You’ve spent your first day of vacation soaking up some sun on a white sand beach. You’re refreshed and ready to explore, and as you walk outside your hotel, you feel the cool breeze on your face. The empanada vendor is singing out his offers from the food truck on the corner, but you hear a different song. Something deep, something pulsing, something fresh and vibrant but rooted in history.

It’s the music of Puerto Rico, and it’s calling you.

Music in Puerto Rico is all around you. From the bars to the streets and right down onto the beach, music and dance is an essential, everyday part of life on the island. One of the most authentic ways you can experience life in Puerto Rico is to immerse yourself in its vibrant and varied music scene. From traditional sounds to more modern innovations, Puerto Rico offers countless opportunities for you to soak up the island’s musical culture. And if you feel the music pulling you to your feet and drawing you towards the dance floor, well, Puerto Rico is the place for that, too.
Experience Traditional Beats
Puerto Rico’s traditional music styles, like bomba and plena, are thriving with a resurgence of a new, energetic music generation.
Bomba grew from Puerto Rico’s African heritage, merged with the traditions of the Taínos (the original inhabitants of Puerto Rico) and a Latin sound. It is performed on large, wood-and-leather drums and incorporates maracas and the cuá (a small piece of wood beaten with two sticks). Vocals are sung in call-and-response, with one singer “calling” and a chorus responding. Plena, on the other hand, makes use of a small, shallow drum that is held under the arm and is used to produce very specific rhythms.

Experiencing Puerto Rico’s traditional sounds for yourself is a must on any trip to the island. El Boricua in Río Piedras hosts frequent performances of traditional music, while El Cuarteto de Bomba plays traditional bomba y plena on the west side of the island. If you are planning on visiting the island in August, the 6th Annual Puerto Rican Family Festival is not to be missed, with the musical feast showcasing plenty of live music and dance, including a drum circle.

El Boricua
El Cuarteto de Bomba
6th Anual Puerto Rican Family Festival

Embrace World Influences and World-Renowned Bands
There are plenty of global influences in the Puerto Rican music scene, which have resulted in popular and award-winning brands. Luis Fonsi, the musician behind worldwide hit "Despacito," is without a doubt one of our most prolific exports in recent years. But there is so much more incredible local talent to uncover on our shores.

Reggae group Cultura Profética is known for their exotic percussion and horn section, while new and rising band ÌFÉ combines rumba and Jamaican influences for a unique, spiritual experience. Witnessing these acts live in Puerto Rico should be a priority, as should be taking in a live-performance of reggaetón: a local breed of music that combines the smooth beats of reggae with hip-hop and Latin American style.

Across the island, you’ll find a range of unmissable musical experiences. VIVO Beach Club in Carolina and Club 77 in Río Piedras offer a range of live music styles, but if you’re in Old San Juan on a Friday night, you need to make Adoquín Jamming Nights your priority: These progressive and vibrant events highlight local artists across various locations in a historical setting.

Cultura Profética
VIVO Beach Club
Club 77
Adoquin Jamming Nights

Feel the Energy at Major Events and Festivals
Puerto Rico hosts several musical events in the summer months. There’s the Heineken Jazz Fest, which offers an incredible assortment of artists; Puerto Rico Rock Steady, which takes place in June in the town of Isabela; and the Festival de la Piña, an event in La Parguera celebrating the pineapple. However, perhaps the biggest musical experience is the broadway extravaganza Hamilton, which is coming to the University of Puerto Rico theater in San Juan in early 2019, and will see Lin-Manuel Miranda return to his iconic lead role.

● 2018 Heineken Jazz Fest
Festival de la Piña
● Festival Nacional de la Salsa

Step Off the Sidelines and Into the Music
In many places around the world, listening to live music while enjoying a cocktail can immerse you into a local music scene. But there’s something different about Puerto Rico, and something inexplicable is guaranteed to happen once you hear a beat. Soon, your feet are tapping, your hands are clapping, and before you know it, your whole body is swaying. It’s time to find your own groove.

Salsa is perhaps the most popular form of social dance in Puerto Rico. With roots in bomba and plena beats, salsa brings together Puerto Rico’s traditions with Cuban, Dominican and Afro-American music. Hearing this music, it’s impossible not to feel the urge to get up and dance—when that happens, Puerto Rico has no shortage of opportunities.
Enjoy a one hour salsa lesson in Condado (just outside of San Juan), introduce yourself to the spirited dance with performances and group dancing at Activate Bailador or visit popular nightclub The Latin Roots for a quick dance class followed by an evening of showing off your new moves. Or if you’re more interested creating beats than moving to them, you can learn the basics of bomba from Escuela de Bomba in Mayagüez.
Salsa lesson in Condado
Actívate Bailador
The Latin Roots
Escuela de Bomba in Mayaguez

When it comes to experiencing the musical culture of Puerto Rico, you don’t have to look very far. Around every corner of every town, you can feel the Puerto Rican beat: It’s unquenchable, undeniable and completely unforgettable.

After a night out dancing, you’ll need somewhere to put your feet up at night, so plan your stay at any of Puerto Rico’s best hotels.