Every blog I read brushed off San Jose. Main complaints were that it’s dirty, crowded and a waste of time.
…I disagree. Don’t come for me, internet!
I had such a great time in San Jose. That said, I can see why some tend to write it off. If you come to Costa Rica as a tourist, what you’ll find in San Jose is probably far from the reason you came here. No beaches, no national parks, and traffic for days.
But I hope you give San Jose a chance. I really enjoyed the three nights I spent there, and would happily return!
Table of Contents
1. Visit the museums
The biggest draw in San Jose has to be the museums. They’re fantastic. The Pre-Colombian Gold Museum, the Jade Museum and the National Museum of Costa Rica are all within walking distance. You’ll need some form of transportation to get to the Costa Rican Art Museum, but that’s the only main museum that’s a bit out of the way.
The collections are incredible. The Jade Museum (a personal favorite) has the largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts in the world! This is what I mean when I say folks are missing out by skipping San Jose!
2. Take a half-day trip and tour a volcano
You have a few options when choosing which volcano to visit. Poás Volcano was on my list, but it was acting up a bit during my visit, so I opted for the Irazú Volcano. On a clear day, the view is amazing.
If you’re short on time, check out the Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna. A good tour will include a dip in the nearby hot springs, which are a huge draw. I highly recommend spending at least one night in La Fortuna, but if you’re pressed for days, a day trip is fine.
3. Be part of an event
There is always something going on in San Jose. I stumbled into El Tope Nacional, or the National Horse Parade on December 26th and the San Jose Carnival on the 27th. It was so much fun!
There’s something to be said for the joy seeing a local event go down can bring. Site seeing is a delight, but being able to witness a city-wide event? Bliss.
Costa Rica keeps an event page going so you can see what’ll be going on when you’re in town.
4. Walk through a park
There are quite a few delightful parks dotted throughout the city (and one inside the National Museum!). Grab a snack to go from a local soda, sit back and people watch for a bit. Since Costa Rica experiences rain year round (even in the dry season) you’re guaranteed a pretty park.
5. Stop by Cartago
Fun fact, Cartago was once the capital of Costa Rica. It’s not too far a drive from San Jose. In fact, some tours will throw in a stop in addition to whatever day trip you may have booked. A highlight of the city is the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles, or Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels. It was built in 1639, survived an earthquake, and has a stunning, almost glowing interior.
I hope this post of top 5 things to do in San Jose inspired you to give the city a chance. I’m already missing it.
Pin this list of top 5 things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica for later!