San Jose

The metro area's hottest nightlife has migrated to the Central Valley suburbs of Escazú and Heredia these days. Both are about 20- to 30-minute taxi rides from downtown San José. The capital isn't devoid of places to go in the evening, however. There are still plenty of bars, dance clubs, and restaurants and cafés where you can
The metro area's hottest nightlife has migrated to the Central Valley suburbs of Escazú and Heredia these days. Both are about 20- to 30-minute taxi rides from downtown San José. The capital isn't devoid of places to go in the evening, however. There are still plenty o
The metro area's hottest nightlife has migrated to the Central Valley suburbs of Escazú and Heredia these days. Both ar

The metro area's hottest nightlife has migrated to the Central Valley suburbs of Escazú and Heredia these days. Both are about 20- to 30-minute taxi rides from downtown San José. The capital isn't devoid of places to go in the evening, however. There are still plenty of bars, dance clubs, and restaurants and cafés where you can spend the evening. Take taxis to and from when you go; it’s the safest option if you’re out after dark. Most places will be happy to call you a cab—or, if there's a guard, he can hail you one—when it's time to call it a night. Remember that all venues are nonsmoking.

No one could accuse San José of having too few watering holes, but aside from the hotels there aren't many places to have a quiet drink, especially downtown. Barrios Amón and Otoya have little in the way of nightlife outside the occasional hotel bar.

The young and the restless hang out in the student-oriented places around the University of Costa Rica in the eastern suburb of San Pedro. The Calle de la Amargura (Street of Bitterness), named for the route Jesus took to the crucifixion, is much more secular than its name suggests and rocks loudly each night. (Nighttime robberies have occurred on "The Calle," so be wary.)

Don't write off every place around the university as rowdy. There are a few quiet bars and cafés where you can carry on a real conversation. Barrios La California and Escalante, an area anchored by the Santa Teresita church, connect central San José with San Pedro, and house some of the city's trendiest nightspots.

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  • 1. Café 1930

    Barrio La Soledad | Cafes–Nightlife

    The café under the arcades at the entrance to the Grand Hotel Costa Rica pulls duty as a pleasant place for a drink or coffee. Listen to live...Read More

  • 2. Café del Barista

    Barrio Aranjuez | Cafes–Nightlife

    The rain does get a bit loud on the metal roof, but the wide selection of coffee drinks here is worth the occasional racket. ...Read More

  • 3. Café Miel Costa Rica

    Barrio Otoya | Cafes–Nightlife

    A scant two tables and a small counter are the only seating at this tiny place, which serves up coffee from its own finca in Tarrazú in the...Read More

  • 4. Café Mundo

    Barrio Otoya | Cafes–Nightlife

    The highly recommended restaurant Café Mundo is a quiet spot for a drink or bite to eat and is frequented by gay and bohemian crowds. ...Read More

  • 5. Cafeoteca

    Barrio Escalante | Cafes–Nightlife

    This café sits at the entrance to the trendy Kalú restaurant and blends and roasts its own coffee on-site....Read More

  • 6. Club Unión

    Barrio La Merced | Cafes–Nightlife

    The elevated, glassed-in café here lets you survey the ongoing hive of activity on the small, shaded plaza in front of the post office. ...Read More

  • 7. El Observatorio

    Barrio La California | Bars/Pubs

    El Observatorio strikes an unusual balance between casual and formal: it's the kind of place where folks over 30 go to watch a soccer game but...Read More

  • 8. Jazz Café San Pedro

    Bars/Pubs

    This place draws big crowds for the nightly live music (except Sunday). Although the staple here is jazz, rock and funk acts play here as well...Read More

  • 9. Juan Valdez Café

    Sabana Norte | Cafes–Nightlife

    This sleek, modern coffee shop is an island of all-Colombian products in Costa Rica....Read More

  • 10. La Avispa

    Dance Clubs

    A gay and lesbian crowd frequents La Avispa, which has two dance floors with videos and karaoke, as well as a quieter upstairs bar with pool...Read More

  • 11. La Bodeguita del Medio

    Paseo Colón | Bars/Pubs

    The mojitos flow and the chips and guacamole keep coming at this west-side restaurant that showcases live (usually Cuban) music most evenings after 9....Read More

  • 12. Mac's American Bar

    Sabana Sur | Bars/Pubs

    An older expat crowd hangs out at Mac's, which always has the TV tuned to a sporting event. It might even have the city's best burger. ...Read More

  • 13. Merecumbé

    Dance Clubs

    Step into a San José nightclub and you might think Costa Ricans are born dancing. They aren't, but most learn to merengue, rumba, mambo, cha...Read More

  • 14. Olio

    Barrio Escalante | Cafes–Nightlife

    Fill up on Spanish-style tapas at the Mediterranean bar and restaurant Olio. It draws a mix of professionals and older college students. ...Read More

  • 15. Omar Khayyam

    Cafes–Nightlife

    Smack-dab in the center of the campus nightlife, Omar Khayyam is a blissfully quiet refuge. Share a jug of wine and falafel or hummus with fried...Read More

  • 16. Q'Café

    Cafes–Nightlife

    There's lots of chrome at this downtown second-floor café that brews its own coffee from the Tarrazú and Naranjo regions. Grab a seat and survey...Read More

  • 17. Ram Luna

    Aserrí | Music Clubs

    In the far, far southern suburbs, Ram Luna is most famous for the views—the lights of the Central Valley sparkle at your feet—and the music...Read More

  • 18. Saboreaté y Café

    Cafes–Nightlife

    It's as much about the tea as it is about the coffee at this small, cozy downtown café, a branch of a Spanish chain....Read More

  • 19. Starbucks

    Pavas | Cafes–Nightlife

    The coffee and bakery selections are just like back in the United States at the Costa Rican outlets of the ubiquitous chain. You'll find five...Read More

  • 20. Vyrus

    Bars/Pubs

    There is occasionally live music at Vyrus on the weekend, which draws a mixed college student and young professional crowd. Videos from the...Read More

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