Best Bars in Costa Rica

Costa Rica's Best Bars Range from Trendy to Traditional

Costa Rica's best bars are inviting respites in which to sip on ice cold beverages and soak up some of the pura vida culture. A walking tour of the capital city of San Jose yields tiny dive bars every other block, but the classic bar Chelles stays open all night for drinking and eating. On the other side of the valley in Escazu the modern wine bar at Tintos y Blancos draws an upscale crowd to its patio for people watching, tapas, and a wine selection unheard of elsewhere in the country. Costa Rica's Craft Brewing Company, the country's first micro-brewery, offers free flights of seven beer samples on its weekly tour, a stop that could substitute for a bar en route to or from Cartago, Costa Rica's original capital. Watch the sun set over the Caribbean coast at the Lazy Mon at Stanfords, and stay for happy hour cocktails, love music, and ping pong. Costa Rican legend has it that if you find yourself lost on the road after a night of drinking, be on the lookout for El Cadejo, a big shaggy black dog with red eyes that is said to be a good omen, follow him home and his spirit, who is also said to be devilish, will protect you from harm.


Once the only place to check out consistently high-quality live music, especially jazz, in San Jose, The Jazz Cafe remains the best venue to see, hear, drink and eat under one roof. It is located in the San Pedro neighborhood, has a restaurant with good food and a full bar to go with the music. The shows vary from night to night, and past artists have included Mike Stern, Julien Lourau, Diego Urcola, Dennis Chambers, Frank Gambale, Steve Smith, and Scott Henderson, to name a few. You'll find tourists, expats, Costa Ricans, and an international crowd at the Jazz Cafe, so it's a nice place to socialize with musically like-minded folks in the city.

Recommended for Bars because: Come for the music, stay for the drinks at the well-stocked full bar.

Sophia's expert tip: This Jazz Cafe in San Pedro is the original venue for live music and nightlife. Some recent performances may be heard online here:

Read more about Jazz Café San Pedro →

The Lazy Mon at Stanford's
Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica

If you've made it to Puerto Viejo, you must visit The Lazy Mon at Stanford's, day or night, before you leave town, and in which case, you may decide to extend your stay. The Lazy Mon is a casual beachfront- as in you can go for a dip in between drinks- bar with a laid-back nightlife that's inviting to all walks of life. Live music is on Sundays and whenever local reggae and calypso bands pass through town, and otherwise there's plenty to look at if ping pong's not your cup of tea. Two for one cocktails at happy hour are a nice way to spend the sunset, and if you stay, you never know what kind of harmless trouble you may get yourself into, but it's all in the name of la pura vida.

Recommended for Bars because: The Lazy Mon at Stanford's has the best view at sunset and strong drinks at the bar.

Sophia's expert tip: Come ready to relax, kick off your shoes, and maybe even get your feet wet at my favorite beachfront spot to hang out for happy hour.

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The first of its kind in Puerto Viejo de Limon, KOKI Beach is a truly eco-friendly establishment; a bar, restaurant and lounge made almost entirely from reclaimed materials that takes relaxing and dining and turns them into art forms. With a full bar and a lunch and dinner menu that incorporates lots of local organic produce, Koki Beach invites guests to relax and stay awhile, while giving them plenty to look at- the water's edge is just across the way, and the design details like the unique chair collection and tables made from old doors will have you feeling inspired, and impressed.

Recommended for Bars because: Relaxing at this lounge bar across from the beach is a find way to enjoy evenings in Puerto Viejo..

Sophia's expert tip: Koki Beach is a great place to go on holidays to see their unique presentations like the wine bottle tree at Christmas and take advantage of seasonal specials, like the ceviche.

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El Pueblo is one of those quintessential Costa Rican tourist destinations that fits many attractions under one red adobe roof; there are restuarants, shops, and dance clubs within this Spanish Colonial style complex, and any time of day or night there is bound to be some hustle and bustle, and the crowd is mixed. Young and old, Tico and tourist come to El Pueblo to dine, dance, and shop for souvenirs of Costa Rica. It's not until after 10pm that the dance clubs really get started, and then there is a wide variety of music to choose from, and sometimes live DJs.

Recommended for Bars because: El Pueblo is a drinking and dancing destination perfect for easy bar hopping.

Sophia's expert tip: Come to El Pueblo to shop, dine, and then dance the night away in San Jose. Get there early if you want to squeeze in some shopping for classic Costa Rican souvenirs; later, when all the restaurants are closed, you can find munchies at the tiny sodas nestled between the bars and dance clubs.

