SAN JOSE

Costa Rica

San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica, head of the province of San José, and the nation's largest city.Located in the Central Valley, San José is the seat of national government, the focal point of political and economic activity, and the major transportation hub of this Central American nation.

Info San Jose

introduction

San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica, head of the province of San José, and the nation's largest city.

Located in the Central Valley, San José is the seat of national government, the focal point of political and economic activity, and the major transportation hub of this Central American nation. The population of this city is probably half of the whole country. It is served by the primary airport (which technically is in nearby Alajuela) the University of Costa Rica, the US and other embassies, and many museums, cultural venues, hotels, markets, etc. It is the hub of the country. It is named in honor of Joseph of Nazareth.

Though few people live in the city center, it is the most important working area of the country, which brings in more than a million people daily. Despite its problems, according to studies in Latin America, San José is still one of the safest and least violent cities in the region. In 2006, the city was appointed Ibero-American Capital of Culture.

San José is the sixth most important destination in Latin America, according to The MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index 2012. San José ranked 15th in the world’s fastest growing destination cities by visitor cross-border spending.

info
POPULATION : City: 333,981 / Metro: 2,158,898
FOUNDED :  1739 , Capital as of 16 May 1823
TIME ZONE : Central Standard Time (UTC-6) 
LANGUAGE : Spanish (official), English
RELIGION : Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical 13.7%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.3%, other Protestant 0.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%
AREA : 44.62 km2 (17.23 sq mi)
ELEVATION : 1,172 m (3,845 ft)
COORDINATES : 9°56′N 84°5′W
SEX RATIO : Male: 50.78%  
 Female: 49.22%
ETHNIC : white (including mestizo) 94%, black 3%, Amerindian 1%, Chinese 1%, other 1%
AREA CODE :
POSTAL CODE : 10101
DIALING CODE : + 506
WEBSITE : http://www.msj.go.cr

Tourism

Theatres and Auditoriums

San José has many beautiful theatres, many with European-inspired architecture. These buildings serve as the city's main tourist attractions; not only because of the architectural beauty, but because of the numerous cultural, musical, and artistic presentations and activities, which include traditional and modern Costa Rican and San José culture.

The most well-known are:

  • The National Theatre of Costa Rica (Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica).
  • The Melico Salazar Theatre (Teatro Popular Melico Salazar).
  • The National Auditorium of The Children's Museum of Costa Rica (Museo de los Niños).

The National Theatre of Costa Rica and the Melico Salazar Theatre present drama, dance performances and concerts throughout the year. Nevertheless, other 'smaller' theatres can be found throughout the city and provide a large array of entertainment.

Teatro Variedades is San José's oldest theatre.

Museums

San José is also host to various museums. These museums allow visitors to view Costa Rican history, scientific discoveries, pre-Columbian era culture and art, as well as modern Costa Rican art. The city is also host to the nation's museum of gold and museum of jade.

Some of the city's main museums are:

  • The Children's Museum (Museo de los Niños)
  • The National Museum of Costa Rica (Museo Nacional de Costa Rica)
  • The Museum of Pre-Columbian Gold (Museo de Oro Precolombino)
  • The Museum of Costa Rican Art
  • The Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo)

Parks, Plazas, and Zoos

San José is home to many parks and squares (plazas in Spanish); where one can find gazebos, open green areas, recreational areas, lakes, fountains, statues and sculptures by Costa Rican artists and many different bird, tree and plant species.

Parks

The city's primary parks include:

  • The National Park (Parque Nacional)
  • Morazán Park (Parque Morazán) — with Neoclassical Temple of Music (Templo de la Música) pavilion.
  • La Sabana Metropolitan Park (Parque Metropolitano La Sabana) — largest park and "the lungs of San José," in Mata Redonda District (west city).
  • Peace Park (Parque de la Paz)
  • Okayama Park (Parque Okayama) — Japanese style garden and architectural elements, ornamental ponds, and garden sculptures.

Plazas

Plazas, or town squares, are very prominent across San José' districts.

  • Culture Square—La Plaza de La Cultura (one example).

Zoos

  • Simón Bolívar Zoo — city's only zoo, with a large variety of native Costa Rican and exotic animals and plant species.

