6 Best Bars in North and East of Downtown, San Jose

Costa Rica Beer Factory

Barrio Escalante

One of Costa Rica’s budding brewpubs serves up four of its own craft beers and one seasonally rotating one, as well as possibly the country’s best selection of international brews, plus burgers and appetizers. Weekend nights get crowded. The folks here can also arrange guided tours ($9--$29) of their brewery near Heredia in the Central Valley.

El Observatorio

Barrio La California

El Observatorio strikes an unusual balance between casual and formal: it's the kind of place where an over-30 crowd in ties goes to watch a soccer game. Something is on here every night except Sunday: usually a selection of stand-up comedy, live music, or karaoke. Some evenings present some more highbrow cultural offerings too.


Many Costa Ricans learn to merengue, rumba, mambo, cha-cha, and swing (called cumbia elsewhere) at a young age. Play catch-up at dance school Merecumbé, which has 16 branches around Costa Rica. With a few days' notice you can arrange a private lesson with an English-speaking instructor. An hour or two is all you need to grasp the fundamentals of merengue and bolero (what Costa Ricans call the rumba), both of which are easy to master and work with the pop music you're likely to hear back home.

Recommended Fodor's Video


Barrio Escalante
At this cozy cocktail lounge, once the house of iconic president José María Figueres, the mixologists will whip up any of your favorite drinks or acquaint you with inventive new ones. The name is a mashup of “1948” in Spanish, the year Figueres came to power in a brief civil war.
Avda. Ctl, Cs. 29--33, San José, Costa Rica

Ram Luna


In the far, far southern suburbs, 14 km (9 miles) south of downtown San José, Ram Luna is most famous for the views—the lights of the Central Valley sparkle at your feet—and the music. Make reservations if you plan to be here for Wednesday or Thursday evening's folklore show—a bilingual emcee fills you in on the cultural background of what you're enjoying—or Friday evening's dancing to live music. 

Stiefel Pub

Barrio Amón
Craft beer is taking hold in Costa Rica, and Stiefel has 10 microbrews on tap to the accompaniment of a lively pub atmosphere.