10 Things to Do in San Jose, Costa Rica + a Bonus Day Journey

San Jose is the colourful capital metropolis of Costa Rica, positioned on the Caribbean Coast of Latin America. I used to be fortunate sufficient to dwell right here for about 3 months and spent plenty of time exploring the websites!

Even whether it is usually ignored by vacationers in favor of Costa Rica’s gorgeous nature, San Jose has plenty of cultures, historical past, and vacationer points of interest to supply, so it’s positively a should throughout your trip, particularly if you wish to expertise the Costa Rican native life!

In order that will help you select what to give attention to, I wrote this Costa Rica journey weblog with the finest issues to do in San Jose, Costa Rica, together with museums, eating places, nationwide parks, markets, and far more… so nobody can be left behind. 

Make certain to stay round as a result of I additionally included a particular bonus with a day journey itinerary to discover the larger San Jose area!

Are you prepared to leap on this cool Costa Rica journey with me?

Let’s begin!

If you might be in a rush 

If you don’t have time to learn the entire Costa Rica journey weblog, try this fast record of one of the best excursions to affix in San Jose Costa Rica:

Here are the primary issues to ebook prematurely:

And listed below are one of the best lodges: Gran hotel (Luxury), Sleep Inn Hotel Paseo Las Damas (Mid-range), Cando Living Apartments (Budget), URBN Escalante (Airbnb)

1. Stroll round downtown San Jose 

San jose costa rica city center downtown San Jose

If you wish to expertise the actual Costa Rican tradition, one of the best factor you are able to do in San Jose is simply to stroll round downtown San Jose the place you’ll discover many of the points of interest, historic buildings, and native folks.

The primary avenue in downtown San Jose is Central Avenue (Avenida Central): excellent for some folks watching, particularly round 4-5 pm, the place you’ll be able to see all of the locals getting off work and get a really feel of the everyday metropolis Costa Rican life.

The Avenida Central will take you thru Plaza de la Cultura sq., which has an excellent central place to achieve a number of the metropolis highlights just like the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and the National Theater (that we’ll see within the subsequent sections). 

While you’re right here, don’t overlook to take a pic with the San Jose signal. And when you love gelato, right here you’ll be able to strive one of the best native ice cream at Pops Plaza de La Cultura!

In downtown San Jose you’ll additionally discover many stunning church buildings like the large Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana), that includes neoclassical structure and 42 stained glass home windows.

If you favor to discover the Costa Rican capital’s wealthy historical past with a information to elucidate the importance of the town highlights, I like to recommend you be a part of this 5-hour San Jose city tour!

PRO TIP: in case you are on a good finances you’ll be able to be a part of a free walking tour as an alternative or simply wander across the metropolis alone. The guys I went on a free tour with additionally run this website, test it out for restaurant suggestions! 

FUN FACT: In San Jose, you gained’t discover any actual postal handle, so to get to locations the simplest approach is to comply with Google Maps (the handle can be one thing like “200 mt North from a big tree in Escazu” – I’ve heard that even the postmen don’t know all of the addresses and so they can solely work of their neighborhood, loopy!)

TOUR PRICE: US$95

2. Visit all of the cool museums

If you’re keen on museums, you’ll love San Jose, Costa Rica, providing many choices to discover Costa Rica’s historical past, see pre-Columbian artifacts and preserve your youngsters entertained. 

Here are the must-see museums when visiting San Jose:

2.1 Jade Museum – the most important jade assortment on this planet 

jade museum costa rica price biggest jade collection in the world

The Jade Museum of San Jose is the largest museum of jade in the entire world, based in 1977 by Fidel Tristan Castro, positioned in Plaza de la Democracia.

In the Jade Museum, you’ll be able to stare upon an excellent attention-grabbing and numerous assortment of pre-Columbian artifacts from 500 BC to 800 AD, together with tables, ceramics, ceremonial heads, and particularly jade relics

These have been very revered in pre-Columbian instances… and also you’ll get to know why your self, I don’t wish to spoil something!

The complete Jade Museum constructing has 5 flooring however the museum occupies just one ground, which hosts exhibitions altering each 3 to 4 months, and it’s fairly interactive too… so no cause to skip it!

PRICE: 9,600 CRC (US$16) 

2.2 Pre-Columbian Gold Museum 

2.2 Fun Things to Do in Costa Rica with Kids gold museum costa rica

Right below Plaza de La Cultura, you’ll discover the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, showcasing the largest assortment of pre-Columbian gold in Central America, plus stone and ceramic artifacts, in addition to payments and cash used up to now and present instances!

