San Jose, affectionately known in Costa Rica as “Chepe”, is home to colonial-era neighbourhoods that reveal weekend markets, live music and museums. Encircled by cloudy forests, San Jose captures your attention with its open-air plazas and charming Costa Rican cuisine.
Things to do in San José
Let your legs lead you through Barrio Amon, one of San Jose’s more historic neighbourhoods. It’s here you’ll learn why the city is considered Costa Rica’s cultural capital, where you can spend hours in a range of 19th-century mansions turned into restaurants and various art galleries. See the largest collection of pre-Columbian jade in America at the Jade Museum or learn more about the city’s past at the National Museum, housed in an old fort.
Nature is never forgotten in San Jose, where you can stroll among lush trees and gardens at Parque Nacional. This central parkland also has historical monuments and plenty of places for a shady picnic. Enter a completely different environment at Mercado Central, an old-world indoor market with over 200 vendors ranging from meat and coffee to leather and herbal remedies.
Parque Zoologico Nacional Simon Bolivar is popular among families for its collection of native and international wildlife, such as an ocelot, two-toed sloth, jaguar and Central American tapir. Looking for some live entertainment? Take in a musical or artistic show at the National Theatre of Costa Rica, known for its lavish Italian furnishings.
Adventurous travellers will find multiple attractions nearby that will lure them away from the city, such as the Irazu Volcano National Park, where you can see native wildlife and a picturesque green crater lake.
Getting around San José
Walking can sometimes be just as quick as catching a bus in San Jose, but the bus routes provide reliable transport around the city centre. Taxis are great for travelling at night, while rental cars give you the freedom of venturing beyond the city limits.