Best Live Music in Costa Rica

Live Music and Magical Moments in Puerto Viejo de Limon, Costa Rica

By day, reggae mixes with reggaeton across the treetops to the water's edge, but by night, a more diverse selection of live music styles descends upon Puerto Viejo de Limon, Costa Rica. On Fridays and Saturdays, it's at Chile Rojo, where the open-air space upstairs makes the perfect place to lounge starting at at happy hour. Sundays, The Lazy Mon at Stanford's hosts its now legendary Open Jam, where one may luckily catch piano-playing songbird Jessica Chick or a band such as Los Yukas, an eclectic ensemble whose "Riders of Limon" is a wild romp through the Caribbean with a violin and catchy Spanish lyrics. Also on the beachfront but a few hundred meters to the north, Mango Sunset may showcase the likes of the highly spectacular Draska, whose live music fuses ancient West Africa with urban poetry and stars the altered effects of the n'goni, a wooden stringed intstrument that helps produce Draska's deeply spiritual sounds. Down at the very end of the road in Manzanillo, Maxi's Restaurant presents live music on many a night, and it's often a reggae or calypso band that takes the stage and steals the hearts and souls of those in the audience.


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 Live Music because: Incredibly talented bands perform for a dancing crowd at this small yet acoustically sound beachfront bar.

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

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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 Live Music because: Tex Mex has been a top seaside live music venue since its old-school days as Hot Rocks.

Sophia's expert tip: The Cuba Libres are top notch at this dangerous bar.

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It took awhile, but finally the Pirates have planted their flag again in Puerto Viejo de Limon, and some say it's about time. The Point Bar and Grill offers sports on seven screens and Costa Rican craft beers on draft. Now the region has a place where fellow pirates can feel right at home while having a few cocktails and a bite to eat while gazing out at a black sand beach. Don't let the immense skull and crossbones, fool you, this spot is full of friendly people and fun times. Check out the Pirate Barge just offshore, walk the plank if you dare, but please don't do it drunk.

Recommended for Live Music because: Expect the unexpected from the live musical talent that takes the stage here.

Sophia's expert tip: Find whatever game your looking for on one of the seven screens.

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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 Live Music because: Rock out to live music and DJs spinning on either side.

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

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Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica

Amimodo is an old-school yet new-school family style and family friendly Italian restaurant on the main road in Puerto Viejo. A nondescript, single story cafe style that's invitingly and casual from the street side and the beach side, Amimodo doesn't need to toot it's own horn; those in the know have been coming here for excellent authentic Italian dishes and special occasions since the doors opened nearly twenty years ago. The seating spills out from inside to out, and there is a little bar inside for pizza and cocktails. Some nights a live band plays, but mostly it is a mellow vibe.

Recommended for Live Music because: Calypso, reggae, and cover bands may accompany your meal here on some weekend nights.

Sophia's expert tip: Happy Hour is on most days, with inexpensive tapas and "drinks of the day" specials, like a Pipa Loca, fresh green coconut spiked with rum and garnished with an exotic flower.

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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 Live Music because: When there's music here, it's a live DJ spinning house and lounge music.

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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Chile Rojo is perhaps Puerto Viejo de Limon's most popular restaurant with locals and tourists, but that doesn't mean it's always crowded. Contrarily, even on the busiest of nights, it's not uncommon to score a great table or corner lounge area; occupying an open-air, second level space in the center of town, every seat at Chile Rojo offers an excellent view. Billing itself as "Thai Fusion Cuisine and Sushi Bar," Chile Rojo is also a live music venue for local acts, and a champion of the "farm to fork" movement. Fresh caught fish is a focal point here, though there are often guest stars, such as the locally raised lamb that was featured in a curry. Mondays there is an all-you-can-eat buffet, and Fridays and Saturdays there is live music.

Recommended for Live Music because: Fridays and Saturdays feature live music from local talent and beyond.

Sophia's expert tip: Happy Hour is everyday (except Wednesday) from 6 to 8pm.

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De Paso
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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 Live Music because: Soloists and small piece bands sometimes perform for diners at De Paso, ask at the bar.

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 Live Music because: Reggae and calypso bands often grace the stage 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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The Lazy Mon at Stanford's
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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 Live Music because: Open Jam on Sunday nights is a magical place to experience live music.

Sophia's expert tip: Kick off your shoes and maybe even get your feet wet at this favorite beachfront spot for sunset and happy hour.

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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