Music & Dance

Dance and music are essential when describing the energy and vibrancy of Puerto Rico.

They are the epitome of traditional expressions of the Island’s Boricua culture and heritage, a unique mix of Taíno, Spanish, and African traditions. Most dance steps are synced to a specific rhythm and genre, and the music usually shares the same name. With many different styles performed, like bomba and plena, salsa, pop music, and urban sounds, here’s a quick guide to the beats you’ll hear as you explore the Island.

Learn the Dances of Puerto Rico

Make our "Bomba" dance and music your own, as we share with you the history behind this traditional genre from Puerto Rico.

Bomba dancing in Loiza

La Bomba is a unique and signature genre of music from Puerto Rico.


One of the most breathtaking demonstrations of the heritage Puerto Ricans carry is the bomba, an Afro-Caribbean rhythm played by two or more drums guided by the dancer's feet. It is best described as a dialogue between a dancer and a drummer where the dancer approaches the musicians with steps called piquetes that shape a rhythmic discourse. The dance and song can go on for as long as the dancer continues to move.

The dance originally served as a catalyst for the oppressed, so the lyrics that accompany the beat derive from a spiritual evocation reflecting the anger and sadness a performer felt about their social condition. The respect and emotional weight with which it is performed is captivating for spectators. 

Discover more about Bomba 


People playing Plena

The plena is a genre of traditional music from Puerto Rico.


Even though plena is often associated with Christmas time and parrandas, this genre is heard throughout the Island year-round. The plena's beat is played in a 2/4 time with differently sized and tuned hand-held drums called panderos. Just like the corrido in Mexico, the narrative of the songs details the struggles and burdens of the coastal regions of Puerto Rico.

Unlike the bomba, the steps become secondary to the lyrics and melody in the plena. And, although you can dance solo, plena is usually choreographed in pairs to a more blistering pace than bomba, with couples facing each other.

A Guide to Music in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican Cuatro

The cuatro is a musical instrument native to Puerto Rico and is considered a national symbol.


With a lot of European influence, the décima is traditional Holiday music in Puerto Rico. This style is accompanied by a cuatro, güiro, and guitar and dates to the 17th century. Known to be the music from the countryside, the singers are called trovadores, and the lyrics are often compared to poetry, given the particular rules of composition.

This genre is divided into different styles, such as aguinaldos, seis chorreaos or bombeao, and danza. The choreography does not have a name, but it is danced in pairs where the men and women would separate into lines, facing and crossing each other several times. 


Salsa dancing

Around the Island, you can find many hot spots where you can dance salsa all night. 


One of the most flavorful and spicy styles of music is salsa. This genre – which names literally translates into “sauce” – was originated by the Puerto Rican community of New York and is a fusion of different rhythms and dances around the Caribbean. The music can be played fast or mellow, with bands and orchestras combined in a tight ensemble.

Like mambo and cumbia, salsa dancing incorporates fast footwork, turns, and hip-swaying over an eight-count time. Places with an active nightlife like La Placita de Santurce or Calle Loíza have many hot-spots where you can dance to this contagious rhythm every night. 



Another genre that was born on the Island is reggaetón. Influenced by hip-hop, Latin American, and Caribbean music, this style originated in the clubs of San Juan in the late 1990s and quickly went global. Its heavy percussive beat, marked by the bass, is called dembow and the commonly rapped lyrics have a hook repeated throughout the song.

The dance associated with this “underground” or urban movement is called perreo, meaning “doggie,” and its sensual moves center on grinding with a partner facing the back of the other. With many artists like Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, Wisin y Yandel, and Nicky Jam, the driving bass that marks the beat will have you swinging your hips and losing yourself to the music.


Man playing the trumpet.

The Island offers many experiences where you can groove to the beat of Latin Jazz.

Latin Jazz 

Another rhythm that'll have you swaying your hips and grooving to the beat is Latin Jazz, a lively and diverse music subgenre that blends the rhythms of the Caribbean and Latin America with the sounds of traditional jazz. Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Latin American musicians moved to New York City in the early 20th century and injected the existing blues scene with Caribbean motifs, music styles, and instruments such as timbales, congas, and even güiros. Celebrating this rich heritage, Puerto Rican musician Miguel Zenón won the Best Latin Jazz Album Grammy in 2024, a testament to the genre's enduring appeal and his exceptional musicianship. The result is a highly energetic sound considered one of the most vibrant and lively jazz subgenres.  

From popular jazz clubs like Café Carli Concierto and C Note Jazz Club, to renowned festivals and events such as the Jazz Fest and Puerto Rico Jazz Jam – the Island offers many experiences where you can tap your feet and swing. 

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