has a beautiful bar that runs the length of its front room, which creates a subtle, worldly yet whimsical blend from its wood, brass, and tile facades. Located at the Plaza del Mercado, Santurce’s traditional marketplace district, its bar called La Carniceria is situated on the second level of a two-story building designed to make guests live the experience of visiting the legendary Cuba of the 50’s and the clandestine world of the subterranean. The spacious bar overlooks La Placita so guests can enjoy a delicious selection of cocktails while delighting their senses with great music and the infectious energy of one of San Juan’s most visited party scenes on Thursday and Friday nights, when it becomes one big street celebration.

Asere Cuban kitchen is the spot in San Juan for a mojito, and there is a variety from which to choose, as well as a range of craft cocktails. Not only is this a spot with a view, and the perfect hangout, it’s also serves some of the best new food in town.

The rooftop Infinity Pool Bar & Grille at the Sheraton Puerto Rico hotel offers a panoramic view from its perch in the heart of the convention district that captures vibrant ocean and bay views, as well as the city’s varied cityscape, from the gleaming condo towers of Condado to Spanish colonial splendor. There are bunches of towering palm trees and a view of the yachts at two adjacent marinas. From the rooftop, you can also see small planes taking off, many bound for Vieques and Culebra, from a commuter airport in the immediate area.

The infinity pool stretching across the roof also contributes to the expansive view, and with plush terrace sofas and cabanas, as well as a great bar and grill, there is nowhere else you will want to be on a splendid San Juan afternoon. It makes for a perfect light lunch or early dinner, or you could make a day of it and romp by the pool, while imbibing. There is an impressive menu of tropical cocktails and frozen drinks, and a simple menu that delivers with great taste. You can’t go wrong with the chino Latino wrap, fresh fish tacos, mahi mahi skewers, or guava chicken wings.

The rooftop Infinity Pool Bar & Grill at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel offers panoramic views of the ocean, San Juan bay and cityscape.
The rooftop Infinity Pool Bar & Grill at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel offers panoramic views of the ocean, San Juan bay and cityscape.

 

Alaire at Vivo Beach Club lies beyond the airport, on the coastal road to Piñones. The gleaming resort and entertainment complex beckons visitors like an Oz of sensory pleasure from its perch along the gorgeous unspoiled beachfront. This rooftop bar-restaurant blends into its natural surroundings along a wild stretch of coast just east of San Juan, framed by rolling sand dunes, a wall of towering palm trees, and scattered patches of Caribbean pine forest.

The hand-crafted tapas and cocktails, and Caribbean grill entrees served here match the quality of the surroundings to provide patrons with exotic satisfaction.

There are also live DJs and bands performing at the beach club, which boasts plush chairs, gazebos, and gorgeous pool areas. There is always something going on day and night, a place that lives up to its name “vivo.” So make sure to check for special events while you are on the island. Cruise ship visitors can enjoy day-long excursions to the club for the best views and beach experience in San Juan.

To the east of San Juan, the Atrium Bar at the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa in Rio Grande offers clients views of the surrounding El Yunque rainforest, a world of wet, green tropical foliage. From its perch on the second floor, the bar gives a heightened view to this outdoor realm. The room has a Spanish hacienda-style feel, with large mosaic tiles, wrought iron and a dark wood roof and bar. The wicker and other traditional furniture is as comfortable as it is gorgeous, while the large palms wed the interior to the lush, wild world of beauty just outside, visible nearly everywhere you look.

This Old World Caribbean room is one of the finest spots in the region to enjoy a drink, and the bartenders know how to make a cocktail, something straight up or whatever else you may require. Savor the libation during your stay, which you’ll remember as a visit back in time.

Las Olas Lounge at El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is halfway down the cliffside on which the sprawling property is situated, and there are killer vistas from this fabulous room with a view. There are ever changing menus, and extensive martini, margarita, and tequila cocktail versions.

The bar overlooks one of Puerto Rico’s most majestic scenery, with Vieques and Culebra in the distance and the Eastern Caribbean unfolding beyond, an expansive of deep blue sea, the closest thing to aquatic heaven on earth. You can also take in the resort’s marina, a small fishing village, much of the resort sprawling across this bluff at the northeastern headland of Puerto Rico, and the virgin coastline beyond. This is where the Atlantic parts with the Caribbean, the eastern and northern coasts meet in an expanse of protective natural coastline, an area with healthy reefs and sea turtle nests, miles of unspoiled beach and pristine waters.

 

 

The northwest also has awesome sights, nowhere more so than at Villa de Cofresi, a family run hotel on one of Rincon’s finest beaches, with a formal restaurant and an outdoor bar and cafe with one of the finest panoramas in the Caribbean. El Bohio bar is on a wooden deck behind the hotel and is famous for its amazing beachfront location making it the place to spend happy hour watching the sunset.

Have their house drink, the pirata, a special concoction of rum, fresh coconut water, milk and spices served in a green coconut shell that has been freshly hacked open with a machete, and start chatting with the animated bartenders, and kiss the afternoon goodbye. We’re told the coconut meat also lends to the Pirate’s special drink’s unique taste which has had guests returning the hotel for more than 40 years.

It just takes one look to know there is no other other place you would want at the moment. The family run spot has super friendly, charming staff, and the food and drinks are great, while the price is right. Whether you want to seek air-conditioned refuge inside, or stick with the fun on the El Bohio’s outdoor deck, you can order entrees from anywhere. The place is loads of fun! One of the best places in the world to be during Sunday happy hour – period!

Tamboo Tavern and Seaside Grill Restaurant at Beside the Pointe Guesthouse on Sandy Beach in Rincon is also situated on a stunningly beautiful stretch of beach. The bar and restaurant are largely located in a wooden terrace fronting the beach and ocean behind the guest house, and extends along its length on a wooden outdoor terrace. Its Mojitos are so special that Bacardi Rum awarded this bar twice the Best Mojito award. Magazines like Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Travel, CNN GO, and Esquire have praised this bar. The folks at Tamboo say their signature Mojito is different than most others because of its delicate balance of syrup, rum, lime, mint, and club soda. The real difference may be that Tamboo bartenders don’t crush the mint thus avoiding clogged straws and providing a more pleasant experience for the customer. Another infamous concoction at Tamboo Tavern is the Jibarito Martini, which is a tropical blend of rum, apple puckers, sour mix, a dash of Sprite and a Caribbean cherry.

Tamboo Tavern is a popular spot for the surfing set, because the food is awesome and authentic, and the drinks are to die for. This is truly one of the best oceanfront landscapes in Puerto Rico.

If you’re searching for the latest hotspot to unwind and soak up the sun, gaze at the stars, perch by the pool, watch the fashionistas, or take in breathtaking views of the Atlantic, there are plenty of bars in Puerto Rico to guarantee a drink-with-a-view experience.

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