Street Life

Every Thursday a dozens of young jugglers gather at the Parque Morazan and juggle together. Often with percussion music. It s a free event in public space. Normally you will be invited to play with them. Lovely experience if you like street art.

History

The population grew during the eighteenth century colonial planning, which was different from the traditional foundation plans of Spanish cities in the continent.

Founded in 1738 by order of Cabildo de León, its objective was to concentrate the scattered inhabitants of the Aserrí Valley. To do so, the construction of a chapel near the area known as La Boca del Monte was ordered; this was completed two years later. That year St. Joseph was chosen as parish patron, hence its current name. The chapel, which was very modest, was erected with help from the church of Cartago.

San José had water problems, and that was one of the main reasons that the population grew slowly. However, the water supply was assured by ditches, and the fertility of the surrounding fields along with the installation of the Tobacco Factory of Costa Rica, which would aid urban concentration.

As San José, unlike what happened to Cartago, was not founded with a formal act of foundation, it was not considered as a city or town, and consequently the city lacked a city government. It was not until the enactment of the Constitution of Cádiz in 1812 when San José had its first city government. In 1813, the Spanish parliament gave the town the title of city, which was then lost in 1814 when Ferdinand VII of Spain annulled the proceedings by the courts. The municipal government was restored in 1820 with the title of city population.

San José is one of the youngest capital cities in Latin America by year of conception, though it was not named capital until 1823. The first modern urban neighborhood carries the name of his founder, the French coffee entrepreneur Monsieur Amon, and was created in the latest 19th century in line with Belle Époque contemporary architecture. The Barrio Amon, as well as the National Theatre remain symbols of Costa Rican coffee golden age.

Today San José is a modern city with bustling commerce, brisk expressions of art and architecture, and spurred by the country's improved tourism industry, it is a significant destination and stopover for foreign visitors.

San José exerts a strong influence because of its proximity to other cities (Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago) and the country's demographic assemblage in the Central Valley.

Climate

San José City lies in the Tropics and is in a tropical rainforest. However its elevation gives it a mild climate.

The temperature ranges between 17 and 30 °C (63 and 86 °F).

Relative humidity averages 68.2% (with extremes of 55% in March and 78% in October) and the daily range tends to be between 60% and 90%, with the humidity typically dropping to the lower end of this range near mid-day and rising again during the night. It rains on an average of 170 days per year but half the rainfall pours down on only 15 of these days. 

The rainy season is from May to mid-November, but cloudiness and rainfall can occur during the dry season.

There are approximately 2440 hours of sunshine per year. 

Climate data for San José, Costa Rica

MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Average high °C (°F)26.0
(78.8)
26.8
(80.2)
27.9
(82.2)
28.4
(83.1)
27.6
(81.7)
27.0
(80.6)
26.9
(80.4)
27.0
(80.6)
26.9
(80.4)
26.5
(79.7)
26.2
(79.2)
25.9
(78.6)
26.92
(80.46)
Daily mean °C (°F)21.8
(71.2)
22.2
(72)
22.8
(73)
23.0
(73.4)
22.2
(72)
21.7
(71.1)
22.0
(71.6)
21.8
(71.2)
21.3
(70.3)
21.2
(70.2)
21.6
(70.9)
21.8
(71.2)
21.95
(71.51)
Average low °C (°F)17.8
(64)
18.0
(64.4)
18.1
(64.6)
18.8
(65.8)
19.0
(66.2)
18.9
(66)
19.0
(66.2)
18.8
(65.8)
18.2
(64.8)
18.2
(64.8)
18.6
(65.5)
18.3
(64.9)
18.47
(65.25)
Source #1: HKO

Subdivisions

San José is divided into 11 districts (distritos):

Catedral, Carmen, Hatillo, Hospital, Uruca, Mata Redonda, Merced, Pavas, San Francisco de Dos Ríos, San Sebastián, Zapote.

The districts are divided up into a number of neighborhoods (local name: "barrios").

Internet, Comunication

TV

Cable TV channels have many American English language channels. Fox News, CNN, CNBC, TNT, HBO, ESPN, ABC, NBC, and CBS stations are broadcast from New York City.

