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San José (Costa Rica)

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San José (Costa Rica)

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San José is the capital of Costa Rica.


Costa Rica is the oldest democracy in Latin America with no military. It is highly governmentalised with universal public schooling, health care, a pension system and other aspects of what is essentially a somewhat paternalistic social democratic government.

Its exports were formerly largely agricultural. It has extensive sugar Cane "plantations" and cattle but it is industrializing rapidly. Intel has built a large chip fab plant there which tells one something of the educational standards. However the service sector is the largest sector now. The GDP per capita is roughly USD $9,600 but in terms of purchasing price parity it is double that. The growth rate is a respectable 3%.

Eco tourism is a central focus of development and it shows. The country is stunning and unspoiled and the will is there to keep it that way. However one would have to exempt San Jose itself from this assessment.

San Jose, the capital, is on a plateau in the Central Valley at 1500 meters elevation. It is ringed by lush green mountains and valleys. The population of this city is probably half of the whole country. It contains the primary airport, the University of Costa Rica, the US' and other embassies and many museums, cultural venues, hotels, markets, etc. It is the hub of the country.


The Climate in San Jose Costa rica can be different at all times depending of the route of the winds and yearly seazons, some times in the latest months of the year it is coulder than the months at the middle, wheather conditions in detail can be reached for Costa Rica by grafics and the San Jose's history pages by visiting our Costa Rican information Solidamerica Costa Rica This is because for many Costa Ricans the most cooler temperatures in San Jose is an equal warm temperature for a Northern American Citizen or some one from a country with snow season, also when we see the size landscapes Costa Rica, then we understand why weather temperatures are changing from one city to another in a so short distances, unless the Caribean weather suffers a mayor event in the atmophere. Because of its elevation San Jose is usually 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius) though it can get chilly at night. The rainy season is from mid April thru December.

17km or about 20 minutes by car from the center of San José.
There is a local bus stop outside the airport, but you might have to change buses to get to the city center. The taxis charge around 15 US Dollars to take you to the city, be sure to take one of the licensed reddish-orange taxis that say "Taxi Aeropuerto." There are many unlicensed taxi drivers who will charge you almost twice as much as Taxi Aeropuerto. The taxis gladly take Dollars, but the local bus only takes Colones.
There is an ATM by the entrance to the departures that will give you both Colones and Dollars.

By bus

Buses from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panamá arrive in San José. TicaBus is one company that offers connections between the main cities of each country. See their website at Their buses are comfortable, air-conditioned coaches, usually offer movies in English on board.

And of course most local buses start or end here. There are several bus terminals in San José. It is important to know which bus terminal serves your bus route. Bus stops are usually eveyr 500 meters in the city.

Get around

Taxis are generally cheap. All taxis should have a meter. The fare starts at 350 colones. Conversion is about 500 colones per USD. A ride inside the city center will normally cost 500-1000 colones. Basically a couple dollars, which they will accept, will get you anywhere in the city. Be aware that it is close to useless to give a taxi driver an exact street address. You have to point out some well-known building, park or hotel close to where you are going. Often there are no street signs and addresses are difficult to find, so be sure you know where you are going or you could get lost very easily. If you are driving in Costa Rica (one may see vehicles from Mississippi, British Columbia, Panama, and other places) note that the traffic lights don't have the yellow border around them and can sometimes be difficult to see, the road network is well utilised by locals (to overcapacity) so don't expect to get anywhere fast, also motorcycles drive on the shoulders and whereever, unlike North America where they are supposed to follow the rules of cars. Keep in mind the pet peeve most tourists have with tico kindness: often times when a tico has no idea where a certain destination you may have had in mind is, he or she will simply direct you to a random location. Often times simply incomprehensible, these directions are a reflection on the cultural approach to kindness many Costa Ricans adopt. Service Car Rental has good chart about driving distances in Costa Rica.

The Bus system is reliable, comfortable, extensive, and very cheap. It costs about $5 to travel from San Jose to the Nicoya Penisula.


