San Juan Wins Best Caribbean Destination for Nightlife!

Santo Domingo, Curacao, Trinidad and Antigua also winners

Toes-in-the-sand beach bars, glitzy casinos, steamy salsa clubs, live local music and, of course, lots of rum – this is the Caribbean after dark. We asked a panel of Caribbean travel experts to nominate their 20 favorite destinations for nightlife, and for the past four weeks USA TODAY 10Best readers have been voting for their favorites.

  • Cancun
    Mexico

    College students deem this one of the top spring break destinations in the world, and of course that means enough bars to drown exam score woes. With a legal drinking age of 18, Cancun attracts a young crowd, but the party goes on year-round. One of the most famous overserve establishments, Carlos n’ Charlie’s encourages raucous consumption. In high season, long lines snake out the doors of many popular spots in Cancun’s Hotel Zone.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • St. Kitts

    A quiet island with a firm grip on its culture and heritage, St. Kitts has a small nightlife scene that largely takes to the beaches, with the exception of a place or two in capital Basseterre and its cruise ship port area. The two main beaches for bars and clubs include South Friars Bay Beach and South Frigate Bay Beach. They range from self-proclaimed “shacks” jamming to a reggae beat to chic clubs for eating, beaching  and drinking.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Barbados

    With an estimated one rum shop for ever y160 island residents, Barbados, the birthplace of rum, loves to party. By day and night, its neighborhood rum shops are the place to catch a game of dominoes or cricket on the radio. For the island’s most highly touted after-dark rummy scenes, head either to the locals’ party known as Fish Fry in Oistins or to the smart clubs of St. Lawrence Gap. Local “boogie” buses will take you there for a few dollars. Along the resort-lined Gold Coast, Holetown’s First and Second streets lively up with music and bistro dining come dark.
    Photo courtesy of Barbados Tourism Authority - UK

  • St. Maarten

    On the Dutch side of things on this island, gambling is legal and adds a giddy brightness to the after hours. The Maho district is particularly known for its casinos, while Simpson Bay touts its bar and club scene. At the latter, nightlifers can easily pub crawl from one hot spot to another to enjoy rum punch, reggae, salsa and other island music. For something quieter, check out the movie theaters or the Casino Royal Theatre for plays and cabaret shows.
    Photo courtesy of St. Maarten Tourist Bureau

  • Aruba

    Energetic Aruba boogies day and night. Most of the action centers around capital city Oranjestad and the major resorts. Downtown, the locals gather at Dutch pub Café Chaos. Senor Frog’s is the place along the resort strip on Palm Beach. If you would rather party beachside, head to MooMba Beach Bar & Restaurant for live music and tasty cocktails and food. To do a pub crawl without having to designate a driver, hop aboard the Kukoo Kunuku Party Bus.
    Photo courtesy of Mats Adamczak / Flickr

  • Antigua

    Local bars, disco, nightclubs, live resort shows and casinos: Nightlife happens everywhere on Antigua and much of it showcases the native music, dance and culture. On Sundays, the Shirley Heights neighborhood hosts the island’s biggest party as the sun sets – with local rum and food plus live steel drum, reggae, soca and calypso music. The Rush Entertainment Centre on Runaway Bay is a collective of a piano bar, casino, sports bar, restaurant and nightclub.
    Photo courtesy of Antigua & Barbuda Tourist Office

  • Trinidad
    Trinidad & Tobago

    It does not have to be Carnival time to find the people of Trinidad dancing and music making, but  you will find a flurry of nightlife in the weeks leading up to the winter festival. Look for the panyards where local Carnival bands are practicing for the event. Pan (steel drum), calypso and soca were invented here, and that’s what you’ll hear in the night owl clubs around capital Port of Spain, particularly along Ariapita Avenue. Also, check out who’s on stage at the National Academy for the Performing Arts.
    Photo courtesy of Go Trinidad and Tobago

  • Curacao

    A lot of Curacao’s partying happens at the beach both day and night. Near capital Willemstad, the side-by-side long stretch of Mambo (a.k.a. Seaquarium) Beach and Jon Thiel Beach are the island’s party headquarters, especially on Sunday nights. Look also for action in the major resorts. The island’s proximity to Venezuela makes salsa popular enough for an annual two-day festival. In the night clubs, you’ll hear everything from reggae to samba. A government run and regulated bordello adds another dimension to local nightlife.
    Photo courtesy of Curacao Tourist Board

  • Santo Domingo
    Dominican Republic

    Better bone up on your meringue dancing skills before you take off for the Dominican Republic. From the local colmados mini-market hangouts to hot lounges, dance clubs and casinos, Dominicans turn out to celebrate their love of life, food, music and dance. The greatest concentration of party til you drop nightlife is in Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone and along the Malecon ocean boardwalk. Resorts too entertain with live local music, some until 6 a.m.
    Photo courtesy of Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism

  • San Juan
    Puerto Rico

    Salsa strains orchestrate the nightlife of steamy San Juan, but in addition to the Latin dance clubs, you will find a lively scene that includes everything from discos, gay bars and casinos to a vibrant performance arts scene. If you party with the locals, you will kick it in late in the evening around 10 p.m. and party until daylight, particularly on weekends. Old San Juan is a great place for bar-hopping, particularly around San Sebastian Street. Most places feature live music.
    Photo courtesy of Puerto Rico Tourism Company

The top 10 winners in the category Best Caribbean Destination for Nightlife are:

  1. San Juan, Puerto Rico
  2. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  3. Curacao
  4. Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago
  5. Antigua
  6. Aruba
  7. St. Maarten
  8. Barbados
  9. St. Kitts
  10. Cancun

Additional nominees in the category of Best Caribbean Destination for Nightlife included Grand Bahama, Grand Cayman, Havana, Jost Van Dyke, Montego Bay, Nassau Paradise Island, St. John, St. Lucia, St. Martin and St. Thomas.

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Melanie Reffes, Mark Rogers and Chelle Walton (10Best) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of Caribbean travel.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners.

License the 10Best Readers' Choice Award Logo

Alert The Experts

Melanie Reffes

Melanie Reffes

Mark Rogers

Mark Rogers

Chelle Walton

Chelle Walton

comments powered by Disqus