On Amnet in San José ABC, CBS, and NBC are broadcast on channels 69-71 respectively. The feeds are from Denver, CO.

Prices in San Jose

PRICES LIST - EUR

MARKET / SUPERMARKET

Milk1 liter$1.45
Tomatoes1 kg$2.05
Cheese0.5 kg$5.20
Apples1 kg$3.30
Oranges1 kg$2.10
Beer (domestic)0.5 l$1.70
Bottle of Wine1 bottle$13.00
Coca-Cola2 liters$3.00
Bread1 piece$1.40
Water1.5 l$2.00

PRICES LIST - EUR

RESTAURANTS

Dinner (Low-range)for 2$32.00
Dinner (Mid-range)for 2$45.00
Dinner (High-range)for 2$60.00
Mac Meal or similar1 meal$6.50
Water0.33 l$1.40
Cappuccino1 cup$2.50
Beer (Imported)0.33 l$3.70
Beer (domestic)0.5 l$2.10
Coca-Cola0.33 l$1.50
Coctail drink1 drink$7.00

PRICES LIST - EUR

ENTERTAINMENT

Cinema2 tickets$11.00
Gym1 month$52.00
Men’s Haircut1 haircut$13.00
Theatar2 tickets$44.00
Mobile (prepaid)1 min.$0.08
Pack of Marlboro1 pack$3.55

PRICES LIST - EUR

PERSONAL CARE

Antibiotics1 pack$18.00
Tampons32 pieces$7.00
Deodorant50 ml.$5.50
Shampoo400 ml.$7.00
Toilet paper4 rolls$13.25
Toothpaste1 tube$2.80

PRICES LIST - EUR

CLOTHES / SHOES

Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)1$64.00
Dress summer (Zara, H&M)1$55.00
Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)1$95.00
Leather shoes1$98.00

PRICES LIST - EUR

TRANSPORTATION

Gasoline1 liter$1.17
TaxiStart$1.20
Taxi1 km$1.15
Local Transport1 ticket$0.75

Tourist (Backpacker)  

46 $ per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • meals in cheap restaurant
  • public transport
  • cheap hotel

Tourist (business/regular)  

167 $ per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • mid-range meals and drinks
  • transportation
  • hotel

Transportation - Get In

Transportation - Get In

By plane

The airport (IATA: SJO) is 17km or about 20 minutes by car from the center of San José. The city closest to the airport is actually Alajuela.

There is a local bus stop outside the airport (on the other side of the multi-story car park which you see when you come out of arrivals). It costs less than 1 US$ and takes you right downtown. The cheapest option is taking the bus into downtown and get a taxi there for your final destination. The taxis charge around 25 US Dollars to take you to the city, be sure to take one of the licensed reddish-orange taxis that say "Taxi Aeropuerto." There are many unlicensed taxi drivers who will charge you almost twice as much as Taxi Aeropuerto. The taxis gladly take Dollars, but the local bus only takes Colones and they would not be pleased to get a 10 000 Colones bill.

There is an ATM by the entrance to the departures that will give you both Colones and Dollars.

Do not exchange money when arriving at the San Jose airport. The exchange rate used there is not the official rate and you will get a lot fewer colones. However, the departure hall upstairs has a BCR bank with normal exchange rates. It is right next to the departure tax payment area, buy when you arrive to avoid the queue on departure.

Transportation - Get In

By Train

Trains have recently made a comeback in Costa Rica and, after being shut down for many years, several routes have been put back into service using second-hand equipment brought over from Spain and some very ancient wooden carriages that look like they have been taken from a museum. Lines are mostly singe-track and level crossings have no lights or protection at all, which has led to several accidents. There's also no signalling. Overall it's an interesting experience if you have the time and it's the best way of getting to Heredia (a lot faster and more comfortable than the bus).

Timetables for all services are available at: this website

Heredia: on weekdays, trains run between San José and Heredia every half an hour in the mornings (6AM-9AM) and afternoons (3:30PM-8PM), leaving from Estación del Atlántico near the Parque Nacional. Some of these trains continue on to the UCR and U Latina in San Pedro. The 6PM departure from San José (returning at 7PM) is a big train, so you can almost always get a seat on this one.

