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.
Cafes, Museums and Volcanoes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.