San Jose, Costa Rica

Capital City & International Airport

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San Jose, Costa Rica

Visiting San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and found in the Central Valley.  It has become a modern, cosmopolitan city and is presently home a third of the country’s entire population. This Latin American city is a pleasant place to live, and many foreigners have settled in the neighboring areas and suburbs. Popular places to live include Escazu and Santa Ana, on the west side of the city. Many also choose to live in Heredia, a suburb located in the mountains where it is evidently cooler and rainier. 

Home to the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), San Jose is also a great landing point for tourists. Many even choose to stay and explore the many museums, cultural spots and exciting bars and restaurants that the city has to offer. 

San Jose Costa Rica Map

Highlights

Plaza de la Cultura

San Jose Private CIty tour National TheatreThe city of San Jose  grew around its main plaza, La Plaza de la Cultura. The plaza is always busy with Ticos heading to and from work or shopping on Central Avenue. The Gold Museum, National Museum, Jade Museum and the National Theater are located within walking distance of the plaza. 

Avenida Central

san jose la cholaClose to Plaza de la Cultura you will find Avenida Central which is a pedestrian shopping street that eventually leads to the Central Market. You will see venders and street performers everywhere. Walk down the avenue and buy unique indigenous herbs and remedies, souvenirs, and typical food.  

Pre-Columbian Gold Museum

top museums in san jose goldenFound underneath Plaza de la Cultura, the Gold Museum is home to over 1600 pre-columbian pieces of art dating back to 500 AD. An ethnographic collection of over 100 objects can also be found, including textiles. Near the end of the exhibit, you can also learn about the history of money in Costa Rica and see historical coins and bills. 

National Museum

National MuseumThe National Museum is located inside the Bellavista Fortress, built in 1917. The museum is full of exhibits and you’ll spend hours exploring and learning about Costa Rica’s colonial, archeological, geological, religious and modern history. Finish your tour at the top of the museum where you get a great view of the entire city. 

Jade Museum

top museums in san jose jade museumWith over 7000 pieces to see, the Jade Museum contains the largest collection of pre-columbian jade artifacts in the world. The museum is split into six exhibits that show the history of jade and its cultural, economic and religious uses throughout history. The museum is easy to find from Central Avenue. Bring your Spanish-English dictionary, most of the displays are in Spanish.

Lankester Botanical Garden

Costa Rica orchidLocated on the eastern side of the city, the Lancaster Botanical Gardens are owned by the University of Costa Rica and used for orchid research in Central America. It is open to the public and you’ll find tourists, locals and photographers alike taking photos of the beautiful orchids inside. You’ll also find 3000 species of other plants during your tour. 

Nightlife

Grand Casino EscazuFrom casinos to dance clubs to high-end roof-top bars, to breweries to  sports bars, you can find it all in San Jose. Try Barrio Escalante, near down town San Jose for great artisanal drinks and unique eateries. For a younger party scene you can try Barrio California. Don’t forget to try a Chiliguaro! 

Shopping

Costa Rica Souvenirs ShoppingThere is no shortage of great shopping in San Jose. Try Avenida Central (Central Avenue) for traditional Costa Rican souvenirs, local “ferias” (farmer’s markets) for fresh produce and Avenida Escazu for more high-end shopping or any of the several multi-plazas for clothes, food, sports gear and even movie tickets. 

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

La Paz Waterfall Gardens The Peace LodgeOnly an hour and half from San Jose, visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens which feature 5 different waterfalls, bird watching, hiking through the rainforest and butterfly observatory. La Paz is a great day trip from San Jose before you head to the coasts or mountains. 

Volcanos 

Poas Volcano National ParkVisit one of the many nearby volcanos during your stay in San Jose include the Poas, Irazu, Barva and Turrialba Volcanos, all of which are within two hours of the city. Most are easily accessible and offer easy to moderate hikes. Check the weather before you go so you can be sure to get a clear view!

