If you’re thinking of visiting the land of Pura Vida, check out this helpful post I’ve put together as a San Jose, Costa Rica Travel Guide!
San Jose, Costa Rica and the surrounding areas have a lot to offer the Costa Rican traveler. Although many people fly into San Jose and immediately leave for one of the touristy areas, such as La Fortuna, Monteverde, or Tamarindo, for example, I think it’s worth spending two to three days just staying in San Jose!
There are a few sights to see in the city, and a few sights to see outside the city, but more than that, staying in San Jose will give you loads of opportunities to talk to citizens of Costa Rica and get a true feel for the country outside of the major tourist areas.
I had a wonderful stay in San Jose and wanted to write this post about some great thing to see/do there, as well as places to stay and eat cheaply. So let’s go!
Things To See & Do: Many people will tell you that staying in San Jose, even for a few days, isn’t worth it, but I really disagree with this. When I was there, I went to the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, then I took a cab downtown and walked around for a few hours by myself. While I there, I grabbed some food and headed to the Mercado Nacional de Artesanias. I didn’t get a chance to check out the Teatro Nacional, but that’s another big draw for visitors to the city. All of these places are beautiful, easy to cruise yourself (without getting a tour or guide) and great to meet locals!
You can also do what I did and do a short day trip just outside the city. I went to Doka Coffee Estate, Poas Volcano, and La Paz Waterfall & Gardens, but there are lots of options. If you are into it, you can even drive the three hours to visit Arenal and back!
Where To Stay: I stayed at the Costa Rica Love Hostel, which was outside the city proper, in Heredia, and was small and had very friendly owners. That said, Pangea and the Costa Rica Backpackers Hostel are two places I’ve heard a lot of great things about! I knew someone staying at Costa Rica Backpackers in the city and she was really happy with her experience.
Where To Eat: San Jose is a city, so there are obviously lots of options for food! (I had Chinese food my first night there, because it was the closest to my hostel!) That said, if you want to save money, try eating at the “sodas” or small, family restaurants. You’ll save a ton there and get some delicious, authentic food. I shudder even writing this, but there are McDonald’s and Taco Bell in the city if you need your fix for American food (yes, I’m calling Taco Bell American food because it’s disgusting fast food!).
How To Get Around: I took taxis or walked while I was there, simply because it was faster than waiting around for a bus. Taxis aren’t too expensive, but if you are really into it, you can totally take cheap buses around the city. If you stay near downtown, many things will be walkable for you.
Cost Expectations: The one big misconception I think a lot of people have about Costa Rica is that it’s very, very cheap to live here or travel here. That’s not exactly true. Costa Rica is cheaper than the States, that much is accurate, but not by much. My meals out were between $4 and $6 depending on where I was eating (at the sodas or at bigger restaurants) and by cabs $10 and $15. So go expecting to spend, really, as much as you want. If you want to save, there are easy ways to do it, but if you want to live more comfortably while there, that’s possible also.
Overall, I definitely think a few days spent in San Jose is worth it for any travel to Costa Rica. I hope my travel guide helped and that you’ll be hopping your flight to Costa Rica soon!