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Travel Guide: Things To Do In San Jose

  • butterfly-san jose guide

San Jose Costa Rica is your international gateway to the city. Most locals work in the city so the streets and traffic can be quite busy. The 3 cities of San Jose, Alajuela, and Heredia are located in the Central Valley. You should have a good view as you fly into the Juan Santa Maria Airport of the cities.

As a hub, San Jose is a great starting point to take in some local culture & history for a day or two.

travel guide things to do in san jose costa rica

—Here is my travel guide for things to do in San Jose—

aerial view of san jose costa rica
aerial view of the city

Getting Around San Jose

Inca gold figures
Inca gold figures from the museum

Getting around San Jose is pretty easy. You can walk during the day along the main streets visiting the local restaurants, bars, and shopping stores. Taking a bus is a very inexpensive way, however, you will need to know some Spanish and have local currency for the fare.

Taxis are available throughout the city and easy to flag down. You can find them lined up at different locations as well as at the bus terminals. If you don’t see one in sight just wait as they always travel along the streets. Taxis that are looking for customers should have a sign in their window “libre” meaning free (for hire). Just put your arm out and they will stop for you in a safe location.

You can read more about taking a taxi in Costa Rica here. Uber is also another option which only runs in San Jose. It isn’t legalized yet but a cheaper alternative.

Travel tip: Never walk the streets at night by yourself. We recommend always taking a taxi or Uber to be safe.

Always take the main roads and stay away from streets that look a little sketchy.

Keep your purse or bags insight and close by at all times. Tourists stand out so wear appropriate clothing such as a t-shirt and long pants.

Things to Do In San Jose

National Museum of Costa Rica
National Museum

Museums & Theatre

The National Museum once a fortress for the military was turned into a museum in 1950.

Hours: 8:30 am – 4:30 pm (Tues-Sat), 9:00 am – 4:30 pm (Sunday)

National Theatre in Costa Rica is a favorite place to watch live performances or take a tour to see its stunning architecture.

Hours: 8:00 am -5:00pm (Monday-Friday)

Jade Museum has a large display of artifacts & pieces of jade.

Hours: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (Monday-Sunday)

City Tour

Taking a tour of San Jose city can be done on foot or by using the hop on hop off bus tour. Both are great options depending on your mobility. By taking a tour at your leisure, you can stop at one of the local restaurants for some Costa Rica cuisine.

Need a Starbucks fix? If you’re from North America we have these in a lot of cities. One is located in San Jose close to the theatre.

Where to eat in San Jose

Restaurante El Patio del Balmoral – good food serving Italian, Costa Rican dishes, Vegan, Gluten free, and vegetarian options.

La Casona Tipica – local food with authentic atmosphere. Try the casado which is a mix of rice, beans, meat choice, and veggies or salad.

Restaurante Ram Luna – International, Costa Rican, and gluten free options with a great view (you’ll need a car to get there). Arrive before sunset so you can enjoy the view.

Restaurante Silvestre – Internation, Costa Rican dishes, Vegan, Gluten free & vegetarian friendly. Located in what use to be an old mansion owned by coffee barons.

Day tours from San Jose

dried coffee beans in costa rica
dried coffee beans

There are lots of day tours from San Jose you can do during your stay from seeing the Poas or Irazu Volcanos to visiting Doka Coffee Plantation in the mountains or an exciting zip line combo tour.

Where to Stay In San Jose

Grano de Oro:  

A unique boutique hotel downtown close to shopping, museums, and restaurants. This hotel has an on-site restaurant, hop on hop off bus tour at the door, cute outdoor cafe seating in a courtyard, and outdoor jacuzzi on the rooftop.

Holiday Inn Aurola: Within walking distance to the National Theatre & Museums. All rooms have great views of the city or volcanoes from a distance. This hotel has an on-site restaurant & bar, indoor pool with jacuzzi, and banquet halls for business meetings or events.

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About the Author:

Laurie Johnson is travel writer, agent, and founder of Pura Vida Vacations. She finds her inspirations from travelling of the beaten path, meeting the locals, and sharing her travel stories, reviews, and tips with her readers.

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