Think Costa Rica, think surf, think lush rainforests, think bird-filled cloud forests, soaring volcanos, and tasty coffee. But there’s another aspect to this tropical haven in the midst of Central America and it starts after the sun’s gone down. Mhmm…the best party destinations in Costa Rica can keep you bouncing and drinking and dancing until the early hours.
They come in all shapes and sizes. There are the compulsory Pacific-side surf towns, where you’ll glug cold Imperial beers after sessions on the waves. There are wild beach resorts filled with karaoke venues, on both coasts, the west and the east. There’s even the buzzy capital, with an upcoming array of craft beer joints and thumping clubs.
This guide will focus in on just seven of the most happening and best party destinations in Costa Rica. It’s got a good mix of the crème-de-la-crème, including the rollicking wave retreat of Tamarindo and the reggae-rhythm town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the pearly waters of the Caribbean Sea. Let’s get going…
If we had to pick one, we’d say that Tamarindo is the king of all the best party destinations in Costa Rica. You might not have thought it possible 20 years back, when the place was little more than a fishing town with a few stray surfers seeking out hidden waves on the Pacific. Well…these days the fishing boats have been replaced by raucous party hostels and said surf breaks are packed to bursting with learners and rippers alike.
Nights in Tamarindo almost always start on the beach. That’s Playa Tamarindo, a long scythe of golden-brown sand that ends in the town itself at its south end. Check out the array of coconut shacks and salt-washed surfer bars that coalesce there beneath the palm trees – they are epic for sunset drinks.
Later on, you can head to any one of the town’s epic all-nighter venues. There’s a few to pick from: Pacifico Bar, a food spot near the beach with DJ shows that go on until late; Sharky’s, the mainstay of Central Avenue, also a great place to catch NFL or football games; Crazy Monkey’s Bar, an option with poolside drinking that starts around midday.
San Jose is surely one of the best party destinations in Costa Rica since it’s the biggest city – kinda’ really the only city – and the economic hub of the country. Most travelers skip the capital, landing and then heading off to the beaches in the west or the volcanos and rainforests to the north and south right away. But linger some, and there’s actually a buzzy metropolis with some intriguing neighborhoods to sample.
Different areas mean different things. There’s Calle Amargura on the side of the college district, which is packed with uber-cheap beer stops that fill with local students on Friday nights. There’s Escazú, an upscale part of the capital where you’ll find mixology bars and independent craft brewers. Of course, you also find the ubiquitous Irish bar, along with some Caribbean-style places with pina coladas and mojitos on the menu.
Another nightlife experience that’s not about dancing the hours away and glugging beer awaits in the foothills of the Cerros de Escazú on the southwest side of town. That area is lush, green, and fertile, and it’s known for its local Tican eateries that give great dishes and creative drinks menus along with sweeping views of the city below. You can head there for something a touch more romantic.
Jaco is one of the most famous surf and sand resorts on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. A mere 1.5 hours in the car or bus from the capital in San Jose, it regularly fills up with Ticos and travelers on dry-season weekends. Some come for the beginner-friendly waves. Others come for the pristine beaches. But some come for the pumping parties…
Most of those happen down the main strip that runs through the heart of the resort parallel to Jaco Beach. Welcome to Pastor Diaz Avenue, a bumping medley of boho cafés, seafood restaurants, hole-in-the-wall eateries, backpacker hostels, and nightlife venues. You’ve got a choice between ramshackle bamboo bars with blaring reggae (think Swell) or sleek rooftop cocktail places (think Le Loft) in these parts.
Hitting the stepped seating of Villa Caletas for sunset cocktails is a rite of passage in Jaco, too. More chilled evenings can also be had at Jacó Blu Beach Club under the coconut palms. One word of warning: Jaco does have a seedy side like Pattaya Beach or Phuket before it, so don’t be surprised to encounter a couple of red-lit “gentlemen’s clubs” as you stroll the main road.
These days, it can seem like every influencer and their dog is down in the surf-washed town of Santa Teresa. Strung along the dusty coast roads at the bottom of the Nicoya Peninsula, this is a place that’s gone from remote yogi getaway to full-blown resort in the space of about 10 years. We have to say, the nightlife still isn’t off the hook, but that’s actually part of the charm.
