Costa Rica Travel Guide


San Jose

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.

Infinito Discotheque
(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.

Twister Club
(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.

Salsa 54
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.

Planet Mall
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 leave.

Bar Esmeralda
Av. 2, Calles 5/7 (221 0530). Caters to an older crowd. Mariachi music offers a soothing alternative to pop. Open daily 7pm-1am.

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