Best Nightlife in Latin America
Even if you’re not much for late night parties at home, most people throw caution to the wind and get at least a little foot loose and fancy free on vacation. Although the younger set often travels specifically to follow the party, you’re never too old to get in a little bit of midnight revelry when you know where to find the best nightlife in Latin America. There’s a little something for everyone if you just know where to look. From the renowned parties of Rio and the all night luxe affairs of Jose Ignacio, to the lower key ambiance of Antigua and the glittering ‘8os throwbacks in Lima, Central and South America are simply jam-packed with good times after night falls.
Here are our favorite nightlife destinations in Latin America. In each, you’ll find a fair mix of old-time haunts, hidden watering holes and high profile discos and nightclubs to whet your after dusk whistle.
A rising hub for the young, hip set, Medellin, Colombia is a nightlife destination unto its own, which is probably why it attracts hordes of young singles. Although it also is a veritable hotbed for salsa, the Calle 33 provides a truly local experience on the weekends. Medellin is Colombia’s second largest city and provides clubs, bars and tons of music until the wee hours if you know where to look. There is hardly a corner of Medellin you can’t find a party raging, including Parque Lleras (known for its many eateries, bars and nightclubs), Las Palmas (a mecca for travelers) and La Strada (a bit more on the chic side where you’ll find some of the most beautiful people in all of Colombia). One of our favorites is Gusto (located in Parque Lleras), where you’ll find a friendly staff and the kind of pulsing nightlife you’d find in other major metros.
JOSE IGNACIO, URUGUAY
Ah, Jose Ignacio. It always seems to make our Top 10 listicles if a party is what we’re after. Jose Ignacio, Uruguay attracts a super well-heeled jet set (particularly around the holidays) where parties rage all night and often end up on its scenic beaches at daybreak. There are a plethora of restaurants, bars and nightclubs in this once sleepy coastal town– especially when you consider its relatively small size. One part cool coastal hideaway and one part uber glam international playground, Jose Ignacio took the preferred spot of Punta del Este for trust fund kids and super models a few years ago and hasn’t looked back since. Although there are no shortage of parties in December each year, please be sure to ask ahead of time if that’s your reason for visiting. There are a few times of the year, the quaint beach community seems to be mostly nightlife free.
When most people think of Peru, they think only of Machu Picchu, but the beach community of Mancora is the rising star of the nightlife scene in Peru. Although much of the party atmosphere here revolved around the hotels, you won’t be disappointed in the experience. Think of the Ink48 in Hell’s Kitchen NYC, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the super swanky crowds that utterly spill out the doors as the night wears on. One of the most popular nightlife destinations (and one of our favorite spots to belly up to the bar) is the Loki Mancora, but you’ll want to get there early (at least before 10pm) or risk standing in a pretty long and winding line outside. That doesn’t sound like much fun to us! Part of the attraction of Mancora, of course, is also its year-round sun, great surf breaks and high quality seafood, so don’t party too hard and miss out on the next day!
In Montanita, Ecuador the all-night parties spill out from the bars, discos and restaurants into the streets, which is why it has gained such popularity in recent years. Bars are open daily here, with nightclubs being open only Thursday through Sunday, but this does not stop the international crowds from throwing one huge party across the city pretty much every night. If you don’t like crowds and noise, this spot may not be for you, but if a good time is what you’re after, head down to Montanita. Although there are numerous nightclubs in the city, the biggest ones all share similar time patterns beginning with live bands until after midnight and then segueing into a dancehall with live DJs. One of the most popular is Native, which is on the boardwalk right next to Hotel Montanita. Another old school haunt popular with the surfers who once were the only tourists is Cana Grill.
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
It should come as no surprise that Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (home of the most popular Carnival celebrations in the world) would make the list of the top nightlife destinations in Latin America. Sure, you can stick close to the South Zone and its scenic beaches and many hotels for some pretty outstanding nightlife, but this is catered mainly to tourists. One exception to this rule is Fosfobox located just off Copacabana Beach– it’s a can’t miss. If you’re looking for a more local experience, we suggest heading out of the commercial zone to find a more authentic experience (they’re really found all over the city). Perhaps the most notorious party district in Rio is Lapa, and since its reno a few years back it’s been a mainstay on our list of places to stop by when traveling to Rio. Here, you’ll find a mix of discos, lounges, bars and restaurants where people from all over the world (including lots of locals) are dancing the night away.
