A Travel Guide To the Costa Rica Capital of San José


San José is the capital city of Costa Rica. It might not be the best place to live because it can lose some of its spontaneity after a while. But, it is one of the best places to visit when traveling; it has so much to offer!

There are a lot of things to do that keep you busy even before you move on to the much nicer parts of the country. There are some extremely great museums, cool parks, pretty funky hostels with pools, a theatre, and some great restaurants which will make your visit even more fun. This city is a place for you to get your bearing before you move on to other parts of the country. San José warms you up and shows you what is in store for you.

This article will make you aware of all the things you can do to make your visit to San José fun, without doing the obvious. It will take you on a tour and show you the adventures that have always been there yet remained unseen. You will get a peek of what awaits you on your visit and all the fun you can unleash. We have listed all the best things to do that might appear simple, but are so much more fun once you engage in them. This article will be a good source when traveling to San José or planning a relocation to San José.

A Walking Tour

In case you are willing to learn more about the history of San José while taking in the sights, you must take a free walking tour with Strawberry Tours or Carpe Chepe. You will hear all about “Ticos” culture and you can also visit some secret spots where the locals hang out while admiring some street art along the way. Don’t forget to tip! If you want to do more than just walk, other Costa Rica tours will take you through various markets, and allow you to taste all the San Jose delicacies. 

Visit the Central Avenue

The heartbeat of San José, Central Avenue, is full of shops, restaurants, and bars. It is where the real party happens. The street becomes the busiest between 4-5 PM every day as the locals get off work and go there to hang out, eat, as well as listen to live music. There are also vendors everywhere who sell local goods, so it’s a great place to do some souvenir shopping for all those who you left behind in your native country or city.

Mercado Central

If you come across a bright yellow building on Central Avenue, it’s the San José Central Market (Mercado Central), and you just can’t miss it. You can buy your souvenirs or check out the local food among the hundreds of colorful stalls to get the feeling of being a local. The shopping there is not as popular as the delicious, local food is. You can’t leave this city without visiting and eating it. If you know Spanish, it would be great for you to bargain, otherwise it might appear to be a bit expensive. The Market is open every day, except for Sundays, from early in the morning to late afternoon.

Canopy Tour

Costa Rica is densely covered in rainforest terrain, and seeing it from the treetop canopy is a very unique way to experience it up close and personal. A canopy tour is comprised of gliding over the trees on a zip wire and is an exuberant experience. It offers you the chance to see the most active part of the rainforest, which is the upper tenth of the trees, which happens very rarely. You should be ready to pay around 50,945 CRC, which is about $85 USD per person with a company like San Luis Canopy Tour.

Take a Beer Tour

The craft beer scene in Costa Rica has flourished in recent years, and a Carpe Chepe Craft Beer Tour through San José is an exciting way to get acquainted with the local beer as well as the city. You will visit four bars, sample beers, and food, along with learning some interesting history about the city’s unique neighborhoods. These tours start from 45,220 CRC, or about $75 USD.

Hike through Chirripó National Park

For avid hikers who are always up for a challenge, booking a multi-day trek through Chirripó National Park would be a wonderful idea. This park lies right in the middle of the Talamanca mountain range and will give you great exposure to the rainforest environment. You should pack well, and be prepared for unexpected weather conditions. The Visitors require an entrance permit, which costs around 10,305 CRC ($18 USD) per person. A three-day hiking trip with a local guide will cost you about 220,380 CRC ($360 USD).

Visit Jade Museum

Located on the 11th floor of the National Insurance Building, the Jade Museum has the world’s largest collection of Pre-Columbian jade, with pieces dating from 500 BC to 800 AD. The translucent jade carvings of fertility goddesses and animals are some of the most impressive pieces present there. The museum also offers a wonderful view of San José and the Central Valley. Adult admission is 8,585 CRC ($15 USD).

Visit the National Centre of Art and Culture

This sprawling museum occupies an entire block. It is home to the offices of the Cultural Ministry, several performing arts centers, and the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, where you can see the work of cutting-edge Costa Rican and Central American artists. This is also the place to see contemporary dance and theatre. Admission is 1,700 CRC ($3 USD) per person and is free on Mondays.

While Costa Rica is one of the safest and the most secure countries when it comes to traveling and backpacking in Central America, you will still need to take a few precautions. Petty thefts, that include bag snatching, are one of the most common types of crime practiced here, especially on public buses.

You should not be wandering around by yourself after dark. Downtown San José can be especially sketchy as reports of armed muggings are on the rise. You should be very cautious around the Coca-Cola bus terminal and Parque Central.

We tried to give you a tour of San José with the help of this article but for a better experience, you should plan a visit as it is nothing less than blissful. Keep reading our articles to get a better vision of America through our experienced eyes and we will make your tour worth its while.


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