Whatever your poison, San José has plenty of venues to keep you lubricated.
Dangers & Annoyances
Be safe. Enterprising thieves sometimes lurk around popular nightspots, waiting to relieve drunken party people of their wallets. When leaving a bar late at night, keep your wits about you and take a taxi.
Where to Drink
Chepe's artsiest, most sophisticated drinking venues are concentrated north and east of the center, in Barrio Amón and Barrio Escalante. For a rowdier, younger scene, head to Barrio la California or Calle la Amargura.
Best for cityscapes and cocktails are the rooftop bar at Hotel Presidente and the upstairs terrace at El Patio del Balmoral. People-watching rocks at Café de los Deseos in Barrio Otoya and at Mercado La California.
Escazú & Santa Ana
If you’re looking for a spicy cocktail and some house music, 8ctavo Rooftop is where the beautiful people partake. And just a short drive west you'll find the country's premier brewery, Costa Rica Craft Brewing, along with its popular tasting room.
Escazú also has a few dive bars sprinkled around its main plaza, but few are particularly appealing.
Barrio la California
On weekends, these streets between downtown and Los Yoses are packed with 20-something revelers puffing cigarettes and pondering where to head for the next chili guaro (an increasingly popular shot with sugar-cane liquor, hot sauce and lime juice). Popular bars in this hood include La Concha de la Lora, El Observatorio, Craic Irish Pub and El Cuartel de la Boca del Monte.
Calle La Amargura
Calle La Amargura (Sorrow St) is the more poetic name for Calle 3, north of Av Central. However, it should be called Calle de la Cruda (Street of Hangovers) because it has the highest concentration of bars of any single street in town, and many of these are packed with customers (mainly university students) even during daylight hours. Places come and go, but Terra U is a longtime party spot. The area gets rowdy in the wee hours: watch out for drunks and pickpockets.
San José has a thriving club scene. From thumping electronica and hip-hop to salsa, merengue and reggaetón, Chepe’s clubs offer a galaxy of musical styles to help you get your groove on. Most spots open at around 10pm, and don’t truly get going until after midnight. Admission charges vary depending on the location, the DJ and the night; they're generally US$5 to US$10. Places come and go with alarming regularity, so ask around before heading out.
Gay & Lesbian Venues
The city is home to Central America’s most thriving gay and lesbian scene. As with other spots, admission charges vary depending on the night and location (from US$5 to US$10). Some clubs close on various nights of the week (usually Sunday to Tuesday) and others host women- or men-only nights; inquire ahead or check individual club websites for listings.
Many clubs are on the south side of town, which can get rough after dark. Take a taxi.