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 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 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

  • 2. 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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. 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

  • 7. 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

  • 8. Al Despiste

    Zapote | Dance Clubs

    Al Despiste is a gay bar that serves light bocas (appetizers) and has dance nights Wednesday–Sunday, except Friday, which is karaoke night. ...Read More

  • 9. Otoya 1155

    Barrio Otoya | Wine Bars–Nightlife

    This quiet place tucked away in Barrio Otoya—hence the name—has a great selection of wines and is a nice place to go for a drink in the evening. ...Read More

  • 10. Stan's Irish Pub

    Zapote | Bars/Pubs

    A refreshing change from the ubiquitous Imperial beer are the libations you'll find at Stan's Irish Pub, which has Guinness on tap as well as...Read More

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