In this underground museum, you’ll discover life-size dioramas depicting scenes from pre-Columbian instances!

PRO TIP: The Gold Museum is split into 3 flooring: I counsel you go all the way in which down immediately (the place you’ll discover the gold objects from historical instances) after which go up!

PRICE: 9,300 CRC (US$15) 

2.3 Costa Rica’s National Museum 

2.3 National museum costa rica inside

The National Museum is a should on the record of issues to do in San Jose for any historical past buff. Used up to now as a fortress, now it showcases the historical past of the nation in chronological order, from pre-Columbian intervals to modern-day instances.

Costa Rica’s National Museum is my favourite museum within the nation as it’s interactive and attention-grabbing… there’s a check on the finish so ensure you listen!

Included in your go to there may be even a stroll by means of a tiny and exquisite butterfly backyard, proper on the entrance of the museum with tropical vegetation and colourful species!

PRICE: US$11 

2.4 Museo de Los Niños (Children’s Museum)

Going to San Jose with the household? Then you can’t miss the Children’s Museum: an interactive museum the place your youngsters can play and study whereas having enjoyable, from astronomy to ecology and far more!

In the Children’s Museum, there are greater than 40 cool reveals that each one the household will get pleasure from. The hottest one is the earthquake simulator… test it out!

PRICE: US$4

3. Check out the National Theater (Teatro Nacional)

3 National Theater alma de cafe san jose costa rica

The National Theater (Teatro Nacional Costa Rica) is without doubt one of the most prestigious buildings in San Jose, that includes gorgeous marble statues and lavish furnishings, internet hosting exhibits for the San Jose residents since 1897!

You can come right here to observe one of many cool exhibits or have a tour of the constructing, taking place from Monday to Sunday, from 9 am till 4 pm. The guides are actors, so the go to is tremendous attention-grabbing and interactive and also you’ll get to know the historical past of the theater!

My private tip? Stop for a break at Alma de cafe, contained in the National Theatre, the place you’ll be able to take a look at the attractive ceilings whereas sipping your espresso (aaaaand, when you resolve to go to the bathroom whereas there, you’ll be able to even take a peek on the inside the theater!)

PRICE: US$5

4. Chill at La Sabana park 

La Sabana Metropolitan Park Costa Ricas largest and most loved urban park

In Downtown Jose you’ll discover La Sabana Metropolitan Park, Costa Rica’s largest and most liked city park… the right place to calm down in nature and take a break from metropolis life (whereas nonetheless being within the metropolis!).

This central park is residence to a sq. kilometer of inexperienced areas, a lake, public sports activities fields, and lots of iconic establishments of the city just like the Costa Rican Art Museum and the National Stadium

Whether you wish to have a picnic with your loved ones and buddies, do some bodily exercise, or simply meditate in whole peace, La Sabana Metropolitan Park is the place to be!

P.S.: If you like the thought of being involved with nature, try Manuel Antonio National Park: a tropical paradise round 3hrs drive from San Jose internet hosting wonderful natural world to discover, and a number of the most stunning seashores on this planet! I’ve been there and it’s incredible!

5. Shop on the Central Market 

Municipal Craft Market mercado artesanal area where to buy souvenirs

If you’re a market fanatic like me, you want to cross by means of the colourful Central Market (Mercado Central) the place all of the Costa Ricans buy groceries!

This indoor market opened within the 1800s, so is probably the most genuine gem yow will discover within the trendy San Jose. It options greater than 200 outlets, stalls, and eateries the place you’ll be able to strive the native meals!

In the Central Market, you should purchase something from meals and herbs to textiles, books, handicrafts, and, after all, many souvenirs for a reminiscence of your vacation in San Jose Costa Rica!

PRO TIP: If you’re principally keen on artisanal merchandise, I counsel you try the Municipal craft market, the place you’ll discover extra distinctive handmade native souvenirs! And when you negotiate (you must) you’ll get costs 3 instances cheaper than those in vacationer outlets! 

6. Enjoy some native craft beer on a pub crawl!

Costa Rican craft beer on a pub crawl

Do you like beer? Well, then you definitely’ll be pleased to know that Costa Rican is growing a reasonably new craft beer business, which Costa Ricans are fairly pleased with. 

In the San Jose downtown space, there are numerous eating places and bars the place you’ll be able to strive a number of the finest native craft beer just like the República Casa Cervecera, positioned proper in entrance of the National Stadium, or the tremendous standard Costa Rica Beer Factory.

