The very best of San Jose, Costa Rica: a beginner's guide

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best of San Jose Costa Rica

San Jose is the boiling, colorful, charming capital of Costa Rica. Most visitors prefer the wild side of the country, but there’s a lot to see, do, eat and learn in this magical city.

Are you visiting for the first time? We made this beginner’s guide that will give you the very best of San Jose -very useful if you only have a few days to take the whole town in.

History and culture

The historic downtown is the place to begin with. The best way to get around is to just walk the narrow streets while enjoying the beautiful colonial architecture. The Plaza de la Cultura, Museo del Oro and Museo del Jade are three main attractions you don’t want to miss.

Galeria Namu is run by a strict policy of fair trade with indigenous artisans from all over Costa Rica, so it’s the best place to admire and acquire ethnic art. Another gallery worth visiting is TEOR/eTica, which nurtures and features up and coming, contemporary artists from all over Central America.

best of San Jose Costa Rica


If you have some time left, try to catch a show at Teatro Nacional, a concert hall with perfect acoustics and constant opera, jazz or orchestral live music.

Where to eat

Costa Rica is famous for its cattle, most of which is fed exclusively with quality pasture and fruit, giving the meat an extraordinary flavor. Two places to try the best beef in Costa Rica are El Chicote and Doris Metropolitan.

best of San Jose Costa Rica


La Terrasse fuses french cuisine with Costa Rican ingredients, so you probably won’t taste their dishes anywhere else in the world. You also might want to try Product C, one of the hottest eating spots in San Jose nowadays -the chef works closely with fishermen to secure only the best seafood available.

You simply cannot leave this town before trying its world famous coffee. The terrace at the Gran Hotel is one of the best places to do this.

Outdoors fun

Parque Nacional is a beautiful site, ideal for a day-long picnic. During the weekends, this is one of the best places to mingle with locals.

In Parque Metropolitano La Sabana you have a lot of options: working out, fishing, visiting an art museum or simply relaxing in this urban park will round out your experience at San Jose.

This is just a small taste of San Jose for first timers and visitors on a tight schedule. There’s a lot more to see, do, eat and enjoy in the capital of Costa Rica, but we’ll have to cover it some other time!

One last tip: check out City Express San Jose, located just north of downtown and a 10 minute drive from the Juan Santamaria International Airport.

The very best of San Jose, Costa Rica: a beginner's guide