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Everybody loves to dance !!

Adventure Guide to Costa Rica

The hangover became a part of the day as well allowed for as the Spanish siesta. ~ My Lost City, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1896-1940

Thinking nightlife? Think dancing. Ticos and Ticas love to bailar, dance, and they are so good it’s intimidating. Many clubs and bars have dance floors that become crowded with dancers of all ages, but it is by no means the only nightlife that San José has to offer.

The Teatro Nacional (. 506/221-1329), the Teatro Melico Salazar (. 506/221- 5341) and the Auditorio Nacional (. 506/223-7003) in the Children’s Museum lay claim to the country’s high culture. The symphony season runs from March through November (check with the box offices for scheduled performances). Modern dance troupes and small theatrical groups find audiences at several of the smaller theater stages around town. The crown jewel of the art scene is the National Festival of Arts (www. festivalcostarica.org), featuring Tico talent in odd-numbered years and international performers and artists in even-numbered años. The festival runs every March, all month long, and boasts multiple venues around town.

But if it’s not March and you’re still looking for a good time, pick up the Tico Times and La Nacion (one of several Spanish-language daily newspapers) for listings of movies, music and mischief.

El Pueblo (Barrio Tournón, just north of the downtown, go by taxi) was built as an imitation Spanish colonial-era village. The buildings contain gift shops, art studios, funky little bars and intimate restaurants. As the big draw, El Pueblo features El Infinito, a popular dance/disco spot that offers varied musical styles on its three dance floors. No cover.We always merengue here because we can’t salsa. Another good but small dance club in the complex is Cocolocos. But El Pueblo offers much more than disco for an evening’s entertainment. Sadly, La Esmeralda (on Av 2 between Calles 5&7, near the Teatro) has closed. It once was a bar/restaurant where you could get a beer, boca, and be serenaded by the numerous mariachi groups.

Our sentimental favorite, Tango Bar, is hidden among the nooks and crannies of El Pueblo’s warren of shops and bars. Like a step back in time, you enter the evening-only, hole-in-the-wall tango bar through an old orange curtain. Inside, the walls are lined with black-and-white photos of ancient singers and musicians from Argentina’s golden age of tango. Tables crowd the tiny space. The bar maid is geriatric and so is the accordion player/singer, who performs tango standards and teary South American ballads. They take requests. If we only knew the words as well as the inebriated expatriate Argentine regulars at the bar, we’d sing along too. It’s a wonderful place to sit and listen, nurse a beer or mixed drink, and play a part in a life drama you won’t find anywhere else – even Buenos Aires! “The Tango sums up the feelings of a people – the pain, the happiness, the irony and the roughness of life,” Maria Julia Berdé, a Tango dance producer, told A. M. Costa Rica News. “There is a tango for each situation in life and its followers exalt it above any other existing rhythm.”

If you’d like to dance, or see the tango danced, (the bar in El Pueblo is too small) find Sabor y Sueños Restaurant in Barrio Escalante. Located 25 meters/82 feet west of the Rotanda del Farolito (a traffic circle with a street lamp) and two blocks northeast of St. Teresita’s Church. They also feature professional dance shows.

When you’ve had enough Argentine nostalgia in El Pueblo, slip out and wander among the little bars and artsy shops, have a late-night snack at one of the many little eateries that pop up around every corner. Or dine at La Cocina de Leña ($$-$$$), which specializes in typical Costa Rican food. Try the three-meat soup, Olla de Carne Típica. Across the street from El Pueblo is another happening dance/disco hall. La Plaza has a very large dance floor and lots of young people. Very popular. Be sure to have your feet check it out.

El Cuartel de la Boca del Monte (Av 1, Calle 21 & 23) is the east end’s hottest singles bar and the place to be seen. Live music on Monday, Wednesday and Friday night means wall-to-wall people. It still attracts some of the artsy crowd that made its name, as well as hard bodies who work as tour and rafting guides. Very interesting mix.

Risas (Calle 1 between Av Central and Av 1) is a downtown storefront dance bar and restaurant occupying three floors of a beautiful old brick building. The restaurant has a pleasing ambiance and reasonably priced food. The dance floor throbs with heavy techno, Top 40 rock, and Latin beats. It attracts mostly a young crowd and has a second-floor peanut gallery for those who want to watch. Aslide runs from the second story down to the exit.We went out for a night here with some British Embassy staff members and had a real blast (after all, they have three bars). US $2 cover buys a beer.

Salsa 54 (Calle 3, Av 1 & 3). Since we can’t salsa very well and Ticos can, we like to watch them whirl on the raised stage at Salsa 54. If you’re in town for a while and want to improve your steps, ask about lessons in Latin dance here. This dance floor is crowded with locals, couples and singles. One adjoining hall offers slow, close-dancing romantic bolero music, while another hall blasts techno rock. Some of the best dancers head here or to El Tobogan.

El Tobogan (250 meters/822 feet north, 175/576 west of the La República offices; take a cab) offers a huge dance floor that fills with gyrating bodies moving to the beat of live music. It’s worth a trip here to hear live bands, who vary in quality and all know how to keep the beat. The Shakespeare Bar won’t make you smarter. But it’s smart to have a drink or eat at this quiet but popular place under the Laurence Olivier Theater. (It’s next to the Sala Garbo complex, Av 2 at Calle 28.) Perfect for a before- or after-play hangout. Jazz is the music of choice. El Tunel del Tiempo (Av Central, Calle 11&13).We hear the “Tunnel of Time” is the spot to go after hours – 2 am until 10 am the next morning. Well past our bedtime.

All-Night Eateries
You may choose to people-watch, drink and eat at some famous all-night eateries. Two places vie for top position on the list of all-nighters. La Parisian is a very good outdoor/veranda restaurant in front of the Gran Hotel. Everyone passes by here sooner or later. Chelles (Av Central walkway at Calle 9) is a low-rent favored spot of local Ticos, but equally appealing to tourists. Despite the traffic on the corner, Chelles dining area is clean and neat with red chairs, a white tile floor and hardwood walls. The food is cheap and generous – try their Cuban sandwich. Great for people-watching.

Other 24-hour eating-places include Manolo’s (Av Central), Pollo Frito Pío Pío (Av 2, Calle 2), Restaurant don Amado (Av 2, Calle 6) and the open-all-weekend Soda Tapia, on the southeast side of Sabana Park. Lastly, if you are desperate for late-night bland American food, there’s a new Denny’s at the Best Western Irazú. And La Esmeralda serves until very late or very early, depending on your perspective.

Gay & Lesbian Nights
La Avispa (Av 1, between 7 & 8) is lesbian-owned bar that features three dance floors, big screen TV and pool tables. It’s a “rolled-up-shirt-sleeves” kind of place with good music. La Avispa draws gay men, especially Tuesday nights, and local lesbian women to dance. Closed Mondays.

A lively place for people of all sexual persuasions to go clubbing is Deja Vu (Calle 2, Av 14 & 16). With loud techno, salsa and dance music, Deja Vu is a magnet for gay men and straight party people – especially on the weekends when a well-dressed crowd fills the two dance floors. Café and souvenir shop. Drag shows.

One neighborhood gay-friendly, restaurant/bar is Kasbah (Calle Central, Av7&9), which features a faux Moorish décor and an Internet café.

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