Otherwise, you’ll be able to be a part of this cool pub crawl in San Jose that can take you round one of the best native breweries, whilst you study in regards to the brewing course of and how you can pair beer with sure meals. This can also be a good way to soundly uncover the town’s streets at night time!

PRICE: US$80

7. Check out San Jose’s avenue artwork

7 California Boulevard San Jose CR street art

If you like avenue artwork as a lot as I do, you’ll go loopy with California Boulevard in San Jose, the place they provide artists an opportunity to precise their artwork on a well-known graffiti wall. Each artist will get their very own piece of the wall for 5 years!

But artwork is throughout San Jose… you simply must know the place to search out it! So be a part of this street art tour by means of one of the best galleries with indigenous works, work, sculptures, and many others… and when you’re fortunate you might additionally meet the artists. 

During this 2-hour tour, you’ll additionally see the native graffiti and study in regards to the historical past of the town and Costa Rican artwork!

PRICE: US$45

8. Enjoy one of the best views from Pico Blanco 

8 Pico blanco hike for best views san jose

There are many mountaineering trails round San Jose Costa Rica, however an excellent one which not many individuals learn about is the Pico Blanco path, that means ‘white peak’, due to the rocky outcropping near its highest level.

We received to learn about this place because of some locals, and we couldn’t be happier to have performed it. The spot offers you some unbelievable views of the town!

The hike is kind of difficult however provided that you go all the way in which up because the app All Trails suggests. Do NOT do it – it will get muddy and cloudy, so simply cease if you see the view like within the image above, till there it isn’t a tough hike and the views are rewarding!

The first half is simple and exquisite, the views are simply as gorgeous and it’ll take you 2 hours as an alternative of 4!

If you rent your own car or take a taxi (~US$12) it’ll take round 25 minutes to get to Pico Blanco.

9. Try one of the best meals in Barrio Escalante

best food in Barrio Escalante San Jose Costa Rica
Fruits and greens.Farmer’s Market. San Jose, Costa Rica, tropical paradise.

You can not go away San Jose, Costa Rica, with out attempting the scrumptious native meals. There’s no higher place to do this than the Barrio Escalante neighborhood, additionally the right place to discover San Jose’s nightlife!

In truth, this space is the brand new cultural and gastronomic epicenter of the town, the place you’ll discover numerous eating places and bars, most of them concentrated on the street ‘Paseo Gastronómico la Luz’. 

You can both strive Costa Rican meals by your self in all of the wonderful eating places or be guided on this food tour. During the tour, you’ll discover the produce stalls of the Central Market and pattern some native espresso brews whereas additionally studying some San Jose historical past, for US$54.

And for these of you who’ve a little bit of a candy tooth, you may need heard that Costa Rica is fairly good at making chocolate. Here is a superb chocolate tour if you wish to study all in regards to the business and even go to a cacao plantation!

If, as an alternative, you favor the choice of discovering probably the most conventional dishes in Costa Rica by your self, right here’s an inventory of some should meals to strive: 

  • Gallo Pinto: Breakfast dish manufactured from rice, beans, greens and spices
  • The Casado: The most conventional dish in Costa Rican delicacies, made up of rice, beans, salad, tortillas, fried platano, and meat (you’ll be able to select beef, pork, rooster or fish)
  • Tamales: Different to a Mexican tamale (and fewer spicy), cooked with garlic and different spices and wrapping is manufactured from banana leaves as an alternative of corn
  • Arroz con Leche: This is my favourite Costa Rican dessert, manufactured from rice, milk, sugar, salt, lemon zest, and cinnamon sticks!

10. Enjoy out of doors actions close to La Fortuna!

0 Things to do in Arenal volcano view

La Fortuna is a small city positioned a 2-hour drive northwest of San Jose. It hosts many pure points of interest and actions for out of doors lovers, making it the right place if you wish to spend a day in nature!

One of the best things to do here is for certain to cross the Arenal Hanging Bridges: many suspension bridges positioned within the Volcan Arenal National Park, which make a part of a 2-mile path by means of a personal rainforest reserve. 

During your self-guided tour, you’ll cross the bridges whereas discovering the biodiversity and wildlife of the attractive forest, seeing its totally different layers of the rainforest, recognizing the various animal species, and gazing on the views of the Arenal Volcano for US$25!

Another solution to extra deeply uncover the pure fantastic thing about the La Fortuna area is with this full-day tour from La Fortuna! 