Pavas, San Pedro and Curridabat: another line runs through the south of the city, stopping at Estación del Pacifico, Sábana and heading west into Pavas and eventually turning round in a fairly dangerous slum area in the middle of the hills. If you take it east, it stops across the road from Estación del Atlantico and then goes to the UCR, U Latina and Curridabat. Timetables are very limited, with just one train per hour early in the morning and in the evening on weekdays.

Belén: A new service to Belén (just south of the airport) started on 5th April, leaving from Estación del Pacifico. Services are approximately every half an hour between 6-8AM and 4-8PM on weekdays only and take 35 minutes.

Transportation - Get In

By Bus

Buses from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama both, arrive to and leave from San José.

The Tica Bus terminal is the most common choice for locals and foreigners alike when it comes to traveling around Central America and even Mexico. Please take note that it has recently been moved to the other end of town, near the Mercedes Tower. (Address: 200 meters north and 100 meters west of Torre Mercedes (Paseo Colón), in front of the Magisterio Nacional Mortuary)

King Quality is a new choice available, their prices are considerably more expensive or cheaper than Tica Bus depending on the destination. There is also Transnica, note they don't have a website up, for information their phone number is +506 2223-4123.

Of course most local buses start or end here. There are several bus terminals in San José [www]. It is important to know which bus terminal serves your bus route. Bus stops are usually every few blocks in the city. Take always a taxi, when traveling with luggage.And it is highly likely to speak to you when you arrive.

 


Transportation - Get Around

Transportation - Get Around

By bus

Public transport system includes buses, tram is planned in the city center. Bus lines, maps, schedules and ticket prices are available at Ruta en linea San José.

The bus system is reliable, comfortable, extensive, and very cheap. For instance it costs about $5 to travel from San José to the Nicoya Peninsula.

Transportation - Get Around

By Taxi

Taxis are generally cheap. All taxis should have a meter. The fare starts at 570 colones, and is 570 per kilometer. The value of the Colón fluctuates roughly above 500 to the US Dollar and some locals still call 500 Colónes "one Dollar" in day to day life. A ride inside the city center will normally cost 580-2500 colones. Basically a couple dollars, which they will accept, will get you anywhere in the city. Be aware that it is close to useless to give a taxi driver an exact street address. You have to point out some well-known building, park or hotel close to where you are going. Often there are no street signs and addresses are difficult to find, so be sure you know where you are going or you could get lost very easily. If you are driving in Costa Rica (one may see vehicles from Mississippi, British Columbia, Panama, and other places) note that the traffic lights don't have the yellow border around them and can sometimes be difficult to see, the road network is well utilized by locals (to overcapacity) so don't expect to get anywhere fast, also motorcycles weave in and out of traffic. Keep in mind the pet peeve most tourists have with tico kindness: oftentimes when a tico has no idea where a certain destination you may have had in mind is, he or she will simply direct you to a random location. Oftentimes simply incomprehensible, these directions are a reflection on the cultural approach to kindness many Costa Ricans adopt.

Transportation - Get Around

By bike

It is as well possible to get around by bicycle in San José. If you want to buy a bicycle you find stores in Calle 6 / Av. 5 (Coca Cola) or south of "Avenida Segunda" on the corner or Av.6 / Calle 4. In the south east corner of plaza Viquez you find a small bicycle store.

 

Hotels

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Hotels

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Shopping


Souvenirs

  • Boutique Annemarie, located inside Hotel Don Carlos, is a nice souvenir shop. But don't buy your stamps here, they'll charge you an extra 40% for the "service".
  • El Pueblo shopping mall has lots of small souvenir shops.
  • Mora Books Is a used book store on the corner of First Avenue and Street 3 in down-town San José. They have a great number of guide books, and will buy, trade, or sell books.
  • Mercado Artesania One of the best places for getting souvenirs and handcrafted products. This market is on 2nd Avenue by the National Museum.
  • The Costa Rica Cigar Store Hundreds of Hand made Costa Rica Cigars. Locations on Sabana Sur and Barrio Amon.

