San José & Surrounds
Discover the historic neighbourhoods, art galleries, museums and restaurants of the capital city.
San José & Surrounds
Most trips either start or end in San José, the bustling capital city of Costa Rica. Home to about a third of the population, a night here will give you a chance to immerse yourself in everyday Costa Rican culture.
The largest city in Costa Rica is surrounded by impressive scenery of volcanoes and jagged mountains. It has a unique combination of modern low-rise buildings and a selection of older colonial buildings and whilst not terribly impressive at first glance, scratch beneath the surface and discover quaint local neighbourhoods, markets and galleries.
Highlights of San José:
- Teatro National (National Theatre) – This 19th century building is probably the city’s most beautiful. Soak up the atmosphere with a coffee at the theatre’s café before heading off to your next sightseeing spot.
- Meseo de Jade (Jade Museum) – Lose yourself in this magnificent collection of almost 7000 jade artefacts, created by Costa Rica’s indigenous people.
- Barrio Amón – This historic neighbourhood is home to a small number of mansions built in the late 19th and early 20th Many of these historic buildings have been converted into hotels, offices, galleries and even restaurants. This is a great area to explore.
- Museo de Oro Precolombino (Pre-Columbian Gold Museum) – This underground museum hosts a superb collection of Costa Rica’s priceless pre-Columbian gold artefacts – a delight to behold. The building is shared with the Museo de Numismática which houses a collection of historic Costa Rican coins.
- Coffee Plantations – Use San José as a base and travel short distances to see nearby attractions. Take a day trip out to visit a coffee plantation and perhaps take in the sights of nearby towns such as Grecia (renowned for its architecture and the unique red steel church of the Lady of Mercy) and Sarchi (where the famous oxcarts are built).
- Poás Volcano – Just over an hour from San José this popular site doesn’t involve any arduous hiking or steep inclines. Roads lead up close to the crater and end within a few hundred metres of the viewing points. The bottom of the crater is covered by a beautiful bubbling blue/green lake with pockets of steam rising to the surface.
- Stay outside the city – Immerse yourself in the hilltop hideaway with landscaped gardens, coffee estates and cloudforest all within easy reach, yet you are based just 30 minutes outside of San José.
When to Visit San José:
Whilst Costa Rica does have a dry and a rainy season, San José can be visited all year round. The climate here is a little cooler than the coast but daily temperatures range from low to upper 20°C.
For extra atmosphere plan your visit to coincide with a celebration such as the Festival of Light in December.
Get more advice about when to travel to Costa Rica on our When to Visit page.
Where to Stay in San José:
Like most cities San José has an array of accommodation from back packers to boutique hotels. Some of the hotels based outside the city also offer a great base for visiting surrounding attractions.
Trapp Family Country Inn (Alajuela)