LA PAZ, BOLIVIA
La Paz, Bolivia is an up-and-comer on the international party scene, but the booze flows freely (at mind-numbingly affordable prices), the soiree pretty much always goes all night and the bars and nightclubs are eclectic and overall very welcoming to travelers. Some of our favorite watering holes in La Paz include Loki Bar (yes, the one and the same), Diesel Nacional (if you can find it behind its wire hiding place) and Forum. Regardless of where you choose to spend your time in this emerging city, you’ll note that the clubs aren’t as modern as elsewhere on the list, but this just makes them all the more an experience in our opinion. The Sopacachi area is the long-standing frontrunner of La Paz nightlife, but new spots are popping up all the time, and fans of the city note 4corners, Murillo district and a few others as places to watch (and dance).
Nightlife in Lima, Peru is an all-night affair, and most places have opening hours until well past a reasonable bedtime, but hey that’s what vacation is for right?! A point of clarification about Lima before we get started, be careful if an establishment has a sign reading “nightclub,” as this can sometimes mean it’s entertainment of the more adult variety. If in question, ask around first or let us help you plan before you go. Okay, there are a huge amount of nightclubs and bars in Lima, and most of them have a sweet spot in terms of demographic. Most of our favorites are in the Miraflores district, but you can find good places to party throughout the city. One of our favorite dance spots in the city is also one of its oldest– Nebula. They’re still rocking the 1980s and early ’90s dance club vibe, and it’s just a place we always want to go sweat off the dinner we just ate at Maras, Astrid y Gaston or Restaurante Central when we’re in Lima.
Although Antigua, Guatemala has a fairly early mandatory closing time for its bars, lounges and nightclubs at 1am, the party scene here is an absolute blast and one that should not be missed if you find yourself in the city– or really anywhere in its vicinity. Keep a look out for invitations toward closing time to after hours private parties that are always moving around but generally safe for travelers to attend. These are typically handed out as fliers as the clock ticks toward 1am. Two very cool places to put on your list of great nightlife in Antigua are Lava Bar and Cafe No Se. Lava Bar is upstairs on the terrace from The Ocelot and it affords a pretty spectacular view of the city (and a great happy hour every day). The entrance to Cafe No Se can be found through a hole in the wall on Antigua’s east side. Once inside, you’ll love the eclectic and movie-esque atmosphere– it’s selection of tequila and mezcal doesn’t hurt either!
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
Buenos Aires, Argentina is a true 24-hour party that rivals New York City, and it seems as though the old adage “nothing good happens after midnight” was created by someone who had obviously never been to BA. This is truly a city that doesn’t sleep with dinner regularly starting well past midnight and partying being an all-night affair. If it’s a nightclub vibe you’re after, prepare to be in for the long haul, as most of the true discos don’t even open up until after 1 or 2am and stay open until the sun comes up. Even if an all-night revelry isn’t normally your thing, we highly recommend partaking in at least one while in Buenos Aires where the crowds are a bit calmer and aren’t known for binge drinking. Pacha is one of the most famous of all the BA nightclubs and consistently brings huge international DJs to the decks. Another, though smaller, club you won’t want to miss is Jet, where the jet set plays when its not partying down in Jose Ignacio.
TAMARINDO, COSTA RICA
Tamarindo, Costa Rica is an interesting place. A rare mix of locals, travelers who came for a visit and never left and those still traveling. It once was a mere blip on the map for surfers (it has a great break on the north end of the beach) and those passing through en route to eco adventures, but has become something of a destination in itself. Tamarindo town proper is not a big place. Barely two streets that meet in a T along the beach shore, but there are a number of hostels, hotels, bars and restaurants packed into the small area and on the weekends the party spreads out into the street and well beyond the sidewalked, lit lanes of the village. The last time we were there, we shook our groove things at a beachfront bar and then walked home past a hostel called The Black Sheep (La Oveja Negra) with such a cool looking crowd partying out front at its restaurant that we just had to stop. The next morning, on the way to the airport pre-dawn, we drove past loads of locals still partying in parking lots until the main turn off back to Liberia.
If you’re ready to shake your groove thing across Latin America (or just want some tips on where to spend an evening or two on your next dream journey, call us today to begin planning.