You come here to glug cold beers as the sun drops low behind the swells of the Pacific Ocean. You come for happy hour cocktails infused with fresh citrus fruits on the beaches of Mal Pais and Playa Carmen. Hotspots include the uber-chilled drinkery of Banana Beach on the sand, the stylo beach lounge of Roca Mar, and the veggie-friendly food and beer stop of Drift.
The last few years have seen the addition of some more happening, later-night venues. They come in the form of La Lora Amarilla Disco Bar, Nativo, a sports bar with some fantastic drink specials, and Kika, which has one of the best open mic nights around. Don’t expect to party until sunup a la Tamarindo, though – folk often like to get some shuteye for the dawn patrol here.
Montezuma Beach is tucked onto the south side of the Nicoya Peninsula, facing idyllic Pacific Ocean bays backed by palm forests and inhabited by howler monkeys. It’s established itself as something of a nascent party hub in recent times, with the addition of more and more bars and a whole host of drinking and dining options along its main road across the Rio Montezuma.
Now, we’re not saying you should come here expecting Ibiza or Mykonos. That’s not the vibe. Montezuma Beach remains low-key and uber relaxed. It’s a spot for casual sunset beers at the jungle-shrouded Butterfly Brewing Co. & Imago Brew Pub, for cold Imperial bottles on Playa de los Artistas, and pina colada cocktails with fresh fish at Chico’s Bar.
There’s also LOADS to do when it comes to curing the hangover. You could just laze between the boulders of Playa Montezuma soaking up the rays. Or, you could head a little inland into the Nicoya backcountry, where the bathing spots of the chilly Montezuma Waterfall and hiking trails amid bird-filled forests await.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
There’s no doubt about it – Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is the most popular destination on the whole of the Costa Rican Caribbean coast. It’s been transformed from a clutch of colorful shacks on the sea into a fully fledged surf mecca in the last decade, and has also established itself as a bit of a getaway for those looking to cap off sessions on the breaks with parties that last until the very early hours.
Most people are ready to go around sunset. The surfboards are stashed, the rash vests are off. It’s high time for venues like Mango Sunset and Tasty Waves to shine. They offer great views of the dying light on the jungles and the beaches, along with low-cost beers straight out of the fridge.
The action will move onto places like Lazy Mon and Johnny’s Place afterwards, which are just about big enough to host virtually all the travelers in the town, which makes it great for getting to know new friends over a beer or 10. Most of these spots are located on the main street in the downtown of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca – the 256 highway – within easy walking distance of each other.
Last but not least, the adventure capital of Costa Rica: La Fortuna. Sat in the shadow of one of the world’s most perfectly cone-shaped volcanos, this one’s best known for its whitewater rafting outings, its jungle treks, its birding safaris, ATV rides – the list goes on and on. But the adrenaline doesn’t have to stop after the sun dips…
Nope, there’s now something of a buzzy nightlife scene on offer in the heart of La Fortuna town. A handful of pretty wild bars straddle the main 142 highway as it cuts right through the center, some of which are downright sleek and swish. We especially love Voodoo Lounge, a brand-new venue with mixologist staff and noir interiors, or Nanku Restaurant, a cool spot with a Tiki vibe.
There are also classic backpacker options like the tried-and-tested La Fortuna Pub. That’s the place to go for casual, craft beers, and nightly live music with other travelers. The only downside here is that the party area tends to be a drive away from most of the hotels in La Fortuna, which are often located on the outskirts of town.
The best party destinations in Costa Rica – a conclusion
Although most travelers set their sights on Costa Rica for the perfect surf, the booming biodiversity of the national parks, and the cloud-shrouded hiking trails up the volcanos, there’s actually an upcoming range of party places in the country. Yep, the best party destinations in Costa Rica are topped off by the surf town of Tamarindo on the Pacific and the Caribbean surf hub of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca further east, while there’s also the capital city in San Jose and plenty more options besides. Enjoy!