Sprawling and chaotic at first sight, San José is nonetheless a vibrant capital with plenty to see and do. All international flights to Costa Rica touchdown at the city’s airport, and as you fly into the high central valley where San José sits, you’ll see the city stretching out before you between green volcanic mountain ranges, while its suburbs cling to the gentle foothills.
San José is more or less laid out on a grid system, but even so, the city adheres to the standard Costa Rica address system of locating buildings in relation to the nearest landmark. When someone invites you to visit and tells you their address is 0.03 miles (50m) south of the San Patricia Church, for example, don’t be too surprised; this is as precise as things get in Costa Rica.
COSTA RICA’S CAPITAL CITY
Once upon a time, San José was a small, elegant city catering to the surrounding agricultural enterprises’ needs. However, when capitalism kicked in, the city and its population skyrocketed. Skyscrapers sprung up, development powered on unchecked, and many of the city’s original buildings were lost in the scrum. However, there are still pockets of colonial gems around San José and some outstanding museums and green spaces, and a lively cultural scene. Urban migration has been such that today over a third of all Costa Ricans live in the capital, so if you do want to experience the authentic, modern-day face of Costa Rica, you shouldn’t pass up a visit.
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what NOT TO MISS IN san jose
San Jose Central Market
The Mercado Central is a colorful labyrinth of organized chaos. Drop by to soak up the atmosphere and spend an afternoon grazing on some of Costa Rica’s best local cuisine. Costa Ricans love to snack, and here you will find anything from green mango slices with chili or salt and lime too, delicious fish soups or cinnamon ice cream.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
Walk along the various nature trails at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, all along which you can find stunning secret cascades of falls. One of the largest butterfly observatory of the world, you’ll visit serpentariums, tropical bird quarters, frogs, and a rescued wild cat area can also be visited.
Plaza de la Cultura
In central San José, with a magnificent National Theater, it is a great place to feel like a local. All friendly locals selling tiny bags of peanuts for pigeons, benches to relax and people watch. It hosts festivals, public demonstrations, exhibits and visited by thousands of ticos and visitors.
Barrio Amón has some of San José´s most well-preserved colonial buildings and a scattering of contemporary galleries. If you´re interested in architecture, it´s a great neighborhood for an afternoon stroll. And the parks form a nice variety from the busy city life.
|San José, Costa Rica||Sprawling and chaotic at first sight, San José is nonetheless a vibrant capital with plenty to see and do. There are still pockets of colonial gems around San José and some very fine museums and green spaces, as well as a lively cultural life.Read more…|
|Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, Provincia de Puntarenas, Quepos, Costa Rica||In the Manuel Antonio National Park you’ll find sloths, iguanas and the rare squirrel monkey among many other species. In the pristine waters around the perfect bays there is a flurry of marine life from dolphins and turtles to whales and colorful tropical fish.Read more…|
Arenal & La Fortuna
|Volcán Arenal, Provincia de Alajuela, San Carlos, Costa Rica||The presence of the impressive Arenal Volcano is everywhere. Whether strolling around La Fortuna village, canopy rappelling in the forest, boating along Lake Arenal, horseback riding or hiking the countryside…adventure lies around every corner.Read more…|
|Provincia de Puntarenas, Monteverde, Costa Rica||Home to Costa Rica’s most stunning and pristine Cloud Forest where you can find birds, monkeys and people (zip-lining of course) flying through the trees! There are plenty of adventures from the Sky Walk to horseback riding and hiking.Read more…|
|Tortuguero, Limón, Costa Rica||On Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean Coast,, Tortuguero is a water world made up of canals, lagoons, streams and dense rainforest. Known as the ‘Land of Turtles’, Tortuguero is one of the world’s most important turtle nesting sites!|
|Limón, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica||The laid-back pace of this Caribbean beach town is bound to win you over. Here you’ll get a taste of Costa Rica’s Creole culture and enjoy the adventures of the nearby Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Reserve as well as relaxing in its calm Caribbean waters. Read more…|
|Provincia de Guanacaste, Tamarindo, Costa Rica||This once small, unassuming fishing village on the Pacific Coast has become the center of Costa Rica’s high-end beach scene. Tamarindo offers designer shopping, incredible restaurants and plenty of nightlife for those seeking a not so quiet beach setting.|
|Península de Nicoya, Costa Rica||Jutting out out into the Pacific, this tropical peninsula is a mountainous and sparsely populated area with an abundance of wildlife. The stunning coastline is dramatic and unspoiled with long stretches of sandy beaches backed by jungle.Read more…|
Rincon de la Vieja
|Volcan Rincon de la Vieja, Provincia de Guanacaste, Costa Rica||There are many ways to experience the area ranging from hiking, rappelling, rock-climbing and canopying to relaxing horseback rides and soaking in the volcanic hot springs flowing from the mountain – one of the major draws of the region.Read more…|
|Cordillera Central, San José, Costa Rica||This region has some of the highest mountains in Costa Rica with cool, misty cloud forests and rushing rivers. It runs from Nicaragua to Panama and separates Costa Rica’s Caribbean and Pacific Coasts, creating two very different climatic regions. Read more…|
|Peninsula de Osa, Provincia de Puntarenas, Costa Rica||The Osa Peninsula is an untouched natural wonderland with wildlife-filled rainforests and palm-backed Pacific beaches. Visit the Osa Peninsula’s Corcovado National Park where almost one-tenth of all the mammals found in the Americas live! Read more…|
|Heredia, Sarapiquí, Costa Rica||Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui in the lush Caribbean lowlands is known for its natural environment filled with tropical flora, and for the broad Sarapiqui River that flows through it. Read more…|
Depending on your client’s preferences, we can help you determine the best experiences tailored for your clients. From where to visit, when to go, what to do and how to get there safely, our travel experts will help you create an experience your clients will love.
Best times to
visit San Jose
Despite the altitude (3770 ft./1253m), San José’s weather is generally warm and breezy year-round. The rainy season runs from mid-April to December, from August to October, seeing the most rainfall and is a great time to beat the crowds and find some good deals. The city’s climate is considerably more relaxed than on the coasts, with daytime temperatures generally varying between 70°F and 80°F (21°C to 27°C). Evening temperatures in Costa Rica’s capital can get a little chilly, so you’ll want to make sure you wrap up warm. San Jose can be visited and enjoyed at any time of year, but our favorite time is around the Christmas holidays when the local festive cheer reaches its height with the Festival de la Luz and Las Fiestas de Zapote.
HOW TO GET THERE
San Jose’s airport, Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría (SJO), handles all international and Nature Air domestic arrivals and departures in its main terminal. Domestic flights on Sansa also arrive and depart from SJO but from the Sansa terminal.
The smaller Aeropuerto Tobías Bolaños in San José’s suburb of Pavas, services private charter and a few national flights.
If you’re flying into or out of Costa Rica from San Jose, Alajuela near to Costa Rica’s capital is a lovely town just minutes from the international airport.
In San Jose, red taxis can be hailed on the street day or night, or you can have your hotel call one for you. Uber has also become a popular form of transport in the city.
We don’t recommend renting a car just to drive around San Jose as the traffic can be heavy, the streets are narrow and the deep curbside gutters make parking nerve-wracking.
WHERE TO STAY
From simple but comfortable B&Bs to luxurious boutique hotels and lodges, San Jose has a wide range of accommodation offerings. Many of the hotels downtown are housed in converted and beautifully restored old mansions. Staying in San Jose puts you at the center of the action and close to all the city’s museums, restaurants, cafes and the best nightlife spots.
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