Tips

Visit December-April: You’ll find the best, spring-like weather in San Jose between December and April. 

Use Uber or official taxis: Uber is a great, affordable way to get around San Jose. If you are using taxis, make sure to use the official red taxis with yellow triangles. 

Take a city tour: Sign up for a San Jose city tour to see all the major highlights in one afternoon. 

Watch for pick-pockets: Keep you belongings close to you, don’t carry large amounts of cash or valuables when walking around the town. 

Dress like a local: Don’t wear beach clothes in the city and walk in close-toed shoes. Beach clothing like shorts and flip-flops make you stand out as a tourist and open-toed shoes can be dangerous on the city sidewalks. 

Don’t walk alone at night: San Jose is considered one of the safest cities in Latin America, but it is still a large city. Take an Uber or a taxi at night. 

Getting There

Closest International Airport: Juan Santamaria (SJO)

Costa Rica ShuttlesGetting to San Jose from the Juan Santamaria airport is quick and easy. You can chose private transfer, shuttle or rental car. The center of the city is only about 30 minutes away!

Dining

Nightlife in Costa RicaWith restaurants that feature flavors from all over the world, you’ll have no problem finding delicious places to eat in San Jose. For higher-end dining, we recommend Escazu or Santa Ana. There you can find exquisite restaurants like Andiamo La (Italian food, Santa Ana) or La Divina Comida (Latin food, Escazu). 

For a younger, gastronomic vibe, visit Barrio Escalante. You’ll find everything from traditional Costa Rican casados to unique Latin-Asian fusion. 

For your breakfast, make sure to try Gallo Pinto! The delicious, national dish of Costa Rica.

Where to Stay

Xandari Resort and Spa Hotel San Jose ViewWhether you’re looking for an affordable, quiet lodge or an extravagant, all-inclusive resort, San Jose has any type of hotel you need.

The western suburbs of Santa Ana and Belen are where you can find some of the most luxurious hotels like the Marriot, Real InterContinental, and Hotel Doubletree Cariari.  If you prefer to stay in the center of town, you have many options. For example, the Holiday Inn Aurola Hotel and the Barcelo San Jose Palacio. All-inclusive resorts include the Hotel Grano de Oro, the Hotel Don Carlos, or the Hotel Alta in Santa Ana. 

San Jose, Costa Rica - Get Info

San Jose, Costa Rica Map

Located in the Central Valley, San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and home to more than a third of the population.

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San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica

Visiting San Jose, Costa Rica San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and found in the Central Valley.  It has become a modern, cosmopolitan city and is presently home a thir...

San Jose, Costa Rica Vacation Packages

Let us help you plan the perfect vacation to Costa Rica. Choose one of our custom vacation packages today. 

Caribbean Dream with Manuel Antonio

Caribbean Dream with Manuel Antonio

12
SJO
$1500-$2000 p.p.
Caribbean Dream Extended Stay

Caribbean Dream Extended Stay

16
SJO
Extended Costa Rica Highlights

Extended Costa Rica Highlights

20
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Costa Ballena Exploration

Costa Ballena Exploration

9
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Extended Stay

Extended Stay

13
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Extended Nicoya Peninsula Adventure

Extended Nicoya Peninsula Adventure

8
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Best of Birding in Costa Rica’s Caribbean

Best of Birding in Costa Rica’s Caribbean

SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Birding in Costa Rica’s Top Three Destinations

Birding in Costa Rica’s Top Three Destinations

SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Full Board Birding Trip!

Full Board Birding Trip!

