European charm and Central American vitality combine to provide an interesting blend of old and new, making San José a fascinating Costa Rican city. Interact with friendly locals, investigate impressive European architecture, enjoy cultural arts and perfect your Spanish language skills.

Several of San José’s impressive public structures date back to Spanish settlement from as early as the 1700s. Experience some of the best of San José ’s cultural activities and see interesting buildings near the large Plaza de la Cultura. Here, admire the neo-classical architecture of the Teatro Nacional. Reserve seats for outstanding cultural events at this national theater or tour the opulent interior decorated with murals, paintings and sculptures.

Nearby, visit three exceptional museums. See dazzling indigenous pieces in the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. The Museo del Jade has plenty of jade as well as anthropological artifacts. Learn about Costa Rican history and natural science at the Museo Nacional, another example of striking architecture.

Costa Rica is a popular location for language learners looking for immersion in a Spanish-speaking region, either through formal training or casual interaction with local residents. Sign up for one of many structured programs or test your Spanish skills in restaurants in the different barrios of San José.

You’re sure to get a friendly smile if you order gallo pinto (rice and beans) for breakfast just as the locals do. When you need a break from Spanish, go to the restaurants and country clubs of the western Escasu barrio with many English-speaking expats or visit the relatively new Chinatown area.

In March, the city hosts the Transitarte Festival. Enjoy pleasant summer weather and travel from one urban park to another to enjoy music, crafts, workshops and art.

Reach San José via Juan Santamaría International Airport, 10 miles (17 kilometers) northwest of the city center. Use public buses and taxis to get around the city. Many of the main landmarks are in the downtown or “el centro” area, easy to walk from one to another.

Known for

Cafes, Museums and Volcanoes

Explore map

Where to stay in San Jose

San José
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Trover photo by Ryan de los Reyes

San José

San José is a welcoming neighborhood.

Hospital
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Hospital

Hospital is a welcoming neighborhood.

Amón
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Trover photo by Garrett Britton

Amón

Amón is a welcoming neighborhood.

Chinatown
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Trover photo by Krystalvation

Chinatown

Friendly People, Walking, Shopping

Chinatown is a welcoming neighborhood. The neighborhood's architecture and friendly people are just a couple of its charming qualities.

Santa Teresa
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Trover photo by David Vinkenroye

Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa is a welcoming neighborhood.

Merced
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Trover photo by Krystalvation

Merced

Merced is a welcoming neighborhood.

Top Hotels in San Jose

Estimated price for 1 night / 2 adults
Image for Barceló San José
Barceló San José
4 out of 5
Autopista General Canas 3km, San Jose
$87/night
Aug 11 - Aug 12
4.2/5Excellent! (1,873 reviews)

"Awesome hotel with all amenities: tennis court, Raquel all/squash courts, gym, pool! I had to come back in my last night! The breakfast is superb! and the staff is wonderful! It is an excellent deal!!!!"…"

Reviewed on Jul 15, 2019

Barceló San José
Image for Park Inn By Radisson San Jose
Park Inn By Radisson San Jose
3.5 out of 5
Ave. 6, Calle 28, San Jose
$79/night
Jul 27 - Jul 28
4.4/5Excellent! (864 reviews)

"Very nice place, convenient, and they had laundry on site - very nice to have. BEDS are very uncomfortable and they also gave us a key to a room that was already occupied. Overall, good place but the staff was disorganized. They also didn't have our breakfast to go boxes which we had ordered the ..."…"

Reviewed on Jul 8, 2019

Park Inn By Radisson San Jose
Image for Wyndham San Jose Herradura Hotel & Convention Center
Wyndham San Jose Herradura Hotel & Convention Center
4 out of 5
Autopista General Canas, Ciudad Cariari
$81/night
Jul 27 - Jul 28
3.9/5Very Good! (1,984 reviews)

"Convenient and staff is very friendly. Good choice of places to eat."…"

Reviewed on Jul 15, 2019

Wyndham San Jose Herradura Hotel & Convention Center

Popular things to do in San Jose

Poas Volcano National Park
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Poas Volcano National Park

Explore the great outdoors with a trip to Poas Volcano National Park, a popular green space in Toro Amarillo. Discover the area's volcano viewpoints and waterfalls.

Top activities in San Jose

Day Trip to Tortuga Island with world famous Calypso Cruise
Image for Day Trip to Tortuga Island with world famous Calypso Cruise

Day Trip to Tortuga Island with world famous Calypso Cruise

$135

Feel your worries float away in the breeze during a guided cruise across the Gulf of Nicoya to Isla Tortuga. This full-day getaway invites you to relax on the beach and snorkel or participate in an exhilarating banana boat ride before indulging in a 4-course lunch with fresh fruit and soft drinks.

Guided Cartago, Irazu Volcano & Orosi Hot Springs Tour with Lunch
Image for Guided Cartago, Irazu Volcano & Orosi Hot Springs Tour with Lunch

Guided Cartago, Irazu Volcano & Orosi Hot Springs Tour with Lunch

$147

Leave the city of San Jose behind to explore Costa Rica’s stunning natural surroundings and smaller townships. Visit the impressive basilica in Cartago, gaze down into the steaming crater of the Irazu Volcano, and feel rejuvenated with a dip in Orosi's refreshing hot springs.

Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee Estate & La Paz Waterfall Gardens Tour
Image for Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee Estate & La Paz Waterfall Gardens Tour

Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee Estate & La Paz Waterfall Gardens Tour

$140

Explore the outdoor wonders near San Jose with a full-day excursion to Poas National Park's blackened crater, an award-winning coffee plantation, and the towering 121-foot (37-m) La Paz Waterfall. Led by knowledgeable guides, discover the area's unspoiled natural beauty.

6-in-1 Rainforest Eco-Adventure
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6-in-1 Rainforest Eco-Adventure

$99

Combine a litany of daring rainforest eco-adventures into one experience—ziplining, crossing a hanging bridge, riding the aerial canopy tram, and going for a guided nature walk to see the butterfly and frogs garden.

Tortuga Island Cruise & Beach Day
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Tortuga Island Cruise & Beach Day

$138

Step aboard a boat at Puntarenas for a scenic cruise across the Gulf of Nicoya. Hop off at Tortuga Island for an afternoon swimming, snorkeling, and lounging on the white sands of this exotic destination, and enjoy a delicious Costa Rican lunch prepared by your crew.

City Exploration
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City Exploration

$69

Soak up the laid-back vibe and lifestyle of the ticos (natives of Costa Rica) in San Jose—Costa Rica’s friendly capital city, called “Chepe” by the locals. Explore the city's historic architecture, quirky neighborhoods, and emerging art scene during a half-day guided tour.

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