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San Jose
Travel Guide


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San Jose at a glance

San Jose is the capital of and largest city in Costa Rica. It is located in the geographic centre of the country, and at first glance, seems sprawling and chaotic, but on closer inspection, it proves itself to be a lively city with plenty to amuse every sort of traveler. The approach to San Jose from the air gives visitors an aerial snapshot of the city’s layout, and Costa Rica’s capital is nestled in a high central valley surrounded by volcanic mountain ranges cloaked in lush green vegetation, with the city’s edges creeping up the sides of the foothills. It is one of Latin America’s youngest capital cities, and very few people actually live in the centre, the city being more important as a commercial and economic centre which draws over one million people there to work every day. The metropolitan area of San Jose, which stretches far beyond its dense urban centre, is home to about two million people.

Experiences around San Jose

What not to miss

The city bears the colloquial nickname of Chepe, and it is more a stopover or arrival point for visitors rather than a destination in itself, but for those who chose to spend a day or two in the city, they will be pleasantly surprised. San Jose enjoys a diverse urban landscape characterised by both colonial and Belle Epoch architecture, a bustling city centre and numerous parks, plazas, galleries and museums. One of the most popular neighbourhoods to visit is the historic Barrio Amón, which draws visitors with its colonial mansions, many of which have been converted into contemporary art galleries. Food is the highlight of Barrio Escalante, the city’s mecca of gastronomy. Take a stroll or relax with a picnic in San Jose’s urban lung Parque La Sabana, or check out the Jade Museum, which catalogues Costa Rica’s minerals and precious metals and stones, such as jade and gold. Some other highlights in the city include Central Park, Morazan Park, Spanish Park, National Park and Democracy Plaza. The National Theatre of Costa Rica is also located in San Jose, and is notable for its fantastic architecture and opulent interior. San Jose is also known for its nightlife, and revellers can party the night away in one of the city’s many bars or nightclubs.

Doka Coffee Estate & Poas Volcano Top

An authentic coffee experience to see an active volcano and discover hidden waterfalls. As your journey takes you closer to the Poás volcano you will stop at the Doka Coffee Estate to learn about the secrets of planting, harvesting, washing and drying the world-renowned Golden Coffee Bean of Costa Rica. After a traditional Costa Rican breakfast with of course a freshly ground cup of coffee, you’ll continue your journey to the mighty Poas volcano. As you enter the diverse cloud forest that surrounds the Poas Volcano, considered the largest active crater in the world with frequent geyser-like eruptions. Standing at the edge you’ll see billowing smoke and hear the hiss of sulphur and steam.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens Top

An authentic coffee experience to see an active volcano and discover hidden waterfalls. As your journey takes you closer to the Poás volcano you will stop at the Doka Coffee Estate to learn about the secrets of planting, harvesting, washing and drying the world-renowned Golden Coffee Bean of Costa Rica. After a traditional Costa Rican breakfast with of course a freshly ground cup of coffee, you’ll continue your journey to the mighty Poas volcano. As you enter the diverse cloud forest that surrounds the Poas Volcano, considered the largest active crater in the world with frequent geyser-like eruptions. Standing at the edge you’ll see billowing smoke and hear the hiss of sulphur and steam.
This is a once in a lifetime experience and adventure as you head towards the Caribbean side of the volcano, where you will stop at the famous La Paz Waterfall Gardens; a nature park where you will walk along the spectacular trails which will lead you to 5 different waterfalls of which the White Magic Waterfall is the most spectacular in this area. Inside the park you will also visit the largest butterfly observatory in the country that is known as the House of Collections of Tropical Jewels and the impressive hummingbird gallery, serpentarium, the tropical bird house, the frog’s exhibit and the wild cats, which all make for a perfect introduction to the Costa Rican wildlife.

Organic Coffee Tour at Finca Rosa Blanca Top

This experience teaches you all about Costa Rican gourmet coffee history and culture – on how coffee was discovered, traded and consumed – while visiting the organic sustainable coffee plantation of the Finca Rosa Blanca. You will stroll the lanes of the organic sustainable coffee plantation and learn the entire process of organic cultivation and harvest, including participating in the picking of coffee during the harvest season (Oct- Jan.) Then you will be taken through the processing of coffee, including cleaning the berries and drying the coffee, ending with roasting your own coffee in the Finca Rosa Blanca’s Roasting and Packing House. You learn how the experts discern and rate gourmet coffee by participating in a professional coffee tasting session known as “coffee cupping”, with the famous Barista and Tour Guide Leo Vergnani.

Fast Facts on San José

USEFUL TRAVELER INFORMATION

This section is a quick overview to help in planning your trip to San José.

When to go

San José enjoys warm weather with a refreshing breeze all year round. The rainy season runs between mid-April and December, with August to October being the wettest months. However, there are fewer tourists during this period and it is a more economical time to travel. Daytime temperatures generally sit between 70°F and 80°F (21°C to 27°C), while evening temperatures drop and the nights can get a little chilly, so make sure to bring some layers. The best, if busiest, time to visit San Jose is around the Christmas holidays, when the local festive cheer is in full swing with the Festival de la Luz and Las Fiestas de Zapote.

How to get there

San Jose’s airport, Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría, receives all international and domestic flights. Buses are the most common way to get around San Jose, but the bus system feels to tourists like it is designed to confuse. There is no central terminal and no public bus system, instead there are private carriers that operate different routes across the city. If you aren’t in the mood for navigating the bus system, hail a red taxi on the street. There are many buses leaving from San Jose to the most popular destinations in Costa Rica, as well as to lesser known locations.

Infrastructure

San Jose has every type of accommodation under the sun, from comfortable B&Bs to luxurious boutique hotels and family run eco lodges. Go back in time by staying at one of the hotels downtown that are housed in converted and beautifully restored old mansions, where you will be close to all the city’s museums, restaurants, cafes and the best nightlife spots. If you’re just using San Jose as a stopover, it may be more convenient to stay in Alajuela, a town located just minutes from the international airport. Foodies will also be pleased with San Jose’s culinary offerings, which range from street food to high-end restaurants. These upscale restaurants are usually busy at weekends, so make sure and reserve a table.

Tour Packages to San José

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