San Jose

San Jose is one of the most cosmopolitan of Central American capitals, and is also one of the safest. While most people use it simply as a base to explore the more beautiful and interesting regions of Costa Rica, the capital does offer some elegant buildings, good dining and well-regarded museums. San Jose is the transport hub of the country, and many well-priced and exciting tours begin and end here.


Museo de Jade – the Museum of Jade is Costa Rica’s most famous museum, and houses the world’s largest collection of American jade. You can also see archaeological exhibits. Its position on the 11th floor of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros offers amazing views of the city.

Mercado Central – this market is a bustling and crowded place which has a large variety of produce, from live animals to leather and clothes. You can also buy cheap traditional meals here.

Teatro Nacional – the national theatre is a highly impressive building, and is very important in Costa Rican culture. Regular performances can be seen, or visit to take in the large art collection, and the splendid décor.

Parque Zoologico Simon Bolivar – at the small national zoo you will be able to see many of Costa Rica’s exotic animals and plants.

Organised tours – there are a huge range of exciting organised tours that can be arranged from the capital. These vary from day excursions to jungles, rivers and national parks, or two/three night trips to beaches and rainforests further afield. Some of the most popular trips include visits to La Paz Waterfall, Braulio Carillo National Park, Volcan Arenal and white-water rafting on the Rio Pacuare.


San Jose is a good place to find souvenirs and craft shops, although they tend to be quite pricey. Popular goods include jewellery, hammocks and wood carvings. For those after a day of serious shopping, head to the suburb Moravia where prices are more reasonable, or to the village of Sarchi, where many handicrafts are produced.

Nightlife and Eating Out

San Jose has a cosmopolitan selection of restaurants, with the usual staples of Italian, Chinese and French, with less common Peruvian and Middle Eastern eateries. The city is quite an expensive place to eat, as restaurants add a hefty 23% tax to your bill. For the best places, head to neighbourhoods Escazú and San Pedro. For snacks and quick bites, the centre is your best bet.

Nightlife in San Jose is very varied, but there is a wide range of bars, clubs and live music venues. Students and trendy youngsters head to San Pedro and Los Yoses, where many bars can be found.

Tourist Information

Insituto Costarricense de TurismoPlaza de la CulturaAvenida 0/2Tel: +506


Most international flights arrive at the new terminal at the Juan Santamaria International Airport, which is located 17km northwest of San Jose. Most international airlines fly to San Jose, mostly via the USA.