8
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Best of Birding in Costa Rica Paradise

Best of Birding in Costa Rica Paradise

SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Best of Birding

Best of Birding

8
SJO
$1500-$2000 p.p.
Nature Birding Tour

Nature Birding Tour

10
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Active Family Adventure – Family Vacation to Costa Rica

Active Family Adventure – Family Vacation to Costa Rica

7
SJO
Less than $1000 p.p.
Best of Costa Rica

Best of Costa Rica

7
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Caribbean Dream

Caribbean Dream

SJO
Coast to Coast

Coast to Coast

SJO
Luxury Family Getaway

Luxury Family Getaway

7
SJO
Less than $1000 p.p.
Costa Rica’s Top Three Destinations

Costa Rica’s Top Three Destinations

SJO
$1500-$2000 p.p.
Two Oceans & A Volcano

Two Oceans & A Volcano

$1000-$1500 p.p.
Caribbean Fusion – A Costa Rica Caribbean Vacation

Caribbean Fusion – A Costa Rica Caribbean Vacation

8
SJO
$1000-$1500 p.p.
Nicoya Peninsula Adventure

Nicoya Peninsula Adventure

7
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Pacific & Caribbean Combo

Pacific & Caribbean Combo

10
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Perfect Combination with Corcovado

Perfect Combination with Corcovado

SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Romantic Adventure Experience

Romantic Adventure Experience

10
$1000-$1500 p.p.
Unforgettable Costa Rica

Unforgettable Costa Rica

7
SJO
Less than $1000 p.p.
Yoga in the Caribbean

Yoga in the Caribbean

SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Volcano & Beaches of Nicoya

Volcano & Beaches of Nicoya

SJO
Less than $1000 p.p.
Wellness, Yoga & Surf Vacation in Paradise!

Wellness, Yoga & Surf Vacation in Paradise!

SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Surfin’ Safari – Costa Rica Surf Vacation

Surfin’ Safari – Costa Rica Surf Vacation

7
Less than $1000 p.p.
Away from the Crowds

Away from the Crowds

SJO
$1000-$1500 p.p.
Caribbean Jungle Exploration

Caribbean Jungle Exploration

7
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Caribbean Eco-Adventure

Caribbean Eco-Adventure

8
SJO
$1000-$1500 p.p.
Caribbean Exploration Tour

Caribbean Exploration Tour

SJO
$1500-$2000 p.p.
Complete Costa Rica Extended

Complete Costa Rica Extended

SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Escape to Nature

Escape to Nature

SJO
$1500-$2000 p.p.
Extended Coast to Coast

Extended Coast to Coast

SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Extended Costa Rica Southern Package

Extended Costa Rica Southern Package

SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Jungle Jaunt – Costa Rica Jungle Vacation

Jungle Jaunt – Costa Rica Jungle Vacation

8
SJO
$1000-$1500 p.p.
Nature & Wildlife in Costa Rica!

Nature & Wildlife in Costa Rica!

SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are

7
SJO
$1500-$2000 p.p.
Costa Rica’s Seventh Heaven

Costa Rica’s Seventh Heaven

7
SJO
$1000-$1500 p.p.
Dancing with Quetzals

Dancing with Quetzals

11
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Tarpon Fishing on Costa Rica’s Caribbean

Tarpon Fishing on Costa Rica’s Caribbean

6
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Dream Fishing Trip at Los Sueños

Dream Fishing Trip at Los Sueños

7
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Birding in Costa Rica’s Eco-Zones

Birding in Costa Rica’s Eco-Zones

11
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Costa Rica’s Top Birding Spots

Costa Rica’s Top Birding Spots

11
SJO
The Southern Highlands & Pacific

The Southern Highlands & Pacific

9
SJO
$1500-$2000 p.p.
Birding in Costa Rica’s Northern Zone

Birding in Costa Rica’s Northern Zone

11
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Birding in Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula

Birding in Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula

11
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Caribbean Lowlands Birding Tour

Caribbean Lowlands Birding Tour

11
SJO
More than $2000 p.p.
Costa Rica Relocation with Christopher Howard and Stay in Punta Leona

Costa Rica Relocation with Christopher Howard and Stay in Punta Leona

7
SJO
$1500-$2000 p.p.
Costa Rica Relocation with Christopher Howard

Costa Rica Relocation with Christopher Howard

5
SJO
$1500-$2000 p.p.

San Jose, Costa Rica Hotels

With dozens of options to choose from, you are sure to find the perfect hotel for you and your family in San Jose. 