During this guided journey you’ll hike by means of a lush rainforest, go to a butterfly backyard, take a dip at La Fortuna waterfall and end your day with a cocktail in pure sizzling springs… isn’t it nice?

This can also be among the finest issues to do in San Jose, Costa Rica for households!

P.S.: If you resolve to spend some days in La Fortuna, we’ve got one other put up devoted to one of the best lodges in San Jose when you resolve to remain a few nights!

ENTRY: US$25

GUIDED TOUR: US$130

🤩 Range of actions: Large
👪 Family-friendly rating: Medium
🏛️ Best museum: Jade Museum 
🎢 Top paid attraction: National Museum 
🚶🏽‍♂️ Best free exercise: Free Walking Tour
👧 Best attraction for youths: Children’s Museum
🕺 Nightlife: Barrio Escalante
🥟 Must strive meals: Empanadas
📅 How many days: 2-3
📍 Best neighborhood: San Jose Downtown
✈️Cost of touring: Medium

BONUS: 1-day itinerary exploring the larger San Jose area

During my keep in San Jose, I made a decision to rent a car for one full day to go to some locations across the metropolis, and I made my very own schedule for a cool day journey

The Poás Volcano was the primary attraction I needed to take a look at throughout this present day, however there have been many different stunning spots to go to, so why not go to them ? 

Here beneath you’ll discover one of the best issues to do in San Jose, Costa Rica, throughout a day journey, together with some that I didn’t have the possibility to see (you’ll be able to skip a few of them, however in any other case it’s doable in a day): 

Stop 1: Poás Volcano

Bonus Poas Volcano near san jose CR

The Poas Volcano is an energetic stratovolcano positioned inside Poas Volcano National Park

in central Costa Rica, about 1 hour and a half from San Jose, Costa Rica, and nothing lower than one of many largest craters on this planet!

If you wish to go to it, you HAVE TO buy your ticket online prematurely: we noticed many vehicles being rotated as soon as on the entrance! At the doorway there’s all the time an enormous line, so attempt to come 20 minutes earlier than your tour is scheduled. 

PRO TIP: Get the earliest ticket doable (it’s at 8 am) – I do know it’s early, however then the chance of seeing the crater is the best. After 12 it’s virtually assured will probably be lined by the clouds utterly, so will probably be a pity to go all the way in which to see nothing. We received there at 8 and you’ll see our view within the pic above, it was excellent!

The tour itself takes 20 minutes, however I’d rely it as about 1,5 hours to be trustworthy – you spend 20-25 minutes on the precise crater, however there may be time within the line to park, then you want to get your helmets and watch an introductory film in regards to the volcano, stroll to the crater and many others.

How to get there to the Poas Volcano from San Jose

P.S.: When driving from San Jose to Poas, it’s inconceivable to not purchase fresas (recent strawberries), they promote them in every single place on the street… the right snack for a day stuffed with actions!

PRICE: US$15

How to get there

By Car
Going to the Volcano from San Jose, Costa Rica, will take you about 1.5 hours by automotive, and Renting a car is the one choice. You might discover taxis/ubers to get there however then it’s mainly inconceivable to search out one thing for the way in which again.

Guided Tour
If you don’t wish to hire a automotive, you’ll be able to discover the Volcano on this guided tour from San José, Costa Rica, additionally together with a go to to the unbelievable La Paz Waterfall Garden (which we’ll see proper beneath) and a espresso plantation.

Stop 2: La Paz Waterfall 

La paz day trips from San Jose

La Paz is a wonderful waterfall positioned simply on the street to the Volcano (about half an hour from it) so you’ll be able to resolve to go to it earlier than or after it! 

The waterfall is positioned 5 minutes strolling from Route 126, so folks usually cease on the street to take images of it, however probably the most gorgeous falls are literally above the La Paz Waterfall, which might be accessed by simple mountaineering trails of the Waterfall Gardens Nature Park. 

In different phrases, it’s as much as you to resolve when you simply see it from the street (on this case you don’t need to pay) or to discover the gorgeous nature of the park, for US$50 however on this case, it’ll take you all the remainder of your day: the park is large! We did the free half and it was superior however!

PRO TIP: Go behind the waterfall too!

Stop 3: Laguna de Fraijanes Recreational Park 

If you wish to spend the remainder of your day simply enjoyable in nature, you must cease on the large Laguna de Fraijanes Recreational Park after visiting the Volcano, positioned 20 minutes from it. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the possibility to go to it due to the large line on the entrance, however that is the right place to hike, have a picnic with household or buddies (there’s no restaurant inside), or simply get pleasure from some peace and calm! 

