You no longer need to go to Vegas and spend thousands of dollars to have the time of your life. You can an even better time in San Jose Costa Rica, and spend much less of your hard earned savings.
San Jose Nightlife is Wild
San Jose Costa Rica can be a very fun place to party. When the sun sets, the city quickly converts itself from a bustling business and commercial center, to an adult amusement park, much like a down-sized Las Vegas or Bangkok. Within a 10 minute cab ride from the center of town, you have hundreds of restaurants, bars, discos and night clubs. Furthermore, there is something to suit everyone’s taste. If you want to have a quiet time and perhaps watch a movie and have dinner, there are cinemas and great restaurants with a quiet, but pleasant atmosphere. If you want to crank-it-up a notch, you can go out drinking, dancing, bowling or sing to Karaoke. Moreover, if you like to dance, there are many different venues to suit your tastes from traditional Latin Salsa to Rave Clubs, with psychedelic strobe lights and trance music. If you want to sit and listen to great live music, you have several options including the famous Jazz Cafe, which is located in San Pedro and Escazu. Finally, if you are looking to outright misbehave, there is practically no limits. You can gamble and or explore sexual desires in the many hotels, casinos and night clubs that cater to the darker side. Don’t be surprised if you walk in to these places, and find yourself surrounded by Americans. Many North Americans and even Europeans come to San Jose Costa Rica for the sole purpose of partying engaging in taboo activities which either are not legal, or against the social norms of their home country. Like they always say “What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.” Come down to San Jose and explore the dark side.
The Best Mainstream Bars and Clubs
If you are up for clean fun, San Jose has a lot of clubs and bars where you share good times. Most of these clubs are between casual and upscale. Each club offers a slightly different venue. Be prepared for loud music, dancing and a mix of locals and foreigners.
El Cuartel is an older building that has been restored, but retains some of the historic look, such as wooden beams and exposed brick walls. It is on the east side of town, close to several universities including Universidad de Costa Rica. Thus, there is a steady flow of college students, which keep the place humming. Each night there is typically a different venue like Alternative Rock, Disco, Ladies Night, Live Music, English rock and even Latino Fusion. Monday nights is always Ladies Night, and if you are a single male traveler, this is probably the place to be.
- Address: Avenida 1 between Calle 21 & 23, Barrio California (5 minute cab ride from city center)
- Website: www.elcuartel.net
- Phone: +506-2221-0327
- Hours: 11:30am – 2pm Mon-Fri, 6pm-Midnight Daily
Club Vertigo is a night club, bar and lounge, which features a mix of trance, electronic and house music. This is the largest club in San Jose with a capacity of 850 people. It is located at the base floor of an ordinary office tower, so you make sure your taxi knows exactly where it is. The first floor has several bars and a very large dance floor, where you can mosh with the the crowd. The upstairs is more tame lounge atmosphere, with a bar and red sofas. The dress here is upscale, meaning no shorts, flip-flops, or baseball hats. You can also expect to pay a cover charge upwards of $15. If there is a really popular even or band, for example New Years Eve or Halloween, you should plan to get their early and possibly wait in line. By the way, if you go on Halloween, you better wear a cool costume, otherwise, you will feel out of place. I have been here on Halloween and it is a crowded psychedelic rave for sure.
- Address: Paseo Colón between Calle 38 and 40 (5 minute cab ride from city center)
- Website: www.vertigocr.com
- Phone: +506-2257-8424
- Hours: 10PM-Sunrise
El Morazán is a long standing bar facing Parque Morazán, very near the city center. This is more of an eatery, but also a good watering whole and next to some places in the Zona Roja (“Red Light District”). They serve what is called an almuerzo ejecutivo, like many Costa Rican restaurants, which is a very economic way to taste the local cuisine. The bar has a lot of interesting artwork on its walls from mermaids to dogs playing cards. This is place you want to go for a meal, but also have the ability to converse, as the volume is not too consuming.
- Address: Calle 7 between Avenida 1 and 3. (Parque Morazán)
- Phone: +506-2222-4622
- Hours: 11AM-2PM
El Pueblo (“The Town”) is a conglomerate of bars, restaurants and discotheques and even antique stores on the north side of town. It was designed to look a Mexican village, with white stucko walls and red brick roofing. This is a very popular place on the weekends and features live music, dancing and drinking late into the evening. There are almost 50 bars and clubs located inside its walls. This is the perfect place for bar hopping, as they are all interconnected by winding corridors. Some of the bars inside include:
- La Terraza – a restuarant with a great view of the courtyard.
- Tango – live music Tuesdays and Saturdays.
