San Jose City Guide
About San Jose
San Jose, the lively capital of Costa Rica, is often used by tourists as a gateway to the rest of the country. San Jose is a modern city located in Central Costa Rica offering easy access to famous attractions of central Costa Rica, such as the Antonio National Park, the charming town of la Fortuna, and the Tilarán mountain range.
San Jose is a vibrant city and offers several attractions that are worth exploring. Visit the bustling Mercado Central, or Central Market, the largest marketplace in San Jose to get a feel of the city and see one of the best displays of Costa Rica culture and society. Explore Barria Amon and its many treasure filled museums that offer interesting exhibits like pre-Colombian Jade, Gold and displays of the country’s native flora and fauna. If you are currently contemplating an eco-tourism vacation in Costa Rica, then you should definitely consider spending a few days exploring its vibrant capital city.
Where to stay in San Jose
Downtown San Jose Hotels
Hotel properties located in downtown San Jose are very popular with visitors as they provide easy access to sightseeing, restaurants and shopping areas of the city. However, if you choose to stay at a hotel in downtown San Jose you should be willing to put up with the noise of traffic and the pollution. Safety in San Jose during nighttime is also a concern, and no matter where you stay in the city, in a location downtown or in the suburbs, you should always travel by taxi at night if you have not rented a car for your stay in San Jose.
Escazú and Santa Ana Hotels
Escazú and Santa Ana are both suburbs of San Jose, which house many hotels offering great views. The air in these areas is also less polluted. If pollution in downtown San Jose is a major concern for you, then you should think of staying at a hotel at any of these two suburbs. You will probably need to rent a car for commuting and sightseeing if you stay at either of these locations, and car rentals for your San Jose vacation can be easily arranged through our services at Fare Buzz as we offer various affordable car rentals for San Jose.
If the focus of your vacation in Costa Rica is its Central Pacific region or the area of Guanacaste renowned for its excellent beaches and surfing and sport fishing activities, then you should probably consider a hotel located near the San Jose airport as it will considerably cut down on your travel time to any one of these areas.
Places to see in San Jose
Else Kientzler Botanical Garden
The Else Kientzler Botanical Garden is located on the grounds of a flower farm situated on the outskirts of a Sarchi, a town popular with tourists. These botanical gardens extend over 11 miles and offer displays of more than 2,000 species of plants from Costa Rica as well as other parts of the world. The botanical garden is also equipped with a children’s play area, making it a worthwhile attraction for visitors accompanied with children.
Museo de Los Niños (Children's Museum)
San Jose’s Museo de Los Niños or Children’s Museum is definitely recommended as a family-friendly attraction. The museum is housed in a building, which once served as an army barrack and later on as a prison. The museum caters to children of all ages as it offers a wide range of diverse interactive exhibits.
Museo Nacional de Costa Rica (National Museum)
The Museo Nacional de Costa Rica or National Museum in San Jose is Costa Rica’s most important historical attraction. This museum is housed in a building that served as an army barrack during the civil war of 1948 and still displays bullet holes from the bloody battles that took place here. The museum offers a wide array of historical and cultural exhibits dating from pre-Colombian times to the present day.
Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica (Gold Museum)
The extraordinary Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica or Gold Museum, located beneath the Plaza del la Cultura in San Jose, hosts one of the most extensive collections of pre-Colombian gold in the world. The museum’s fantastic collection encompasses nearly 2,000 objects crafted out of the world’s most valuable metal. Apart from displaying gold, the museum also offers numismatic and philatelic displays.
Fidel Tristán (Jade Museum)
Jade was considered to be even more valuable than gold among the pre-Colombian cultures of Mexico and Central America. The Fidel Tristán or Jade Museum is housed on the first floor of the INS building (National Insurance Company) and offers a large collection of jade objects dating from 500 BC to 800 AD. Besides displaying jade objects, the museum also showcases terracotta vessels, bowls and figures from the same era.
The Butterfly Farm, located south of Alajuela, offers displays of 30-80 species of butterflies housed in walk-in aviaries and provides a fascinating experience for visitors. Tours to the Butterfly Farm are offered by various hotels in San Jose. If you are on a vacation in the city along with your children, you should definitely include the Butterfly farm into your sightseeing itinerary.
