Best Nightlife in Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo de Limon's Best Nightlife: Reggae, Roots, Salsa and Calypso

By day, the seaside village of Puerto Viejo de Limo, Costa Rica sways to reggae and reggeaton, which segues into live music, experimental sounds, and an undercurrent of energy electrified by DJs at night. Hot Rocks, an open-air venue in the center of town, hosts nightly entertainment that ranges from Salsa to reggae to Karaoke. The classic Puerto Viejo nightlife spot is Johnny's Place, right on the water's edge; stay up late and dance all night here. Happy hour drink specials, two for one cocktails, and free drinks for Ladies Nights are popular at the beachfront Mango Bar near the barge. Sundays, the Lazy Mon at Stanford's is a fun place to experience local musical talent and imbibe some of the Caribbean pura vida. Sunsets are best seen from Salsa Brava Beach Bar, where a tiny bar serves happy hour cocktails and every seat has an amazing view of the beach.


De Paso
Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica

Candlelit tables twinkle from the sand, beckoning pedestrians from the side of the road De Paso is nestled between the trees and the water's edge. Named for the path that connects the road to the jungle path and the beach, this little restaurant serves up some excellent, and inexpensive, plates from afternoon til night. Fish tacos are one of many specialties, including pizzas, pastas, and a seafood dish of the day, and there are always two-for-one drinks on happy hour special. This is a beach casual place, flip flops and shirts are optional, a pura vida vibe is the only requisite for dining here.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: This is an incognito place to sip cocktails and relax with your feet in the sand.

Sophia's expert tip: Try the two for one mojitos at happy hour and chocolate cake for dessert.

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Maxi's Restaurant is truly a classic, planting its stilts in the sand several decades back, when it was the only restaurant in all of Manzanillo, and it practically still is. Located at the very end of the long road that runs all the way from San Jose down through Puerto Viejo, Maxi's stands overlooking the beach It's this prime location, mixed with the familiar, laid-back vibe of its proprietors, a menu stocked with fresh seafood Caribbean dishes, and a bar that makes Maxi's such a landmark. The two story, open-air restaurant is casual enough for flip flops and board shorts, but cool enough to host special occasion dinners, parties, and game-watching, too.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Live music on some nights makes for good memories at Maxi's.

Sophia's expert tip: Go for drinks and the view- it's also a nice place to celebrate a birthday.

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Salsa Brava at Night
Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica

By day, this tiny beach is one of the Caribbean's best surf spots, with wicked reef breaks that keep surfers on their toes and onlookers at the edge of their perches, long lens camera at the ready. By night, Salsa Brava comes alive with the sound of music, with a DJ spinning and a sound system that seems to materialize from nowhere. A few steps from the former site of another dance club called Bamboo, which burned to the ground several years ago, Salsa Brava is the newset place to mingle and get your groove on after dark. It doesn't usually get started until late night, and some nights it doesn't happen at all, but when it does it's a good time.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Sip drinks on the sand at Salsa Brava and enjoy the unobstructed view of the waves.

Sophia's expert tip: Stay up late to experience this tiny beach spot come alive with DJ spun sounds and a local scene.

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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 Best Nightlife because: Lounge in a bright chair and let the hours slip by while sipping drinks at this chill spot.

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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Johnny's Place
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Johnny's Place is Puerto Viejo's longstanding, landmark dance club. The open air-design is inviting, and a casual vibe emanates from this local favorite nightlife spot. The beachfront space next to the tiny police station has been recently renovated; now there are tables and chairs inside and out on the sand, and an appetizing menu of Caribbean tapas and small plates to complement the full bar. Roots, reggae, and dancehall beats make for good times, and ample drink specials keep the party hopping into the wee hours. Some nights are designated Ladies Nights for special hours when drinks are specially priced, or free for the fairer sex

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: DJ Garf spinning on Friday Reggae Nights is especially memorable.

Sophia's expert tip: Saturday nights are Tropical, with 2 for 1 chilguaros, guaro shots, and daiquiris.

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Cafe Viejo
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Although it's a fine Italian restaurant first and foremost, with experienced chefs in the kitchen that turn out exceptional dishes based on authentic Italian recipes that come to life with Costa Rica's bounty of fresh ingredients, Cafe Viejo is also a great place to enjoy a cocktail at the bar, and on special nights, dance to the beats of talented DJs who frequently hold later night events at the restaurant. Slightly more sophisticated than its beachfront counterparts, the bar at Cafe Viejo wraps around and spills almost on to the street, and it couldn't be more centrally located on the main road near the middle of town.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Go for dinner, stay for local DJ Yamu spinning on special nights.

Sophia's expert tip: Strong drinks at the bar and stellar Italian cuisine make this a fun place to start a night off on the right foot.

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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 Best Nightlife because: Being on the small side doesn't keep this hot spot from drawing a crowd with music and dancing that spills out front.

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

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Hot Rocks
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Hot Rocks is Puerto Viejo de Limon's most happening spot for nightlife, with something different going on each night of the week. Sundays are a highlight with free lessons and live music from the Caribbean Kings. Mondays it's movie night and reggae music,and its popular Open Jam night is on Wednesday. Divas take the mike on Thursdays local female driven bands moonlight and Hot Rock free shuttle service from points south along the coast. Fridays its Karaoke night, cover songs are belted out in all languages, sounding ever slurred but no less sweet as the night progresses. Saturdays are devoted to local favorite band Plan B, whose live music lights up the night with its own special style

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: This spacious open-air spot is most inviting and ideally located.

Sophia's expert tip: Grab a great people-watching and music listening seat at the circular bar.

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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 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 Best Nightlife because: You may just discover you new favorite DJ spinning here on some nights.

Sophia's expert tip: Mango Sunset gives away free drinks for ladies on some nights.

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

The Lazy Mon is a casual beachfront bar- you could even go for a swim between drinks-kind of place with a laid-back nightlife vibe 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 take in even if ping pong's not your thing. Two for one cocktails and dollar tequila shots at happy hour can be a fun way to spend the sunset. Sundays the Lazy Mon hosts live music and during the week you may find specials such as free dancehall lessons.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Friendly people, good vibes, great music and excellent location for watching the sunset.

Sophia's expert tip: Happy Hour specials include one dollar Tequila and Guaro shots.

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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