- Infinito Disco – a disco that rocks until dawn.
- Club Twister – contemporary latin and international music.
- Coco Loco – a disco that has a slightly older crowd.
The lineup is sometimes changing, so don’t be surprised if bars come and go. One thing that is sure not to go for good, you can find a good time in this little town.
Castro’s Bar and Discotheque
Castro’s is a traditional Costa Rican disco, where both locals and tourists come to dance to Salsa, Merengue and Cumbia. At times the DJ might mix Reggaeton and even trance music. There are different rooms, which offer adjacent to the main dance floor, where you can escape the disco vibe, for a quiet conversation, or a bite to eat. You can dress casually and dance until dawn on Friday and Saturday evenings.
- Address: Avenida 13 and Calle 22, Barrio Mexico
- Phone: +506-2256-8789
- Hours: Sun-Thu 11 AM-3:30 AM, Fri-Sat: 11 AM-4:30 AM
Rapsodia Lounge is a newer club that is located where Paseo Colon meets La Sabana. This is an upscale club which is a destination for the upper class locals and tourists looking for an elitist experience. Bear in mind, that there are guards at the door and they are very selective on who enters. Expect to be among very well-dressed people in an environment you might find in New York, Los Angeles or Miami. There are two floors, VIP tables, and a balcony overlooking Paseo Colón. This is also close to Club Vertigo, Casablance VIP lounge and the Terrace, so if you want to dress-up and go club hopping, there are several options nearby.
- Address Paseo Colón between Calle 42 and Calle 40
- Phone +506-2248-1720
- Hours Thu-Fri 7 PM – 3:00 AM, Sat: 9 PM-6:00 AM
Latino Rock Cafe
Latino Rock Cafe is a venue for live music located in Barrio Colón. The genre varies between Techno, House, Progressive, Heavy Metal and Trance music. This club properly offers the best menu in San Jose, which includes Mexican, Italian, Pizzas, BBQ and even Vegetarian dishes. There is a main stage, with three different rooms attached, with a restaurant, bar, and dance floor. Many famous local and international Latino bands come here to entertain. There is also an air conditioned VIP section and a terrace where you can enjoy a more tranquil atmosphere.
- Address Paseo Colón between Calle 42 and Calle 40
- Phone +506-2221-3223
- Hours Tue-Thu 7 PM – 2:00 AM, Fri-Sat: 7 PM-6:00 AM
Moon Nightlife (formerly Club 212)
This giant night club is located in San Joaquin de Flores in Heredia, which is about 20 minutes north west of San Jose. The Costa Rica Brewery is about 800 meters just of the entrance. With the capacity for almost 2,600 people, Moon Nightlife is most likely one of the largest night clubs in all of Central America. There are two levels with different venues. The upper level is more “Clubby” and features House, Electronica and Trance music. The lower level plays mostly Latino music including Salsa, Merengue and Cumbia. Since the club is very new, they really wanted to make a large impression, and invested serious money in high-tech lighting and state of the art sound systems. The club can also be rented for private parties for weddings, graduation parties or business outings. Of course, there is also a VIP section, where they roll-out the red carpet. Please note: rumor has it that this club may be permanently closed and you should call in advance.
- Address San Joaquin de Flores, Heredia; 150 meters west of Casona Del Cerdo
- Phone +506-2265-1079
- Hours Mon-Wed 10:30 PM – 2:00 AM, Thu-Sat: 7 PM-3:00 AM
Jazz Cafe (San Pedro and Escazu)
Jazz Cafe features live music and dining. Don’t expect a Jazz bar like you would find in New York or Chicago. Here you will find a wide variety of genres, and once in a while, a jazz band. It is recommended to check their web site to know the venue ahead of time. Although Jazz Cafe can have some great bands, you can have an off night, where you have fairly new musicians performing mediocre covers.
- Carretera Interamericana across from Pizza Hut, San Pedro
- Autopista Próspero Fernández first exit after toll , Escazu
- Phone +506-2253-8933
- Hours 7 PM onwards
La Chicharronera (Pork Smokehouse)
Of all the bars and clubs we are recommending, this is the most “Tico” of them all. It is really almost an underground bar. Expect mostly younger Ticos from the local universities. It truly does have a college bar feel to it, as it kind of smells like beer and resembles a dive bars that we all used to frequent in college. The music is normally funk, punk, metal or hard rock. Where a black concert t-shirt and faded jeans and you should fit right in.
- Address 50 meters south Parque España, San Jose Centro
- Phone +506-2253-8933
- Hours 8 PM onwards