Drinking in San Juan’s convenience stores

Vacationing in any foreign place takes a little bit of acclimating to get used to the bar scene. You have to know the right bars and locations to go to avoid being labeled as a tourist or getting ripped off. For example, my friend Ered always loves going to “Wine Bars” when we’re in foreign countries — but if something has WINE BAR written in English on the front facade, it’s catering to tourists, right?

In Puerto Rico, many of the locals head to colmados for a cold frosty beverage, which are basically a combination of convenience store, bar and meeting place. Most colmados are of simple construction, with a rudimentary bar in which are built a few coolers holding bottles of Medalla Light, some standing coolers with beer and energy drinks and a blender.

Despite the oft filthy and low lit atmosphere of the colmado, these establishments make up a quaint niche of nightlife in Latin America. The one we swung by for a few pina coladas last weekend was shoddily put together with plywood and populated with torn up barstools and passive Puerto Ricans. We ran into our waitress from that evening’s dinner who told us all about her lesbian girlfriend then continued to hang out with us for the rest of the evening.

Check out Robyn’s page on colmado’s in the Dominican Republic for a perspective of the stores from another Caribbean island and next time you’re tempted to buy pina coladas at the convenience store, jump all over it.