Barrio La California, popularly known as La Cali, is one of the 75 neighborhoods that officially divide the city of San José, capital of Costa Rica. It is located between the neighborhoods of Carmen and Catedral, east of the city. 

La Cali neighborhood, the party zone

It was created during the 1940s when Costa Ricans began to move from downtown San Jose to this new neighborhood because they could get better housing there. Today, it is one of the most iconic neighborhoods in Costa Rica, and is known for its bars, restaurants and parties. Thanks to this, it manages to bring together thousands of people who use it to socialize in the evenings, especially young people on weekends. In other words, a place to be yourself and express yourself as you wish. 

There is also a strong gastronomic and tourist boom in the neighborhood, since it is a well-known nightlife spot and contains a large number of restaurants, so there has been a desire to channel its image and improve its environment, resulting in some cooperation projects between municipal authorities, neighbors, businessmen and the security forces to transform the neighborhood and consolidate it as a nightlife reference in San José. 

Insecurity and social problems

This area has also been the scene of many social problems, such as insecurity and society. These problems have caused Barrio La California to be an area where people are not always safe or happy. The case of the murder of young Marco Calzada, only 19 years old, last July 2022, shocked the population, lifting the veil on the problems of insecurity in the neighborhood.

On the other hand, discrimination is present in bars. After going from arrests of same-sex couples because of their presence in bars in the 1980s, to the entry into force of equal marriage in 2020, the country is currently working to sensitize its officials to the need to perform their duties without discrimination against others. The country is currently working to sensitize its officials to the need to perform their duties without discrimination against others. In fact, these cases are not coincidental, nor are they difficult to find. However, titles such as “Young woman denounces that she was denied entry to a bar because “men cannot use a purse” or “Young woman denounces discrimination because of her skin color in a bar in San José”, have been used by media such as Teletica or Telediario to expose this problem.

While it is one of the most popular neighborhoods for young people to party, within the area there are many security problems due to the large number of young people who hang out there. Some of these problems are: discrimination, insecurity, drugs and prostitution. 

La Cali – photo: La Nación

Possible solutions

The Asociación de Vecinos y Emprendedores del barrio La California (Asocali), among its affiliates, proposes having private guards permanently at the access to each store. They also promote the installation of closed-circuit video surveillance to observe any anomalous situation or any situation reported by customers. In this way, it seeks to have a surveillance center to detect problems in real time and help in prevention.

The government is trying to reduce these crimes by providing more continuous surveillance of people in the area and by trying to patrol the area, mainly at night. A difficult task as these crimes are mostly committed by gang members living in the slums surrounding the neighborhood.

In summary

  1. Barrio La California is a neighborhood in Costa Rica. It is well known for its bars, restaurants and parties. The neighborhood has been facing some problems of insecurity.
  2. Created during the 1940s when Costa Ricans began to move out of downtown San José
  3. It is the most popular area in Costa Rica. It is the place where people go to drink, dance and eat. It has all kinds of restaurants, bars and discos.


Zelda Walters for Sensorial Sunsets.