Throughout the city, there are also a good deal of shops with wooden and ceramic souvenirs. The wooden pieces, such as masks, plaques, and other forms of wall art, are all beautifully hand carved as well as hand painted and the artisan usually signs their work with their name and where it was made on the backside. The ceramic pottery and dishware is done in this similar fashion and are available in a variety of designs and colors. These make interesting and personally unique gifts to bring home to family and friends for a reasonable price. San Pedro Mall: A very modern mall located east of the city. On the outside it is beautifully constructed and it is three stories high.


Coffee

The best coffees have deserved reputations for superb quality. Super markets/grocers and small coffee growers usually have better prices than shops that cater to tourists. Often packaged in 12 oz. sealed bags, you should only purchase roasted, whole beans rather than ground...for epicures, "strictly hard bean" (SHB)). They will keep flavor longer...until you can store them properly at home (Google for methods), and won't include sugar as often found in Costa Rican ground. Roasted coffee also prevents you from running afoul of agencies such as FDA/APHIS that requires special licensing for importing "green"/unroasted beans (may be considered plant material).


Cigars

The best cigars, where you will find a huge selection of Cuban Cigars is located at The Havana Humidor Room, 2 blocks North and 1 block West of the Holiday Inn.


Food markets

  • Feria Del Agricultor (Zapote Farmers Fair), Parqueo del redondel de toros de Zapote. Opens Sunday 05:00 - 14:00. A nice activity on a Sunday morning, the Zapote farmers market is a great way to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables for the week. There are a number of vendors selling tasty breakfasts and fresh juices so be sure to come hungry.

Restaurants

Mercado Central is a very old, interesting and bustling food market, which also contains a number of small restaurants and quick-serve counters for the locals. You will find fresh cooked fish and shellfish, corn based dishes, sopa de pescado (fish soup) and such exotics as "squid in his ink", ceviche (small bits of raw fish "cooked" in lime juice), helado de sorbetera (artesanal local cinnamon ice-cream) and more. Perhaps not for the faint of heart. And you could always just go for La Calle - Anything a street vendor is selling is probably good, for example the Mangos, street vendors often sell unripe mango strips with salt and lime, it's great.

  • Bar PoasAvenida 7, Calle 3 y 5 (Two doors down from the Pangea Hostel, across the street from St. Thomas Hotel in Barrio Amon),  +506 2-223-8677. 1200-0230. Photos of regular customers adorn the wall of this dimly lit but friendly bar and restaurant. A decent menu of Gringo and Tico food is available from noon to 0230. Try the award-winning Chili con Carne. There´s always an interesting group of characters there including proprietor Harry Hart who is always willing to dispense useful advice about San José and Costa Rica.
  • Bagelmen's (Escazú, San Pedro, Curridabat, Guachipelín, Belén, Heredia). Good prices, excellent quality fast and healthy food (bagels, cream cheeses, coffee, salads, desserts and more). Very popular among tourists and American expats. Free internet.
  • Cafetería Parisien (Gran Hotel, between Theatro Nacional and Plaza de Cultura). Not the most exciting food, but elegant settings.
  • Ganesha (Located in Hotel America, 50 meters south of Central park in Heredia),  8379-7951. This is an Indian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurant in Heredia, Costa Rica just about 15 minutes drive from the airport. Indian food lovers can get their garam masala fix here. Great Hummus, Baba Ganoush, Seekh Kebab and Chicken Tikka Masala. The lassis are great too
  • Hotel Grano de OroCalle 30 Avenida 2/4,  255-3322. Beautiful but expensive restaurant. A breakfast menu costs around 2400 Colones or treat yourself to the delicious banana-macadamia nut pancakes (2000 Colones). The entrees are diverse and creative, do not hesitate to try the soup of the day, even if it sounds less than exciting. Duck is on the menu, and is some of the best to be had anywhere. Numerous seafood dishes are cooked to perfection, as is the beef and pork.
  • Hotel Vesuvio RestauranteBarrio Otoya,  257-5411. Italian food, pastas 1900 Colones, chicken 2000-2500.
  • LukasCentro Comercial El Pueblo. One of two other restaurants at the El Pueblo.
  • Machu Picchu Restaurant(Paseo Colón) 1st Ave (125 meters north from Kentucky FC restaurant),  +506 222-3679. The best international Peruvian Food & Sea Food. Try the Causa Rellena, Cebiche, Lomo Saltado, Ají de Gallina and Peru's traditional and landmark drink: Pisco Sour.
  • Pizzeria Il PomodoroCerca de Parque Kennedy y Banco Nacional en San Pedro. One of the best known casual restaurants in Costa Rica, . Italian cuisine, very good pizza and pasta, good cheap wine, from second floor great view or the mountains to the west.
  • Soda Esnider (Walk a few blocks to the east from Plaza de la Cultura over the Central Avenue and get into Galerías Avenida Central. You will find several stores and if you go down the stairs you will come across Soda Esnider). You can have a wonderful “Casado” for lunch with a natural drink for as little as 1600 Colones ($3)
  • Tin JoPaseo de los estudiantes. This is an incredible Asian restaurant featuring Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Indian food. Don't be scared by the looks on the outside, the restaurant is clean, beautifully decorated and offers the best service I experienced in Costa Rica.
  • Vishnu. Vegetarian and Organic Restaurant. , With very reasonable prices and a varied, tasty menu they are easily the best choice for vegetarian food in SJ. There are three locations downtown San José: - 1 - South side boulevar, near the Banco popular. - 2 - Across Omni Center. - 3 - North side of the Iglesia Del Carmen.
  • El Balcón del Marisco (appx 1 Km. East of EPA toward to hwy to Cartago). 10AM - 11PM. Great place for fish. Always busy. Service very good. No other place comparable. Clean and safe. ~$11.