The INBio Park, which is managed by the National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica, is a museum, educational center and nature park aiming to educate visitors about Costa Rica’s amazing biodiversity and natural wonders. The park offers guided hiking tours to acquaint visitors about the various ecosystems of the Costa Rican forests.
Best time to visit San Jose
San Jose, like the rest of Costa Rica experiences a tropical climate all year round with not much change between the seasons. Average temperatures in the city generally remains 89F (32C) throughout the year. The city also receives plenty of rainfall round the year with the wettest periods in San Jose generally extending between May and November. This year-round pleasant climate makes San Jose an all-weather destination, and good for visiting during any time of the year.
Fare Buzz sometimes offers tempting flight deals to San Jose as well as other destinations. If you would like to procure advance information about these cheap air flights, you should connect with Fare Buzz on the social media platforms of Twitter and Facebook to get full details.
Getting around in San Jose
San Jose can be reached by various international airlines from different parts of the world which arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport, located 14 miles (23 km) to the west of the city. Besides international airlines, this airport is also served by several budget domestic carriers.
The airport at San Jose imposes a tax of $26 on each departing passenger, and if you feel hard pressed for time then you can also pay this fee at your hotel.
The airport is connected by public buses and airport taxis to the city center at San Jose. Besides, the city is also served by a fleet of metered taxis. However, like in various other Central and South American cities the taxi drivers often try to avoid using the meters, especially if they have foreign riders. In order to avoid being overcharged, you should always negotiate a price with the driver before you head off to your destination.
It is usually easy to hire a taxi on the road in downtown San Jose. However, outside the hotels and prominent landmarks the taxi drivers sometimes tend to charge a premium. Also, the taxi drivers in San Jose are allowed by law to charge a 20% surcharge for a ride after 10pm but they sometimes tend to misuse this allowance and try to charge more.
Where to shop in San Jose
The San Jose metro area of Costa Rica is not really known for its shopping options. However objects like pre-Columbian gold jewelry copies, Costa Rican coffee and liquors, t-shirts adorned with jungle and animal prints, wood carvings, leather bracelets, handmade apparel, hammocks are perennial favorites with tourists visiting San Jose.
The best shopping destinations for these items are the city’s main market, the Mercado Central and San Jose’s street arts and crafts market located within the Plaza de la Democracia. Another popular shopping locale located in the heart of downtown San Jose, is the Avenida Central pedestrianized street mall, which hosts several stores offering inexpensive clothing for men, women and children.
Shops in the downtown area of San Jose are open from Monday through Saturday from 8am to 6pm though some stores do down their shutters during the lunch hour. Aside from these downtown stores and markets, San Jose offers additional shopping options at its many glitzy malls and shopping centers which offer a whole host of international and domestic brands.
Some of the popular shopping centers and malls in San Jose include retail havens like Mall San Pedro (the oldest mall in Costa Rica), the Terra Mall (believed to be the largest mall in Central America), Multiplaza del Este and Multiplaza Oeste, Plaza del Sol, Plaza Mayor (located near the US embassy) and Plaza Itskazú. All these various malls aim to offer a comprehensive shopping experience by way of their many shopping, dining and entertainment options.
Where to eat in San Jose
San Jose offers a fairly diverse dining landscape. Along with the many Tica (Costa Rican food) restaurants in the city, are several restaurants offering regional and international cuisines. Well-ranked and recommended eateries in San Jose, currently include dining hotspots like Los Anonos (a Costa Rican steak house), Tin Jo (Asian cuisine from India, Philippines, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam), El Grano de Oro (fusion cuisine), FILO and Terruño (both Argentinean restaurants), Product (Seafood), Bacchus(Italian), Don Wang restaurant (Chinese fare), L’Olivo (Italian) and Antojitos Cancun (a casual Mexican eatery).
Nightlife in San Jose
San Jose pretty much has it all in the way of nightlife. Bars, cigar lounges, sports bars, salsa clubs, pubs, gentlemen’s clubs, LGBT clubs, strip clubs all feature on San Jose’s nightlife arena and the city offers countless options for nocturnal entertainment. Thriving nightspots in San Jose at present include joints like 9*North Cigar Lounge , Antik Restaurant and Bar, Babel Lounge, Bonchinche Bar and Restaurante, Club Dolce, Club Vertigo and the Oservatorio Bar.