So you heard San José is boring and has nothing to offer the tourist? Think again. The ugly reputation about Costa Rica’s capital as being lame for the visitor circulates around hostels all over the country. What people fail to realize, however, is that it takes time to get to know a big city. Offer a city your time and it will open up to you like a flower reaching for the sun.
San José is the heart of Costa Rica with streets and corners from the history’s past and the in-the-making future. Artistic buildings, inviting city parks, grey concrete offices, huge shopping malls and all that it means to be a University city is the blend that creates this Central American capital. Indeed, it took me some time to figure out the sorting of this mix but it didn’t take long to add San José to my favorite capitals- both in Latin America and in the world.
San José has something new to offer in terms of art, culture and events every time I visit. If those things are your sweetest cup of tea, try visiting during February and March for various arts and street festivals. Often when we travel we tend to stay in cities only for a couple of days. Below I share with you some of my San José top activities so that you can get to know the city better, even if you stop by only for the weekend.
Stay in the area called San Pedro, or go there easily by taxi or a cheap bus ride. Participate or simply watch the buzzing student party street Calle la Amargura in central San Pedro, where you’ll find both people and music from all over the world. Note that you will need an ID to get in to most clubs around town.
Grab a city map from the hotel or tourist office down town to learn the street system; it is built in a grid with most streets being one-way streets. Try walking everywhere to get to see as much as possible of the city’s different looking barrios (neighborhoods). Locate the organic food market Fería Verde de Aranjuez north of the city
center in Barrio Escalante, which is easily accessible by foot. Buy environment friendly handicrafts, clothes, foods and more before walking back to Parque España and Parque Morazan for some Saturday activities arranged by Enamorate De Tu Ciudad. The organization offers everything from children’s fun to free yoga and concerts all day.
Check the schedule for San Pedro’s or Escazu’s famous Jazz Café. If you’re lucky some popular salsa band is playing and if your feet are aching it’s fun just to watch the steam on the dance floor! Note, however, that it gets crowded so get there early if you want a seat. This place is pricey but worth it! Besides, you’ve been spending all day doing free stuff in the park and snacking cheap organic food, so why not?
Before going to bed, make sure to stop for a moment or two to breathe in the spectacular city view by night.
San José is located close to the beach with both Jaco and Puntarenas about a 2-3 hours busride away and Josefinos like to go sun bathing during the weekends. Especially on Sundays. Thus, if you want to avoid the crowd catch the bus on Monday instead and spend the day enjoying Costa Rican coffee at the Teatro Nacional Café.
In San José there is always something going on and event information is easy to find. Check out the Tico Times newspaper or sanjosevolando for regular updates.