Sights & Landmarks

  • Museo de Oro Precolombino (The Gold Museum),  +506 2243-4202, e-mail: . An underground museum below Plaza de la Cultura. Tu-Su 10AM-4:30PM. Entrance fee $5,500 Colones or $11 for foreigners (or 4,500 Colones with a student ID card). It is cheaper to pay in Colones here as of Jan 2015. The collection consists of 1,600 pieces of Pre-Columbian gold work dating from 500 AD to 1500 AD. Although not of the quality seen in the Andes, the animal pieces are very impressive and make the museum a must-see for those interested in art or history. The museum explains the processing and production of the pieces as well as their social, cultural, and religious meanings. The entrance fee includes The Numismatic Museum (under renovation Jan 2015) and The Temporary Exhibition Galleries, which are inside the same labyrinthine complex. There is a nice museum shop and a tourist office at the entrance.
  • Museo del Jade (The Jade Museum), Avenida Central, Calle 13.+506 2287-6034. M-F 8:30AM-3:30PM, SA:10AM to 1PM.. The museum has recently relocated to a large modern building next to the Artesanal Market. Most tourist maps still show the old location across from Hotel Hemingway, but the new location is only 4 blocks away and closer to the Plaza de la Cultura. The brand new complex is now one of the hemisphere's premier museums and is worth the sizable entry fee. It hosts the largest collection of precolumbian jade in the Americas and explains how these impressive pieces were produced. The museum displays a wide variety of other objects made of gold, stone, bone, ceramics, and shells. There is a smattering of objects similar to those at the Museo de Oro (gold pieces) and Museo Nacional (stone spheres and ceramics). You can gain insight into the daily lives of the people in the precolumbian era with numerous bilingual English-Spanish. If you only have time for visiting one museum, this is the recommended choice, albeit the craftsmanship of the pieces at the Museo de Oro is higher.Entrance: USD $15 for foreigners, $5 for locals. It is cheaper to pay USD than Colones Jan 2015.
  • Museo de los Niños (The children's museum), Antigua Penitenciaría (the old prison). Tel. 258-4929. M-F 9:30AM-3:30PM, Sa-Su 10AM-4PM. Entrance fee 600 Colones for adults and 300 for children. This is anedutainment museum, and it was designed for Costa Rica's children, all the exhibits are in Spanish only. Not recommended as a visit, except when the Auditorio Nacional is hosting a concert or art gallery.
  • Museo Nacional, Calle 17 Avenida 2. Tel 257-1433. Tu-Su 8:30AM-4:30PM. Entrance fee 2000 Colones. The museum includes a large butterfly garden (With many morpho butterflies) and a collection of large stone spheres from the Diquis Valley near the Pacific Ocean, a permanent precolumbian exhibition, the barracks, the rooms of the army general and his family, and a couple of temporal exhibits at the time. The museum building is an old fort called Cuartel Bellavista, in this place the Army was symbolically abolished by then president Jose Figueres Ferrer on December 1st, 1948 after the last civil war and armed conflict in the country.
  • Museo de Arte Costarricense, east end of Sabana Park. This used to be San Jose's main airport terminal back when La Sabana was the airport. Tel 222-7155. Tu-Sa 10:00-16:00, Su 10:00-14:00. Entrance fee $5 (students $3).
  • Insect Museum at the Universidad de Costa Rica A very elegant collection of exotic bugs. Only a few dollars, but check the times when they are open.
  • Museo de arte y diseño contemporáneo (MADC) Definitely the main institution in Costa Rica dedicated to the broadcasting of contemporary art. Centro Nacional de la Cultura, Antigua Fábrica Nacional de Licores. Avenida 3, calle 15/17. San José, Costa Rica. Tel: +506 2257-7202 / +506 2257-9370 Fax: +506 2257-8702. Info related to current exhibitions, schedules and admission fees can be found at their oficial website www.madc.ac.cr .
  • Zoológico Simón Bolivar An almost hidden zoo in Barrio Amón, some of the most representative animals are available in this small zoo. There are many big cats, including a non native lion, the serpentarium is one of the most interesting spots, with colorful (and dangerous) snakes available.

