San Pedro pulses with life at night: the dance is salsa and merengue,
the drink is either ice-cold cervezas or guaro sunrise cocktails, and
the scene varies from ticos belting out Latin tunes in karaoke bars to
American sports bars packed with tourists playing pool and chatting in
English. Calle de la Amargura is always hopping and has the best casual
atmosphere for meeting young ticos; El Pueblo is the best dancing scene;
and San José center caters to a slightly older crowd of both locals
and foreigners. Most bars and clubs charge ¢1000 for cover, sometimes
higher for men, but cover usually includes a couple of drinks. Dress is
usually casual; jeans and sandals are fine in San Pedro bars, but you
might want to throw on some dressier threads to go to El Pueblo and San
José clubs. It's a good idea to bring your passport with you to
most clubs and bars because the bouncers will require a good ID (18+)
to let you in.
(221 9134), the most popular spot in El Pueblo. Warm and exciting interior
with dark wood walls, red leather furniture, and lamps that throw shafts
of color everywhere. A fish tank lights up the bar and makes the liquor
sparkle tantalizingly. The larger dance room is geared to the college
crowd and plays danceable pop and trance. Cover ¢800; W and Su ladies
free; F-Sa ladies free before 9pm. Open M-W 6pm-4am, F-Su 6pm-6am. Another
room plays "romantic music" for the 45-plus crowd. Cozy rooms
and bars span the distance between the two. Fairly high gringo count in
the high season. Cover Su-Th ¢450, F-Sa ¢500, including first
drink. Open daily 6pm-5am.
(222 7562), towards the back and on the left of El Pueblo, attracts a
late-20s crowd where the music is loud, people are dressed to impress,
and the line forms early. House beats on the dance floor keep the bodies
moving. Open daily 6:30pm until the crowd dies out..
Av. Central, Calles 17/19 (222 1070), 1 block east of the northeast corner
of the Museo Nacional. A strong local following gathers early for drinks
and chats at one of the many bar tables. Later in the night, flashing
lights and thumping music attract a varied crowd, many outstanding in
the arts of salsa and merengue. Cover ¢1000, ¢3000 for men on
F. Open bar for women arriving early (7-9pm) and all night on F for men
and women. Open Th-Su starting at 5pm.
Calle 3, Av. 1/3 2nd fl. (223 3814), is a meeting place for the mature
who are still young enough to boogie to a mix of love songs, 60s hits,
and salsa. Many of the dancers are experts, but don't let that stop you
from joining in. Tu and W fills with pool and karaoke fans. Salsa and
merengue lessons every Sa 10am and noon (¢5000 for 4 lessons). Tu
and W no cover, Th-Su ¢1000. Open Tu-Su 7pm-2am.
Salidas Orbital 2000
(233 3814), right next door to Salsa 54. A younger crowd dances to pop,
tango, salsa, and merengue on 3 small stages amid a sea of red plush cocktail
tables. Karaoke every night 6-8pm. Male and female models wearing next
to nothing dance in the Model Revue. Cover ¢1000. Open W-Su 7pm-2am.
El Cuartel de la Boca del Monte
Av. 1, Calles 21/23, in between San José and San Pedro. One of
San José's hottest spots for the burgeoning 20s scene. A welcoming
atmosphere featuring live local bands with Latin rhythm on M evenings
and no cover for ladies. Cover ¢1200 for live music, otherwise free.
Open daily 6pm-2am.
Fuera de Control
Av. Central, Calle 5 (253-8062). Flashy lights, a raised stage, and karaoke
in English and Spanish let every sing along queen and king have their
15min.-of-fame fantasy. The daily happy hour and 2-for-1 specials help
the shy overcome their performance phobias. Karaoke Su-Th 9-11pm, live
music F, hip hop and rave Sa. Beer ¢450; 2 for ¢750 6-9pm and
all night Sa. Cocktails ¢850. Open daily 4pm-2am.
Mall San Pedro, 4th fl. (280 4693). Mingle with a very young crowd on
the huge dance floors as you gaze down on the bright lights of San José
through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Cover ¢1500. Open Th-Sa 8:30pm-2:30am.
The enormous bar scene near the University of Costa Rica in San Pedro
is student-oriented, but casual and diverse enough to accommodate just
about anyone seeking a good time. People and loud music overflow into
the streets, making the area relatively safe, but take precautions. Calle
3 north of Av. Central, known as Calle de la Amargura, is the heart of
the college scene. There are relatively few tourists, making it easier
to meet the fun-loving and outgoing tico students. Places to try include:
Caccio's (beer ¢450; no cover; open M-Sa 10am-2am), Mosaiko's for
a more laid-back atmosphere (hip hop M, reggae Tu, electronic W, rock,
pop, alternative Th-Sa; free tequila for girls Sa 8-10pm; beer ¢450;
cover ¢1000; open 11am-2am), and Bar Tavarúa, a surf and skate
bar which pumps out the beat and opens up a back room for dancing on crowded
nights (beer ¢450; cover ¢1000, ladies free Th; open M-Sa 11am-2am).
Bars closer to San José center tend to be populated by older men
and their girlfriends or female escorts. To avoid such an uncomfortable
setting, check out the following:
Av. 2, Calle 45, across from the Mall San Pedro and around the corner
from All Stars Bar. A tico favorite, this reggae bar draws a young, alternative
student crowd who worship everything Jamaican. Dreadlocked teens and their
surfer counterparts jam to Fugees and Bob Marley, while the mellower chill
on the outskirts, Red Stripe in hand. Beer ¢450. T and W 7-9pm 2-for-1
drinks. Cover ¢1000, includes 2 drinks. Open W-Sa 7pm till the crowds
Av. 2, Calles 5/7 (221 0530). Caters to an older crowd. Mariachi music
offers a soothing alternative to pop. Open daily 7pm-1am.