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Puerto Rico, San Juan

Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle (Yeah) – Noche de San Juan

Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle (Yeah) – Noche de San Juan
Condado Beach por la noche
Noche de San Juan Party as seen from Sea View Beach Bar, Condado, San Juan/SBPR

I’m not sure how LMFAO’s smash hit Sexy and I Know It came to be, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the inspiration is the unabashed revelry that is the annual Noche de San Juan party as it’s celebrated along Condado Beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico. To be here amid the hordes of next-to-naked bodies dancing, grinding, kissing and, in general, partying like there’s no tomorrow in the sand and surf under the dark of night is to live as R-rated a party experience as the Caribbean has to offer.

Ironically, though, it’s also to mark a solemn Christian tradition that’s been followed for generations…

Traditionally, Noche de San Juan festivities are meant to commemorate the eve of the birth of St. John the Baptist, who according to scripture was born exactly six months before Jesus, or June 24. Christians across the Latin world have long marked the occasion by spending the night of June 23 on the beach, or near any body of water. (Even a bathtub will do.) At the stroke of midnight, everyone gets in the water, submerging themselves several times in a sort of mock-baptism said to wash away your sins and guarantee good fortune and health during the coming year.

At midnight along Condado Beach, however, the revelers effectively flip the script, amping up the sin to Biblical heights, something that would’ve been hard to imagine when I first arrived at my hotel

Atlantic Beach Hotel, Condado
Entrance to the Atlantic Beach Hotel & Sea View Beach Bar/SBPR

The Atlantic Beach Hotel is one of the older, smaller properties in the Condado. The property is said to have once catered exclusively to gay and lesbian travelers, but new ownership has brought a broader clientele, along with a few nice upgrades to the rooms and common areas. When I arrived around 8pm, the on-site Sea View Bar was virtually empty. The crowd on the beach was pretty quiet and small…

8pm, Noche de San Juan
8pm, Noche de San Juan on Condado Beach/SBPR

A DJ perched atop the nightclub directly across from the Atlantic Hotel was spinning a mix of the latest dance hits mostly covering house, pop, salsa and merengue. No one was really dancing, though, few people were in the water, and the mood was decidedly mellow.

I took the opportunity to run across the street to grab a bite at Orozco’s Restaurant, where I highly recommend the arroz con pollo. I hung out there for a while, enjoying a little Trigo Añejo, watching baseball and chatting with the bartender. I was in no hurry, and actually contemplated heading over to Isla Verde to see if the party was any better over there.

Then I walked back to Condado Beach… What I saw made me stay put the rest of the night.

It was just after 10pm and the formerly calm and modest crowd had swelled into a large and boisterous mob numbering in the hundreds, all of them pulsating, cheering and gyrating with the DJ’s now more up-tempo selections. The more people that showed up, the more they seemed to show, as the skirts and shorts of earlier in the evening gave way to ever-skimpier bikinis and thongs of both the male and female variety. There wasn’t an ounce of modesty in the place, as people of various ages, races and sexual orientations proudly strutted their stuff without a single care in the world.

For my part, I took turns jumping up among the crowd in the sand and retreating to my room, lest I be swallowed up by the debauchery, never to be heard from again! Luckily, my room offered a bird’s-eye view of the party and an open window, so I still felt like party of the action without getting consumed by it.

The closer the clock edged toward midnight, the more the crowd swelled. The music continued to pick up, and soon helicopters were buzzing the shoreline, shining spotlights at the growing number of people in the water. They splashed salutes to the sky amid their own dizzying cheers as the DJ called in Spanish for all the single men to make themselves known through more cheers. Single ladies were called too, though the cheers were much louder among the men…

Then, the magic moment arrived. The DJ started a countdown reminiscent of New Year’s Eve, the crowd becoming more frenzied with each passing number. Five, four, three, two, one…

Midnight, Noche de San Juan
Noche de San Juan crowd at Midnight, June 23, 2012/SBPR

I snapped this photo just as the clock struck midnight as a good portion of the now thousands of people on the beach made their way into the water. Wild splashing and cheering ensued. A few yards down the beach to the right, a group of friends danced around a modest bonfire. The DJ segued seamlessly from his countdown into – you guessed it…

When I walk in the spot (yeah), this is what I see (ok). Everybody stops and they staring at me.

I think it’s safe to say that everyone at the Noche de San Juan jam in front of the Atlantic Hotel on Condado Beach had passion in their pants and they weren’t afraid to show it. Especially down in the water…

Noche de San Juan dunking
Getting in on the wet ‘n wild fun/SBPR

I went in just after midnight, dunked my head under seven times, as is tradition, and only had my ass pinched once.

Hmm… I guess I need to work out

Noche de San Juan goes down all across Puerto Rico every year on June 23rd. Parties tend be wilder when the special date falls on a weekend night, as I did this year. On Condado Beach, the area directly in front of the Atlantic Beach Hotel is the epicenter of all the action. Head east toward the San Juan Marriott, or west toward La Concha for a more subdued good time.

Also, if you do end up staying at the Atlantic, prepare to stay up late as the party doesn’t end at midnight, and often goes til the sun is high in the sky on the 24th.

 

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