Things to do

The main downtown area is a bustling collection of well-laid out streets filled with bustling traffic and lined with eclectic, historic architecture. On the surface it is a gritty downtown area, but look inside and you'll find friendly people, quirky spots, and the historic side of San José that change your impression. A walking tour is the best way to see this area.


Tours

  • Costa Rica Golf Day Tours (Tours to Valle del Sol, Cariari and Marriott Los Suenos),  (732) 917-0177. 7AM-4PM. Valle del Sol:$110, Cariari $110, Marriott Los Suenos: $225. All prices include hotel pickup and green fees.

There are a lot of other tours and local events and doings in and from San José. Some include:

  • 3 in One
  • Butterfly farm
  • Coffee farm
  • Canopy tours
  • Rafting* Rios Tropicales (Whitewater tours from San Jose and other areas of Costa Rica).
  • Volcanoes
    • Buses to volcano Poas leave from Parque La Merced at 08:30AM daily (2990 colones).
    • Buses to volcano Irazú leave at 8AM daily on Av. 2 in front of the National Theater (50 km, 2 h, 4000 colones return) and return at 12:30PM from the National Park. Park entrance fee for foreigners only: $US10 / 5020 colones, a bit overpriced but the view is nice.
  • La Paz Waterfall Gardens An hour away from San José you can find lovely trails through primary rainforest that take you past five beautiful waterfalls. The La Paz water fall gardens also offer a hummingbird gallery, serpentarium, frog exhibit and large butterfly observatory.

Street Life

  • Every Thursday a dozens of young jugglers gather at the Parque Morazan and juggle together. Often with percussion music. It s a free event in public space. Normally you will be invited to play with them. Lovely experience if you like street art.

Yoga

  • Yoga. Costa Rica is a top destination for yoga. In San Jose, check out Downtown Yoga near Parque Morazan, which offers accessibly priced yoga and hooping classes for all experience levels. [www]

Sports

  • Valle del Sol, Santa Ana (In the Lindora area next to Forum Park.), +506 2282-9222.
  • TTCR Golf Tour (San José),  866 448 3182. 7AM-10AM. Specialized golf transportation to/from San José area hotels and Marriott Los Suenos course. Reserve online for a $160 rate (2 person min.) including transportation.
  • Gym. Decent gym facilities can be found at the Spa Corobici (telephone: 231-5542) located behind the Hotel Corobici. The taxi ride from the airport is approximately $10 - $20 USD and entry into the gym is 5,300 CRC or $10 USD. The club has a good selection of free and machine weights as well as a cardio theater. The club also has an outdoor swimming pool for lap swimming, a Jacuzzi tub, and a sauna.

Casinos

  • Casinos Many hotels have gaming. The most famous for the single traveler is Casino del Rey.

