Hundreds of thousands of people attend the yearly San Sebastian party in Old San Juan at the end of January. Every year, attendance grows, attracting thousands of tourists. It can be compared with Mardi Gras or the Carnival at Rio de Janeiro.
The parties last three days and are packed with many cultural activities including world famous artists that come to perform. These activities are all free to the public.
During the day, you can expect to find a more mature crowd and families visiting the various galleries. There are dozens of kiosks with typical food and drinks. As the night comes, there is a gradual change of crowds, to a younger crowd. Therefore, if you are looking for a calm ambiance, you should go early in the afternoon. If you want to be squished in a sea of wild party animals, then night time is the right time for you to attend.
The earlier you come, the better chance you have of parking close by. If not, I would recommend going to Condado and parking there, then taking a public bus ride to Old San Juan. There will be plenty of frequent pickups and the charge is nominal.
Arts and Crafts
Dozens, if not hundreds of artists will be exhibiting their arts and crafts near the San Sebastian street. Most of them can be found near or inside el Cuartel de Ballaja.
The main music shows are scheduled during the late afternoon and found near El Totem. Groups of local people with panderetas and drums can be seen throughout the day. It is also common for companies to sponsor these types of informal music shows with typical local tunes.
For the most part, these parties are safe. However, they are safest during the day and early night. After 9PM, the amount of people grows to a large number and you can expect to be squished in a crowd of people, with highly difficult mobility. Unattended belongings such as cell phones and bags are likely to be stolen, so always watch your belongings.
Main roads to Old San Juan are blocked usually after 4-5PM. Before that time, you can drive or go by taxi. After that time, you can jump in a bus from condado, or you can take water ferry from Hato Rey, near El Choliseo.