Costa Rica is well known for having a thriving nightlife in cities and towns throughout the country. Almost all younger adults, locals and tourists, enjoy a night out on the town after spending the day in the beach or jungle. You should always bear in mind, that there are security issues in some areas, and I will also try to include some tips on keeping safe. First of all, when you are going out at night, and planning to consume alcohol, you should either plan for a designated driver, or hire a taxi. Costa Rica has strict laws about drinking and driving and there are usually police checkpoints on the weekends. If they think you are partying, they will fish you out, and send you to jail. Unfortunately, buses are not an option for people travelling on a budget, as they usually stop running at about 9 PM in the evening. If you need a taxi, and speak some Spanish, the red taxis should be just fine. The taxi drivers know where the bars and clubs are, and normally they are waiting outside. If you don’t speak Spanish, then you will need to hire a private driver, or get lucky by finding a red taxi who speaks English.
How to Dress
How you dress really depends on where you are going. If you are in a beach town, you get pretty much dress down. Flip flops, shorts and a lightweight t-shirt should be fine. If you are at a higher elevation or anywhere in the central valley, you probably should be wearing jeans, shoes and a warmer shirt. It is probably best to fit in with the crowd and the locals rarely where anything less than jeans in the Central Valley. If you go to upscale clubs or restaurants, you will want to dress up for the venue. In some up-scale clubs there is a dress code and you will not be allowed in with shorts, open-toe shoes or baseball hats. You can usually call ahead or just ask around, if you have any doubts.
How Much Money?
This also depends on where you want to go, and how much you want to spend. One important point here – don’t show off a big roll of cash when you are in public. This is just plain common sense. You also might want to keep the Rolex in your room. Don’t show off your bling and don’t flash a lot of cash. This will not do you any good. In most cases, you can get by with $50 or 25,000 colones.
The following is a brief description of nightlife in areas in descending order of magnitude.
San Jose Nightlife
San Jose and the surrounding area has probably the largest nightlife in Costa Rica, just be sheer volume. In San Jose, you have options that are directed purely towards adult sex tourists and gamblers, such as night clubs, massage parlors, casinos and a few famous hotels such as the Hotel Del Rey, Sportsmens Lodge and Hotel Amistad. This scene is largely centered in the area of San Jose around Parque Morazán and the red light district. You absolutely should not walk the streets at night and should be heavily dependent on taxis to allow you to bar hop. If you are walking in this area, you will be a target for mugging. For the main stream nightlife, there are also lots of options in San Jose including the following:
- Club Vertigo, San Jose
- Castro’s Bar and Discoteque, San Jose
- El Pueblo, San Jose
- El Cuartel, Barrio Escalante
- Henry’s Beach Cafe, Escazu
- Jazz Cafe, Escazu
- Jazz Cafe, San Pedro
- Latino Rock Cafe, Barrio La California
- Luxe Lounge Club, Escazu
- Mojitos Dance Club, San Jose Centro
- Mundoloco el Chante Bar, San Pedro
- Nova Río Bar, San Pedro
- Pub Rock Bar, San Jose
- Rapsodia Lounge and Night Club, San Jose
- Sand Rock Bar, San Pedro
- Gaira, Escazu
- Fandango’s, Escazu
Jaco Beach Nightlife
Jaco is a large beach town, about 2 hours from San Jose on the Pacific coast. Similar to San Jose, you have both adult options and mainstream options. Jaco is probably most famous for the Beatle Bar, which used to be a thriving sex tourism destination. However, this bar is now closed. There are many other adult options, include a Blue Marlin Bar II located in Jaco. If you are looking for this kind of scene, it will be everywhere. For the mainstream tourists, there are also lots of bars and clubs to choose from. You will have no trouble finding a way to dance and drink until the sun rises in Jaco. Here is a list of the most popular watering holes in Jaco:
- Ganesh Lounge
- Le Loft
- Lost Amigos
- Bruja Bar
- Jungle Bar
- Bohio Bar on the Beach
- Claritas Beach Bar
- Hotel Copacabana
- Stellaris Casino
- Jazz Casino
- Backyard Bar in nearby Playa Hermosa
Tamarindo Beach Nightlife
Playa Tamarindo is a growing beach town with lots of nightlife activity. Tamarindo is probably a little more laid back than Jaco or San Jose, and you will not see as much prostitution or sex tourists, although, there will be some. Here is a list of popular bars and clubs in Tamarindo:
- Aqua Discoteche
- Crazy Monkey Bar
- Tamarindo Beach Cigar Lounge
- Yucca Bar in Hotel Pasatiempo
- Surf Club Sports Bar
- Pacific Bar
- Black Moon Bar
Puerto Viejo Nightlife
- Mango Sunset Bar – This a fun mix of locals, expats and tourists where you can dance to loud music. (Hours: Noon – 2:30 AM Daily | Phone: 8691-0756).
- El Dorado – This a quiet bar where you can socialize and grab a bite to east. (Hours: Noon – 10PM Daily | Phone: 2750-0604)
- Bambu Reggae Beach Party – This bar stays open late and is at the end of the main strip at the beach. You can drink and dance at the beach until the sun rises.
- Cine Playa Cocles – The outdoor movie theatre located in the center of town. They show a mix of cult and even Hollywood blockbusters films. (Hours: M-F 7 PM, S-S 5:30 PM | Phone: 2750-0128 | Admission:
More reading on Costa Rica nightlife:
- Top Nightlife Towns in Costa Rica | The Costa Rican Times – … costa rica after dark, costa rica bars, costa rica clubs, costa rica news, costa rica nightlife, drinking in costa rica, jaco costa rica, Jaco Nightlife, news in costa rica, puerto viejo nightlife, san jose night life, Tamarindo Nightlife, …
- Weekend in Puerto Viejo | Fierce Sunflower – This was convenient, for example, when I decided to go to sleep at 11 PM on Saturday night when my friends were just heading out to enjoy Puerto Viejo’s nightlife. Either I am too old to party like I used to or was especially …
- Costa Rica Travel – Travel Websites Reviews – The well-known Puerto Viejo nightlife is a reflection of the town’s cultural mixture. Bars-turned-discos function funky beats and a beach celebration atmosphere that is sure to deliver an great complement to daytime adventures.