La Perla Neighborhood In Old San Juan, Puerto Rico (2023 Guide)

La Perla is a well-known neighborhood in Old San Juan.

With a famous reputation of being the most dangerous neighborhood in San Juan, La Perla has been working on making it welcoming to visitors, with a lot fewer crimes and a lot more fun.

I’ve lived in Puerto Rico for 14 years and frequently visit La Perla for a fun night out with friends.

In this article, I will cover everything that you need to know about La Perla in Old San Juan:

What is La Perla?
What is La Perla Puerto Rico known for?
Where is La Perla located?
Can you go to La Perla in Puerto Rico?
Should tourists go to La Perla?
Why are there no pictures in La Perla?
Is La Perla dangerous?
What are some things to do in La Perla?
Famous music videos recorded in La Perla

 

What is La Perla?

La Perla is a neighborhood located in Old San Juan, just between the famous San Cristobal and El Morro forts.

image of La Perla
La Perla is a community located on the ocean in Old San Juan.

It’s east of the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis cemetery and nests between the Atlantic Ocean and Norzagaray street. 

This community has a lot of history, and it’s one of the unique ones on the island. 

image of old La Perla
An early image of La Perla.

Back in the 18th century, slaughterhouses were built outside the city walls, next to the cemetery. 

The earliest houses around this area were constructed by enslaved people who had to reside outside the city. 

image of La Perla
Today, La Perla is a colorful seaside community in Old San Juan.

The impoverished of San Juan were driven out throughout the 19th century, and jibaros—people from the countryside—who immigrated to San Juan also settled in what is now La Perla.

The neighborhood was known to be unsafe and neglected in the 20th century. 

Private interests pushed the community to develop what is today considered great real estate in San Juan, but the community refused.

Today, La Perla offers excellent tourist attractions, fun bars with live music and inexpensive drinks, and overall a great time for visitors and locals to enjoy.

 

What is La Perla Puerto Rico known for?

La Perla is known for its vibrant culture and colored houses. 

But back in the 1960s & 1970s, Puerto Rico was known as one of the “most dangerous” neighborhoods. 

La Perla is where 2017 Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee recorded their music video “Despacito.”

image showing the behind the scene of Despacito music video in La Perla
A scene being recorded for the famous song “Despacito” in La Perla.

Ever since the music video, it set off a tourist boom in La Perla.

Locals and tourists alike visit La Perla as it’s known famously for its vibrant nightlife with its variety of bars, clubs, and restaurants that cater to a wide range of tastes.

Many cultural events are hosted each week right along Norzagaray street, where locals and tourists can safely enjoy festivals. 

 

Where is La Perla located?

La Perla is located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

La Perla is located in Old San Juan, situated directly on the ocean.

For a point of reference, it’s just across the San Juan museum on Norzagary street. 

There are a lot of great bars nearby, like La Factoría and La Vergüenza, where you can start the night and end in La Perla by walking down the street.

Below is a Google Map that shows the location of La Perla:

 

Can you go to La Perla in Puerto Rico?

Yes, La Perla is open to visitors.

La Perla is open to visitors that enter their community with respect.

For the most part, visitors who are curious about the area of La Perla will find it pleasant, but as with visiting any urban neighborhood, kindly show respect for locals and exercise common sense.

The neighborhood wasn’t popular with tourists a decade ago, but it is now expanding and changing. 

Having said that, going on a walking tour during the day is different than going out on your own at night.

Below is a video of someone walking through La Perla:

Check out our article 11 Best Tours In Old San Juan if you would prefer to visit with a guide.

 

Should tourists go to La Perla?

La Perla has been welcoming tourists for the past decade. 

Despite its reputation and information, you’ll find online, La Perla is relatively safe for locals and visitors.

Views of the ocean and a lively art scene can be found in the neighborhood.

Locals and visitors love to go for a good time, cheap drinks, great music, and a marvelous coast view.

Think of it like this; the residents treat you how you treat them. Treat them with respect and kindness and you’ll get the same treatment back.

Many times, tourists visit the neighborhood and cause trouble and act disrespectfully, like they own the place, which leads to problems with La Perla residents. 

There is no police monitoring in La Perla, and the police do not go down to check. 

Below is a video of a tourist bar hopping in La Perla:

 

Why are there no pictures in La Perla?

There’s a rule of no picture-taking in La Perla, and for good reason.

It’s easy to be amazed by all the beautiful things La Perla offers, but remember to refrain from taking pictures of people and their homes without their permission.

image of La Perla's aerial view
Do not take unsolicited photos in La Perla.

