Some Costa Rican beach towns have better nightlife scenes than others. Playa Tamarindo is muy loco, as are Playa Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula, Dominical on the southern Pacific coast, and Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean. The most bangin’ beach town, though, has got to be Jacó—particularly if you are part of a rowdy bachelor party.
The remainder of the nightlife seems contained to San José and the surrounding suburbs at a few venues: Vertigo for the up-all-night crowd, El Steinvorth for the artists and musicians, and the Del Rey for lonely fellows (and yes, the woman in the tiny dress smiling at you is most likely a prostitute). If you’re like me, and you’ve been to these venues a few too many times, a different experience might involve carrying your hammock into the woods and sleeping there, maybe with that special bottle of whisky by your side.
Karaoke is kind of a big deal for me, and I’ve never had more fun than at El Steinvorth, where you perform up on a stage in front of hundreds of club goers. In the heart of San José, this multi-level venue also features live bands, crazy art, loveable hipsters, and super strong Long Island iced teas, all the better to get you out on the dance floor.
At night, the surf town of Jacó transforms into a mecca of grit and sleaze that somehow also manages to be a really good time. Los Amigos Restaurant and Bar is probably my favorite spot to order a giant beer bong and sit around drinking it with friends for way too long. Note: Thursday night is ladies night.
Hotel and Casino Del Rey
If you receive a photograph of your husband “sport fishing” in Costa Rica, it may have been taken with a fake fish and ocean backdrop at this San José dive, where your husband is probably sleeping with hookers. The Del Rey is infamous for prostitution, and often frequented by sex tourists and rubberneckers. If you’re more interested in pure gambling, the Colonial Casino next door is considerably less trashy.
A Hammock or Tent in the Woods
Some of the best nights I’ve had in Costa Rica didn’t involve going out to a bar. They were spent in hammocks tied to trees in the remote jungles of the Osa Peninsula, surrounded by mysterious creatures making all kinds of eerie and beautiful sounds. Scary? Sometimes. Worth it? Always. My top camping experience would have to be at La Sirena Ranger Station in Corcovado National Park.