San José Gay Travel
wolfyy’s San José gay travel guide to hotels, things to do, restaurants, gay bars, clubs, & saunas.
The Gay Travel Experience: San José, Costa Rica
San José is the starting and ending point for most travelers’ adventures through Costa Rica. Despite being commonly overlooked, San José has a sizeable gay scene which made me want to experience more than just one night in the city.
It’s understandable why most travelers limit their time here, focusing on more famous parts of the country. But, along with some tips to optimize your experience, I do urge travelers to give San José a bit more of a chance.
While my experience was still limited to only a few days, I was able to get a feel for gay San José.
In this guide, I’ll cover the top local gay hotels, bars, and things to do here in San José. For advice and recommendations in other parts of the country, see wolfyy’s gay guide to Costa Rica.
Gay San José: Hotels & Where to Stay
If you want to feel the buzz of the city and walk everywhere easily, then central San José hotels in the dense downtown area will be your best bet.
I enjoyed staying my first night in this new and inexpensive downtown apart-hotel.
There are also many newer and more modern accommodations located just outside central San José, including larger chain hotels, high-rise apartment rentals, and the city’s popular gay resort. These will better suit travelers who want more space or don’t care to spend much time in the city center.
Colours Oasis Resort LGTBQ
Colours Oasis is the premier gay resort in San José, and with 27 rooms, they’re the largest in Costa Rica.
Take advantage of the heated pool, rooftop sun deck, and full-service restaurant. Wherever you relax, wear your sexiest gay swimwear!
The staff at Colours Oasis makes everyone feel genuinely welcome, which can be a breath of fresh air after a long international flight! They also offer massage services, airport transportation, and can help you arrange tours.
Getting to the SJO airport from Colours Oasis is relatively quick. Located outside of central San José, you’ll be able to avoid the delays from downtown traffic.
At Casa Reflejos, you can relax away from the bustle of San José while enjoying a magnificent view of the city’s mountain-framed skyline.
This gay friendly hotel is comprised of apartment-style suites with layouts that range from studios to three bedrooms. Each unit has a unique character, and they all have a ton of space. Even the studio includes a kitchen!
Other facilities at Casa Reflejos include a modern pool area, fitness center, and a dry sauna.
Hotel Casa 69
Hotel Casa 69 is an affordable gay friendly bed-and-breakfast-style hotel in downtown San José. The property has a ton of character and features a rooftop terrace, a tranquil interior courtyard, and lots of tucked-away seating areas around the property.
Guests frequently note the hotel’s delicious breakfasts as well as the property’s proximity to local nightlife. Exploring San José on foot will be easy from Hotel Casa 69. Local gay bars are also only a five-minute drive away.
Aloft San José
Aloft San José is a fantastic conventional hotel option for those who want to stay near the airport. I’d specifically recommend it for the end of your Costa Rica travels.
After trekking through jungles and bearing the heat and humidity of coastal towns, you can’t beat a hotel that has all the conveniences. Wind down by the modern rooftop pool, have dinner at the hotel restaurant, and enjoy plenty of air conditioning.
More San José Hotels I Recommend
Here are a few other hotels in San José that are affordable, highly rated, and well-located for exploring the city.
San José Gay Travel Experiences
San José was an interesting city to wander around, just observing people and the life of locals. There was such a bustle during the day, with sounds of construction, chatter, music, and cars honking. Then by nightfall, the city emptied out. The influx of working individuals was so dramatic.
San José is easily explored in a day, and many travelers only allot that amount of time, anyway. Costa Rica’s nature takes the spotlight, after all! But for the time you’re in town, here are some ideas of things to do.
Plaza de la Democracia & The National Museum
Plaza de la Democracia y de la Abolición del Ejército is one of the most picturesque spots in San José. It’s anchored by the National Museum of Costa Rica, a memorable gold-colored building that contains an array of archeological and military exhibitions.
Museum of Jade
Visiting the Museum of Jade is the perfect evening or rainy-day activity. There are five floors of exhibits that showcase an enormous collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts.
In addition to the permanent exhibits, there is always a temporary installment related to Costa Rican art and culture.
Morazán Park is a nice place to walk through if you’re in the area. The park is anchored by the Temple of Music, a round pillared structure where you can see people perform when the weather is nice.
Restaurants in San José
Restaurants in San José have a huge variety of cuisines. In addition to Costa Rican food, you’ll find Mexican, Peruvian, and Argentinian restaurants throughout the city.
Tenedor Argentino was my first stop after arriving in San José. They’re an LGBT-friendly Argentinian restaurant known for grilled meats.
Even though I arrived later on a weeknight when it felt a little empty, I still loved the vibe! Sitting along the cozy elevated terrace was a plus, too.
Azotea Calle 7 is a nice choice for a restaurant with a view of the city. Located on the roof of Hotel Presidente, they’re a highly-rated cocktail bar and grill perfect for a late lunch or a sunset dinner. Prices tend to be a bit on the expensive side, but you’re really paying for the ambiance!