La Perla is their home; residents strongly respect tourists, so you wouldn’t want an unknown visitor taking pictures of your backyard or you without permission. They don’t like it either.

Those harmed were due to commotion in the area and the residents.

If you’re unsure, I recommend going in a group or with a PR resident to feel safer.

 

Is La Perla dangerous?

La Perla has a reputation for being a dangerous neighborhood dating back to the 20th century.

It was also heavily neglected by the government. 

When you google “Is La Perla Dangerous,” you’ll see a lot of forums and discussions that La Perla is very dangerous and not to visit. However, it’s less difficult than it was years ago.

image of La Perla at night
La Perla is becoming safer for visitors.

As a Puerto Rican resident, I frequently visit La Perla on weekends for cheap alcohol, live music, and a great time with my friends. 

As mentioned above, a respectful visit to La Perla will not get you in trouble. Avoid taking out phones to take pictures; mind your business, and you won’t regret the great time you’ll have!

La Perla has opened its neighborhood for tourist attractions and activities since 2017.

image of "I love La Perla" sign
“I love La Perla” sign.

La Perla Community Board and other groups have pushed tourist development and restoration efforts in recent years. 

The most noticeable campaign, ‘La Perla Paints It’s Future‘ started in 2017, with 375 properties painted in vibrant colors and renovated. 

image of Carmelo Anthony basketball court
Carmelo Anthony basketball court rehabilitation.

More community efforts have resulted in initiatives such as: Planting two community gardens, organizing music and art lessons for residents, a 5k race event, and the most notable Carmelo Anthony basketball court rehabilitation.

That said, La Perla is growing less dangerous and more inviting for visitors to enjoy and visit.

Below is a video of someone walking and touring inside La Perla:

 

What are some things to do in La Perla?

Some fun things to do while visiting La Perla is visiting the art studio Colectivo Perlarte, which sells and displays beautiful artwork La Perla residents have created.

They also offer art and music workshops and private dinner events you can coordinate.

image of a beautiful artwork La Perla
A beautiful mural depicting La Perla.

For better views of the San Felipe Morro, you can visit the Malecón, a cement boardwalk that sits just along the edge of the water.

image of Malecón
Malecón of La Perla.

La Perla’s main attraction tourists and locals love visiting is El Bowl.

Skaters love coming to this skate park designed in a bowl shape that is full of beautiful designs.

If you visit during the weekends, it turns into a community pool.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by @sharaogg

Photo Credit: @sharaogg

Continue walking by The Bowl, and you’ll see the famous Garita del Diablo.

image of Garita del Diablo
Legend has it this famous guardhouse is where guards who worked the overnight shift would mysteriously disappear.

Legends say it used to be a guardhouse where guards who worked the overnight shift would mysteriously disappear.

image of tourists in La Perla
Evening at La 39.

End the trip by visiting La 39, a small rustic bar where live music is played every Sunday.

Honorable mention to the NBA Star Carmelo Anthony for donating a basketball court in 2010 with recent renovations done in 2015.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Triple P’z (@visualtripz)

Photo Credit: @visualtripz

Visiting La Perla, you’ll quickly get caught up with the breathtaking arts, murals and beauty.

Remember always to be respectful, refrain from taking pictures of people’s houses, and you’ll have a great time. 

 

Famous music videos recorded in La Perla

You’ll be surprised to learn that the famous 2017 hit “Despacito” was recorded in La Perla!

Below is the music video to Despacito:

Another highly recognized song goes back to 2006 with “No Hay Igual” by Nelly Furtado featuring Residente Calle 13. 

Below is the music video to No Hay Igual:

 

 

FAQ section

Is La Perla worth visiting?

La Perla is worth visiting for visitors and locals. La Perla has worked on being more inviting for visitors since 2017.

When is the best time to visit La Perla?

The best time to visit La Perla is during the summer, as it hosts more live events and music to enjoy.

 

Final thoughts

Visitors should visit La Perla when visiting Old San Juan!

Contrary to what is found online, La Perla has worked on being more inviting to visitors since 2017 and offers tourist attractions you want to experience.

As long as you’re being respectful, enjoying your time and not causing trouble, you won’t have any problem when visiting La Perla.

If you’re still feeling unsafe, check out our article Is Old San Juan Safe For Tourists? – All You Need To Know.

Also, check out our article 35 Best Things To Do In Old San Juan.

Article by

Miguel Concepcion

Writer at PuertoRico.com. I’ve lived in Puerto Rico for 14 years and have experienced every inch of this stunning island. Growing up in Puerto Rico has helped me truly learn about the rich culture and extensive history this island has to offer. I share my local knowledge in all of the articles that I write.

About the author

Find the best things to do
by interest