PRICE: US$7

Stop 4: Zoo Ave 

zoo ave san jose costa rica walking tour

Zoo Ave is conveniently positioned on the way in which again to San Jose, so we determined to test it out too! 

FUN FACT: there aren’t any zoos in Costa Rica, the place we went was not one as properly, it’s a Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center. 

This place is devoted to rescuing animals and saving them and is the right place to get pleasure from a day with the household. There is a pleasant restaurant inside and you’ll see all types of rescue animals like sloths, monkeys, jaguars, and far more!

The solely draw back is that the ticket is kind of costly (US$30), however because it all goes to an excellent trigger we didn’t thoughts paying the charge. 

Where to remain in San Jose, Costa Rica

If you wish to have entry to many of the finest issues to do in San Jose, Costa Rica, one of the best place to remain within the metropolis is certainly downtown San Jose, the place you’ll discover all the primary museums, Central Avenue, and the Central Market.

P.S: If you might be fascinated about extending your journey to different Costa Rica locations, I counsel you try the charming Puerto Viejo, positioned solely 4 hours driving from San Jose, Costa Rica.

Where to stay in San Jose Costa Rica
  • Luxury (US$120 and up)
    Gran hotel – Check out this wonderful luxurious resort in San Jose, Costa Rica, providing one of the best metropolis views, spacious rooms, and an excellent location at about 25 Minutes away from Juan Santamaria International Airport. 
  • Mid Range (US$70 – US$100)
    Sleep Inn Hotel Paseo Las Damas – Enjoy your keep in San José on this good resort that has an excellent location inside strolling distance from the Costa Rica National Museum, an on-site restaurant, and free wi-fi!
  • Budget (as much as US$40)
    Cando Living Apartments – If you wish to avoid wasting cash throughout your journey to San Jose, Costa Rica, you must try this wonderful finances resort. Here you’ll begin your day with a scrumptious breakfast within the resort’s backyard whereas having fun with one of the best metropolis views!
  • Airbnb (US$70)
    URBN Escalante – If you’re on the lookout for a spot the place you’ll be able to get pleasure from some privateness in San Jose, Costa Rica, you’ll love this Airbnb, at the very least I did! Located in Barrio Escalante, this property has tremendous good views and all of the amenities you want, like a fitness center and swimming swimming pools. Check out their higher ground, it has a incredible widespread space with sick views and even some secret doorways! 🙂 

Frequently requested questions on San Jose Costa Rica

John Lennon in Plaza Artigas faq about San Jose Costa Rica

🤩 What are one of the best issues to do in San Jose Costa Rica?

The finest issues to do in San Jose, Costa Rica, are visiting Museo del Jade, the National Museum, and strolling within the Avenida Central (central avenue) in San Jose metropolis heart, a good way to expertise San Jose’s day by day life!

🚗 Do you want a automotive in San Jose, Costa Rica?

If you keep within the San Jose heart now, you do not want a automotive, the town is hilly, so more often than not it isn’t very walkable however you’ll be able to simply take an Uber (they’re fairly inexpensive there). If you wish to go to the environment of San Jose then it’s higher to rent a car.

🟡 Is San Jose, Costa Rica, secure? 

Generally sure, San Jose, Costa Rica, is secure however the metropolis heart might be sketchy at night time. There are tons of police round however you want to take some widespread precautions like not strolling round at night time, and taking Ubers. 

📅 How many days I ought to spend in San Jose, Costa Rica? 

2-3 days in San Jose are sufficient to get pleasure from all one of the best issues to do in San Jose, Costa Rica, like visiting the National Theatre (Teatro Nacional) and the pre-Columbian Gold Museum 

Conclusion

View from URBN Escalante Costa Ricas capital city

Congrats! You lastly reached the tip of this cool put up about one of the best issues to do in San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital metropolis. 

We noticed every part you are able to do on this wonderful metropolis in Costa Rica: San Jose’s prime points of interest, excursions, and pure spots, and I additionally included a bonus with an excellent thought for a day journey… so no traveler can be disillusioned!

I hope you loved studying my information as a lot as I did writing it for you, and that it’ll assist you’ve got an incredible time in San Jose, Costa Rica!

If you’ve got any recommendations for me or questions in regards to the vacation spot, please share them within the feedback beneath, I’m trying ahead to studying all of them! 

Have an excellent trip in Costa Rica! 

Yulia


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