Want some unbelievably delicious empanadas? Order from Argenta Empanadas Fusión Express on Uber Eats. My friend Tung and I split a box of these the day before leaving San José. Traditional Argentinian empanadas made with a thick flour dough, I couldn’t get enough.
Can’t decide on a restaurant? The best place in San José to casually browse menus on the street is Barrio Escalante. The center of this neighborhood is packed with chic restaurants and bistros.
San José Gay Bars & Clubs
Bombóm is the go-to gay bar in San José, especially on Thursday nights. Their “ThursGays” event is popular for sexy male strippers. When I visited, I found the bar to be more low-key, but it may have just been the specific week I went.
On Fridays and Saturdays, Bombóm is perfect for dancing. Everyone packs into the bar’s main dance floor, which has enormous windows that open to the street below. Bombóm also has a terrace level above the dance floor, which tends to be less crowded.
Locals love Club Teatro. It was a top recommendation from everyone I chatted with. Aside from being among the best San José gay bars, Club Teatro is specifically known for its drag talent.
There’s always some type of drag-related event scheduled. Many nights also have sexy go-go boys dancing on stage in jockstraps!
La Avispa, or “The Wasp,” is a large yet local-feeling gay bar close to the city center. From the street, the bar’s entrance makes it seem like the space is going to be small, but La Avispa has a ton of space, with two levels!
The crowd at La Avispa tends to be mixed with a blend of ages, races, and genders. You’ll also likely find more women here than at any of San José’s other gay bars.
I’d recommend going on Sundays. With the exception of a small crowd on Saturday nights, most evenings here are quiet.
As the night goes on, guys will start taking off their shirts, so make sure you’re ready with some sexy gay circuit gear. You might also notice people heading to C3 Lab’s private cabins for a little late-night cruising.
NEON takes pride in being a local queer safe space. A vibrant and welcoming indoor-outdoor cocktail bar, NEON is known for their “little bear” shots called “ositos.” They have a ton of colorful cocktails and frozen drinks, too.
San José Gay Saunas & Cruising
Club Hispalis is San José’s best gay sauna facility. It’s a private club that caters to an after-work crowd, so the best time to go is between 4 PM and 8 PM. Sundays are also popular! Overall hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 12 PM to 9 PM.
Facilities include a large bar area, pool, jacuzzi, and steam room—all of which are super clean. There are also plenty of lockers to store your stuff.
Club Hispalis is cash-only, so don’t forget enough colónes for the entrance fee, plus drinks.
Make no mistake, this is a no-frills establishment, but it gets the job done! You’ll probably only find locals here. When you arrive, ring the bell to enter.
Sauna Oráculo is a gay sauna affiliated with (but separately located from) Oráculo Club mentioned above.
Each night of the week has a different theme or special promotion. Saturday is naked night, Sunday is Boxers Day, and there are always drink specials on Wednesdays.
Sauna Oráculo also hosts regular special events like Fiesta Erótica, live performances, and a monthly underwear night. You can find the most updated information for both the sauna and La Casita on Oráculo Club’s Twitter.
San José Travel Tips
Pack for Warm Days & Cool Nights
Temperatures in San José are relatively consistent year-round. Sunny days are perfect for lightweight clothes, and maybe even a tank top. But if it’s windy, cloudy, or after sunset, you’ll want a light jacket.
Lightweight pants are a good bet too, particularly for chilly evenings. Locals tend to dress with more of a “street style,” so save the tropical shorts and flip flops for Costa Rica’s beach towns.
In case you’re now distracted by the mention of cool weather, don’t forget to bring some sexy swimsuits for any pool time!
Passport Control Tips
There are a few important things to know before going through immigration/passport control in Costa Rica. In my experience, the border officers at San José’s airport asked a lot more questions than I’ve experienced in other countries.
Most notably, officers will commonly ask for proof of a hotel reservation. In my case, the officer asked for my phone and proceeded to poke around in my email for all the info about where I was staying. So, be sure to have this info handy.
Exit Tickets are Required
Most tourists purchase round-trip plane tickets to Costa Rica, in which case this won’t apply to you. But if you fly standby or decide to buy a one-way flight, you may run into an issue.
Costa Rica requires proof of an exit ticket out of the country. This is typically verified at the airport you depart from as part of the check-in process. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting to avoid any travel-day surprises!
Taxis & Uber at San José (SJO) Airport
Walking out of the San José airport, you’ll be met with the cacophony of taxi drivers asking if you need a ride. Not only is it jarring, but they will charge you three times the typical price of a taxi ride and require payment in cash.
I recommend getting a ride using Uber. My ride to central San José was only about $10 USD. Uber drivers will only pick up passengers at the departures entrance though, so you’ll need to head to the upper level across the street from the arrivals door.
Make sure you have mobile phone service (and data roaming on) to request a ride!
Don’t miss wolfyy’s broader gay guide to Costa Rica, which has recommendations and information for the country’s other top tourist spots.
Or, skip to wolfyy’s Manuel Antonio gay travel guide to discover Costa Rica’s gay-popular beach town.
For more inspiration, explore wolfyy’s full collection of gay travel guides.