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.



10
Jazz Café San Pedro


 

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.


9
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.


8


 

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.


7

 

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.


6
El Cuartel de la Boca del Monte


 

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.


5


 

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.


4


 

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.


3


 

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.


2

 

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.


1

 

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.


Map

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

×