SKIP THE CROWDS
20 Best-Kept Secrets of San Juan, Puerto Rico
Follow our insider tips to the hidden hotels, lively local watering holes, and one-of-a-kind experiences most of the city's visitors never discover.
The city's easiest day trip
A 20-minute drive east of Old San Juan lies Piñones, the best little getaway you've never heard of. There's a palm-lined boardwalk that links several sandy beaches, a handful of tidal pools where beachgoers can sit on flat rocks near the breaking waves, and a slew of huts selling pinchos (skewers of grilled meat and fish). The area is best explored on a bike: You can rent tandems and beach cruisers by the hour at the COPI building near the Boca de Cangrejos bridge. copipr.com, bike rentals $5 per hour.
A market that gets new life after dark
During the day, Plaza del Mercado in Santurce, about half a mile south of Condado, brims with plantains, avocados, mangoes, and folks cooling off with coco frío (coconut water). But after 6 p.m., when the market shuts down, the bars that line the plaza throw open their metal grates to a young, dressed-up crowd that turns the square into an informal block party, liveliest on Thursdays and Fridays. Calles Dos Hermanos and Capitol, 787/723-8022.
San Juan's design hero
Ask residents if they have a favorite homegrown designer; they'll likely answer, "Nono." By that they mean, "Yes." They're talking about Nono Maldonado, the Condado-based former Esquire magazine fashion editor whose pale-hued line defines island chic: linen resort wear and couture, with lofty prices to match. Avenida Ashford 1112, 787/721-0456, blouses from $150.
A slamming native dance
Salsa fans, meet your next obsession: bomba, created at the end of the 18th century by West African slaves on Puerto Rico's sugar plantations. In DanzActiva's Saturday classes, aspiring dancers can attempt to master the demanding steps, a kind of rhythmic call-and-response with a live band. Calles Norzagaray and Morovis, danzactiva.com, dance lesson $15.