Nightlife

  • El Pueblo. Is a shopping center which becomes a clubbing district at night. There are several bars and nightclubs cluttered in the tiny little alleyways. Just mention El Pueblo to your taxi and he'll know where to go.
  • San Pedro Is home to many bars and clubs, try to avoid the university of Costa Rica area at night as the many bars in the university district tend to attract brawls and even the occasional bullet shot. The other bars/clubs in San Pedro are free of trouble.
  • Barrio La California Is the place to be if you're into the bohemian/rock crowd. Many bars have local bands playing every night. Great place to go bar hopping!
  • Ristorante Tutti LiPlaza Itskatzu, Escazú (Near Multiplaza, Courtyard, Holiday Inn, Residence Inn, Hotel Intercontinental), 2588-0425. One of the best Italian restaurants in town. Fresh pastas, traditional Italian plates, brick oven pizza and exquisite wine selection, all with a modern flare. A must while in San José. Located in one of the most premium locations in the city. Don't miss out!

Gay and Lesbian nightlife

San José is a very tolerant city. Most bars are gay friendly. There is a small but vibrant gay life in San José from lesbian bars, to saunas and twink discos.

  • La Avispa Is the oldest gay disco in Costa Rica. Big place with Latin music and dancing, pop. It has the most popular crowd and is recommended if you want to try the local flavor. Sunday's late afternoon and evening is the best time to go.
  • Club OH Huge electronic music place with open bar on Fridays and Saturdays. It has a VIP area with better quality liquors and another DJ. Live Drag shows at midnight. Best day to go is Saturday.
  • Bochinche Crowded Pop bar/disco, twink ambient. It is a very fashionable art deco style, colorful place. Diverse shows during the whole week, Fridays are open bar with carnival at midnight. Place is open until 5AM. Gets very crowded after 1AM. $3 each person.

Safety in San José

Stay Safe

In San José and throughout the nation's urban centers, the traffic is wild and dangerous. It is not the norm for cars to stop for pedestrians; in fact, they generally drive very fast, which can make walking across streets difficult and even dangerous.

The area around the Coca Cola Bus Terminal, and most other terminals, is not as safe; especially at night. And some, like the aforementioned bus terminal, are not safe during the day and night. You should watch your belongings and stay with a group of people you trust at all times if walking through the city.

If you travel by bus, try not to put your luggage into the storage space above the seats. If you put your rucksack between your knees you will have better control of your belongings. Car theft is a problem in San José, make sure you take the necessary actions to reduce the chances of having your vehicle stolen; or anything within your vehicle. For example, bring a club (steering wheel lock) or park in locked fence areas or the city's parking buildings.

Always wear your seat belt. Going off of the scenarios of dangerous drivers, the taxi cabs that you choose to travel in MUST have a yellow triangle sticker on the front doors with the plate number. This demonstrates that that particular vehicle and the driver are legitimate. If anything were to happen, you (as a tourist) would know who to file a complaint with, etc. As a warning: Please do not enter any vehicle that does not have this larger triangle sticker on it (usually on the door) because the driver is most likely an illegal taxi; which means that you are choosing someone who may not be properly licensed or have met the requirements for transporting other people. The airport is a frequent "hot-spot" for these sort of incidents to occur quickly, because someone can come up to you (knowing that you are a tourist, not aware of their customs or regulations, and will exploit that), grab your luggage, and start loading it into their car - but be sure to check the vehicle for the yellow triangle as well as wrestling your luggage back out of the car. The orange taxis at the airport are the official airport taxis.

Generally speaking if you stick to the tourist spots in the city you will be safe, just try to avoid showing off valuables more than necessary, if you're taking a picture put your camera away as soon as its taken, never show big amounts of cash, exercise caution. Avoid at all costs walking at night, either right downtown or in the suburbs, cabs and buses are too cheap, so walking at night is a very unnecessary risk. As with any big city, use common sense and keep your belongings in front or beside you - never on your back. San José is known for its abundance and skill of pickpockets.

Stay healthy

San José, as the largest city in C.R. has the largest hospitals, both public and private. Tourists can use the private hospitals, and pay with cash or credit card. The wait is significantly shorter than at public hospitals. Also note the bigger private hospitals in the country are considerably more expensive than the many, smaller private hospitals throughout the city. Most doctors can speak medical English, and they provide translator services

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