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What was once a modest establishment for artsy types has become one of San Jose's trendiest spots for all walks of life, especially the young and hip set, who flock to El Cuartel de la Boca del Monte for the scene, the bar, and the live music, which is on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. One section of the old Costa Rican style house that was remodeled back in 1985 has been fashioned into its own little bar, called La Esquina, which is a nice place to tuck into an appetizer like green plantain ceviche or the Cuartel salad, and sip on one of the 200+ cocktails on the menu.

Recommended for Bars because: The classic little La Esquina has evolved into a trendy bar with strong drinks and tasty tapas.

Sophia's expert tip: Don't forget the dress code, El Cuartel de la Boca del Monte is a hip place to see and be seen, and jeans and flip flops will not be tolerated. Get there early to nab a seat at the little bar, La Esquina.

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One of Puerto Viejo's most popular spots to party after dark, Cafe Mango, formerly called the Sunset Bar, has maintained its old-school vibe and infused new life into this open-to-the- ocean-front beach shack. Inexpensive drink specials such as $1 Tequila and Guaro shots, rotating DJs, and free cocktail hours for ladies have kept Cafe Mango on the local nightlife map. This is a fun and very casual place to have a few drinks, mingle with locals and tourists, and dance. Flip flops are de riguer, costumes are encouraged, and pretentions don't exist at Cafe Mango; expect to make friends and have fun, if not fall in love.

Recommended for Bars because: This is a casual bar where locals and tourists mingle over drinks and good DJ sets.

Sophia's expert tip: Cafe Mango is a good place to drink on the cheap and party with a young and casual crowd of locals and tourists.

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In an old refurebished factory an hour outside the city of San Jose, a couple of beer afficionados are going against the grain, crafting artisinal beer using only whole grains, hops, yeast, and water. The concept is novel in a country that loves its national beers, Imperial and Pilsen, but CRCBC's beers stand up to high tasting standards. Every Wednesday through Friday from 4pm to 6pm they offer a tour of the premises where they explain the hands-on artisinal process and offer tastings of more than seven different types of beer. CRBC's signature beers are the Libertas Golden Ale and Segua Red Ale.

Recommended for Bars because: While it's not a typical bar, the daily tastings of artisinal beers make it a must visit.

Sophia's expert tip: Come thirsty for a flight of free beer samples.

Read more about Costa Rica's Craft Brewing Company →

Just when Puerto Viejo was in need of a little more night music, Bar Maritza has stepped up to the plate with a remodeled interior and a shiny new facade, bringing life after dark to the otherwise quiet stretch of beachfront it occupies. Maritza is attached to the front of a hotel of the same name, and encompasses a long wooden bar, a dance floor, and several cocktail tables. The theme is black and white, and it works nicely with the rainbow of disco lights that make this one of the best places to get your groove on in Puerto Viejo.

Recommended for Bars because: Dance and drink with locals at this classic beachfront bar.

Sophia's expert tip: Seek out little beachfront Bar Meritza for the best dancing and drinks after dark.

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This is the second- but no less popular- location of the Jazz Cafe, the first is across town in San Pedro, San Jose. The newer Jazz Cafe was opened in 2009 and carries on the tradition of presenting high quality shows, consistent restaurant quality and a relaxing atmosphere- in addition to a lively bar scene. Performances by well-known international artists has turned the Jazz Cafe into an active part of the international jazz circuit; past artists have included Mike Stern, Julien Lourau, Diego Urcola, Dennis Chambers, Frank Gambale, Steve Smith, and Scott Henderson, to name a few. You'll find tourists, expats, Costa Ricans, and an international crowd at the Jazz Cafe, so it's a nice place to socialize with musically like-minded folks in the city.

Recommended for Bars because: Catch exceptional live music acts from around the world and enjoy cocktails from a full bar.

Sophia's expert tip: Tickets are very reasonably priced and reservations can be made in advance on the website:

Read more about Jazz Café Escazú →

New to the scene in Escazú is Tintos y Blancos, a wine bar that serves excellent food in an inviting atmosphere and even offers live music on certain nights. Perfect for a pre-dinner date or even the main attraction, Tintos y Blancos has an admirably extenisive wine list, especially for Costa Rica, and a Mediterranean inspired menu to match. Choose from tapas style appetizers and cheese plates to full entrees, all prepared using fresh ingredients and designed with drinking wine in mind. Each glass comes with a little hang tag so you can keep track if you're trying different varietals, and the indoor and outdoor seating areas are ideal for settling in for a relaxing tasting session.

Recommended for Bars because: This chic wine bar has a view of upscale Avenida Escazu.

Sophia's expert tip: Check out the underground complex of tunnels and boutique wine shop.

Read more about Tintos y Blancos →


Meet Sophia LaMonica

On Sophia's first trip to Costa Rica, she came face to face with white-faced monkeys, gasped at the sight of giant purple crabs, and rode horseback through plunging waterfalls. Costa Rica...  More About Sophia