"San Jose" San José Costa Rica by caminoreal

San José Costa Rica Travel Guide: 10 reviews and 5 photos

I love San Jose!

San Jose, the capital city, is crowded and congested and full of traffic noise and fumes. But it is also beautiful. I could step out of my hotel and look one way up the street and see a volcano; look the other way and see another mountain range across the central valley.
I walked around downtown at all hours of the day and night and was never bothered by anyone. The only time I was even approached by a panhandler was in the middle of the morning, not at night.
Of course, you should be cautious in any city anywhere,and many local people will warn you it's not safe to walk around downtown, especially at night. But I feel as safe if not safer in San Jose than in my home town in the U.S.
In fact, one of my favorite pastimes in San Jose is just walking around downtown and on the outskirts. OK, so I don't walk around much in Barrio Mexico, but in Amon and Otoya and el centro I have walked many miles in my three two-week visits so far this year.
The Mercado Central is worth a jaunt. Plan to eat lunch there, Tico style, in one of the many food cafes, ice-cream bars, etc., inside the colorful market.
Stroll thorugh Parques Morazan and Espana, two small but beautifully kept parks downtown, and visit the Plaza de cultura, a short walk further west along the downtown pedestrian mall, Avenida Central.

There are a lot of day-trips available from San Jose on which you can see many of Costa Rica's natural wonders. But the city is worth spending time in as well.

It's a City of Parks

Parque Sabana in west San Jose is the city's largest, but the whole city is checkered with small, but beautiful parks that are great places to stroll or to sit and watch people, feed birds or just enjoy Costa Rica's wonderful weather.
Parques Morazan and Espana, in the center of downtown, are two of my favorites. There are numerous other small parks that cover a city block or less downtown, and even more in the suburbs.

Mingle. Take the bus.

You can take buses very cheaply in Costa Rica, no matter whether you are just traveling around San Jose or heading to one of the coastal resort towns.
You can pay $120 for a van to take you from San Jose, in the central valley, to Jaco, the closest west-coast beach town. Or you can take a bus for about $3 each way. And there are several buses each way each day.
I took taxis frequently on my first few visits, but once I started riding municipal buses I learned my way around the city very quickly, even with my meager Spanish skills.
There are many pretty places -- Cartago, for example -- you can reach by bus for one-day excursions. Go see the beautiful cathedral at Cartago for a round trip bus fare of less than $3.
The difficulty is knowing where to catch buses for specific destinations. Costa Rican buses don't all operate from one central depot, although the Coca Cola bus terminal is where the Jaco buses depart. Just ask around where to catch the bus for wherever you wish to visit.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Friendly people, great restaurants and shopping
  • Cons:Traffic and fumes, and a few scary neighborhoods at night
  • Last visit to San José Costa Rica: Sep 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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