In an old refurbished factory about an hour outside the capital 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 the Costa Rica Craft Brewing Company offers a tour of the premises where the brewers themselves explain the hands-on artisinal process and offer tastings of more than seven different types of beer.
Recommended for Brew Pubs because: A flight of craft beer from CRCBC's brewery is something to write home about.
Sophia's expert tip: Enjoy a flight of free beer samples on a tour of the CRCBC.
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 Brew Pubs because: La Esquina, the little Bar of El Cuartel, stocks ice cold Imperials and Pilsens.
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.
Tex Mex is conveniently located at the center of town, a big open-air spot on a corner of the main intersection in front of the beach. Wherever you're going, you're going to pass Tex Mex, and whoever's there will see you coming. During the day, it's a simple place to enjoy a decent cup of espresso or a fresh fruit smoothie. At night, it promotes two for one cocktails, sometimes free for ladies, and bills itself as "the most dangerous bar in town." Besides that, it's the best spot to catch sports events on the flat screen TVs around the bar.
Recommended for Brew Pubs because: While the place may be dangerous, the beers are nice and cold.
Sophia's expert tip: The piña coladas are top notch and the Cuba Libres are dangerous.
Johnny's Place is Puerto Viejo's longstanding, landmark dance club, and has been the place to drink and dance to all kinds of music for more than a decade. The beachfront digs are the epitome of non-descript, and it's a party version of the laid-back town come to life after dark. Johnny's Place is right next to Puerto Viejo's tiny police station, but that doesn't stop it from being a hot spot. Roots, reggae, and dancehall beats make for good times, decent drink prices keep the party hopping into the wee hours. Look for ladies night drink specials and happy hour drink deals.
Recommended for Brew Pubs because: Cold Imperials are easy enough to hold on a the crowded dance floor.
Sophia's expert tip: Snag a table on the sand and watch the lights twinkle on the water before you step inside and and sway to the music. Depending on the season, some nights are designated Ladies Nights for special hours when men are not allowed in and drinks are specially priced, or free.
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 Brew Pubs because: Beers somehow taste better at this spot on the beachfront strip.
Sophia's expert tip: Seek out little beachfront Bar Meritza for the best dancing and drinks after dark.
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 Brew Pubs because: Beers from the Cafe Mango fridge are served icy cold.
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.
Clearly named for the undeniably stellar Caribbean surf that unfolds just across the road, Tasty Waves Cantina does much to revive the classic surfer vibe that first drew tourists to the area; whatever the weather, from the torrential rains that bring mud slides to the places perched along the coast, like Tasty Waves is, to the punishing yet rewarding rights and lefts that make Cocles the most coveted spot along the Caribbean to surf, this winsomely laid-back bar restaurant and beachfront lounge spot with a pool table is happy to be there, and share the beauty of this beautiful place with tacos, tequila shots, and of course, Tasty Waves.
Recommended for Brew Pubs because: Tacos and beer go swell together at this spot overlooking some tasty waves.
Sophia's expert tip: Check Tasty Waves Cantina's famous Taco Tuesdays, for good vibes, good times, and of course, good tacos.
It took awhile, but finally Americans have started settling in Puerto Viejo, and some say it's about time, especially since The Point opened, offering sports on seven screens and even Costa Rican craft beers on draft. Now the region has a place where visiting Americans can feel right at home while gazing out at a black sand beach next to the Caribbean sea, not that folks from all over the world don't also frequent this just-off-the-beaten-path place on the outskirts of town. Don't let the immense skull and crossbones, fool you, this spot is full of friendly people and fun times.
Recommended for Brew Pubs because: Costa Rican craft brews on draft on the Caribbean beachfront.
Sophia's expert tip: Soak up brews with the burger and fries, it's the best and made with high=grade beef.
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 Brew Pubs because: Ice cold beers and a night of live jazz are a great combo.
Sophia's expert tip: Tickets are very reasonably priced and reservations can be made in advance on the website: http://jazzcafecostarica.com
The Public House Irish Pub is a modern take on the traditional, with a long list of Costa Rican craft beers and signature cocktails such as the Maracuyazo, a shot of bright orange chiliguaro made with maracuyá, and the Nutella Martini, a decadently sweet treat with a twist. A post- college aged crowd of mainly locals and the occasional tourist mingles to the sounds of indie rock around the vintage modern decor. Find The Public House Irish Pub in the pcoket of San José known as Paseo Colón, 100 meters north of the Toyota dealership.
Recommended for Brew Pubs because: Two-for-one craft beer specials and cocktails such as the Maracuyazo and the Nutella Martini.
Sophia's expert tip: Try a signature shot of chiliguaro, chase it with a cold Costa Rican craft beer.