Courtyard Marriott Alajuela

Courtyard Marriott Alajuela

3
4
From: $125 - $200
Courtyard Marriott

Courtyard Marriott

3
4
From: $125 - $200
Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn

4
5
From: $125 - $200
Hotel Alta las Palomas

Hotel Alta las Palomas

4
From: $200 - $300
Residence Inn

Residence Inn

4
3
From: $200 - $300
Barceló San José

Barceló San José

5
3
From: $200 - $300
Gran Hotel Costa Rica, Curio Collection by Hilton

Gran Hotel Costa Rica, Curio Collection by Hilton

4
4
From: Under $125
Hampton Inn

Hampton Inn

4
2
From: $125 - $200
Hilton Garden Inn

Hilton Garden Inn

3
From: $125 - $200
Holiday Inn Aurola

Holiday Inn Aurola

4
4
From: $125 - $200
Hotel Don Carlos

Hotel Don Carlos

3
2
From: Under $125
Hotel Grano de Oro

Hotel Grano de Oro

4
5
From: $200 - $300
Hotel Presidente

Hotel Presidente

3
4
From: Under $125
Hotel Tryp Sabana

Hotel Tryp Sabana

4
4
From: $125 - $200
Marriott Costa Rica

Marriott Costa Rica

5
From: $200 - $300
Park Inn

Park Inn

4
3
From: $125 - $200
Studio Hotel

Studio Hotel

5
From: $125 - $200
Hotel Auténtico

Hotel Auténtico

3
From: Under $125

San Jose, Costa Rica Tours

Hike volcanos, go zip lining, swim beneath waterfalls and spot wildlife! All easily-accessible from San Jose. 

Britt Coffee Lovers Tour

Britt Coffee Lovers Tour

3
From: Under $50
Rainforest Aerial Tram

Rainforest Aerial Tram

From: $75 - $100
Lankester Botanical Garden – Nature at its Finest!

Lankester Botanical Garden – Nature at its Finest!

Ram Luna

Ram Luna

From: Under $50
San Jose Private City Tour

San Jose Private City Tour

From: $50 - $75
6-in-1-Tour with Rainforest Adventure

6-in-1-Tour with Rainforest Adventure

Aerial Tram with Rainforest Adventure

Aerial Tram with Rainforest Adventure

Whitewater Rafting on Pacuare River with Exploradores Outdoors

Whitewater Rafting on Pacuare River with Exploradores Outdoors

San José City Bus Tour with VIP

San José City Bus Tour with VIP

Tortuga Island Cruise with Calypso

Tortuga Island Cruise with Calypso

The best of Doka, Grecia & Sarchí (Oxcart factory) with Expediciones Tropicales

The best of Doka, Grecia & Sarchí (Oxcart factory) with Expediciones Tropicales

Orosi Valley & Lankester Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Orosi Valley & Lankester Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee Plantation & La Paz Waterfall Gardens with Expediciones Tropicales

Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee Plantation & La Paz Waterfall Gardens with Expediciones Tropicales

Arenal Volcano & Tabacon Hot Springs Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Arenal Volcano & Tabacon Hot Springs Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Doka Coffee & La Paz Waterfall Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Doka Coffee & La Paz Waterfall Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Irazu Volcano, Orosi Valley & Lankester Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Irazu Volcano, Orosi Valley & Lankester Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee Plantation, Grecia & Sarchi Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee Plantation, Grecia & Sarchi Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Rain Forest Adventure 3 in 1 with Expediciones Tropicales

Rain Forest Adventure 3 in 1 with Expediciones Tropicales

Ram Luna Viewpoint with Expediciones Tropicales

Ram Luna Viewpoint with Expediciones Tropicales

La Paz Waterfall Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

La Paz Waterfall Gardens Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

San Jose City Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

San Jose City Tour with Expediciones Tropicales

Discover San José City Tour

Discover San José City Tour

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