  • Museo Oro Precolombino (The Gold Museum), under Plaza de la Cultura. Tel 243-4202, [email protected], [2]. Tu-Su 10AM-4:30PM. Entrance fee $7 for foreigners. The collection consists of 1600 pieces of Pre-Columbian gold work dating from 500 AD to 1500 AD. Information is given on the processing and making of the pieces as well as their social, cultural and religious meanings. At the same place you will also find The Numismatic Museum and The Temporary Exhibition Galleries. There is a nice museum shop and a tourist office at the entrance.
  • Museo del Jade (The jade museum), Avenida 5-7, Calle 11-13 bis, INS, now on the 1st floor. Tel 223-5800. Mo-Fr 8:30AM-3PM. Entrance fee 500 Colones.
  • Museo de los Niños (The children's museum), antigua penetenciaría (the old prison). Tel 258-4929. M-F 9:30AM-3:30PM, Sa-Su 10AM-4PM. Entrance fee 600 Colones for adults and 300 for children.
  • Museo Nacional, Calle 17 Avenida 2. Tel 257-1433. Tu-Su 8:30AM-4:30PM. Entrance fee 2000 Colones. The museum includes a large butterfly garden and a collection of large stone spheres from the Diquis Valley near the Pacific ocean. The museum building is an old fort last used during the 1948 revolution.
  • Museo de Arte Costarricense, east end of Sabana Park. This used to be San Jose's main airport terminal back when La Sabana was the airport. Tel 222-7155. Tu-Sa 10:00-16:00, Su 10:00-14:00. Entrance fee $5 (students $3).
  • Insect Museum at the Universidad de Costa Rica A very elegant collection of exotic bugs. Only a few dollars, but check the times when they are open.

Cable TV channels have many American English language channels. Fox news, Cnn international, TNT, HBO, ESPN, ABC and NBC and CBS stations are brodcast from New York City.


There are a lot of tours and local events and doings in and from San José. Buses are well marked, pretty reliable and crowded.

  • Butterfly farm
  • Coffee farm
  • Canopy
  • Rafting
  • Volcanoes
  • Casinos Many hotels have gaming.

Decent gym facilities can be found at the Spa Corobici (telephone: 231-5542) located behind the Hotel Corobici. The taxi ride from the airport is approximately $10 - $20 USD and entry into the gym is 5,300 CRC or $10 USD. The club has a good selection of free and machine weights as well as a cardio theater. The club also has an outdoor swimming pool for lap swimming, a jacuzzi tub, and a sauna.


Costa Rica in general, and San José in particular, is a great place to improve your Español. Many people can speak some English and there are many Spanish classes available, including at the Universidad de Costa Rica, as well as "immersion" classes in private homes.


  • Boutique Annemarie, located inside Hotel Don Carlos, is a nice souvenir shop. But don't buy your stamps here, they'll charge you an extra 40% for the "service".
  • El Pueblo shopping mall has lots of small souvenir shops.
  • Mora Books Is a used book store on the corner of First Avenue and Street 3 in down-town San Jose. They have a great number of guide books. They will buy, trade, or sell for cheaper than I´ve found in other countries.

The best coffees have deserved reputations for superb quality. Super markets/grocers and small coffee growers usually have better prices than shops that cater to tourists. Often packaged in 12 oz. sealed bags, you should only purchase roasted, whole beans rather than ground...for epicures, "strictly hard bean" (SHB)). They will keep flavor longer...until you can store them properly at home (Google for methods), and won't include sugar as often found in Costa Rican ground. Roasted coffee also prevents you from running afoul of agencies such as FDA/APHIS that requires special licensing for importing unroasted (may be considered plant material).


  • Machu Picchu Restaurant, The best international Peruvian Food & Sea Food, located at (Paseo Colón) 1st Ave. 125 meters north from Kentucky FC restaurant. Phone: 506.222.3679 (Extremely Recommended!! Try the Causa Rellena, Cebiche, Lomo Saltado, Ají de Gallina and Peru's traditional and landmark drink: Pisco Sour.
  • Hotel Vesuvio Restaurante, Barrio Otoya, Tel 257-5411. Italian food, pastas 1900 Colones, chicken 2000-2500.
  • La Palma, Avenida 9, Barrio Amón. Italian food, recommended by the nearby hotels. no longer in business
  • Hotel Don Carlos, the Precolobian Lounge serves some small dishes that you probably should skip.
  • La Cocina de Leña, Centro Comercial El Pueblo, Tel 255-1360. Cozy restaurant with good typical food and friendly service. 5500 Colones for a steak. Recommended by many tourist guides but very overpriced and touristy.
  • Hotel Grano de Oro, Calle 30 Avenida 2/4. Tel 255-3322. Beautiful but expensive restaurant. A breakfast menu costs around 2400 Colones or treat yourself to the delicious banana-macadamia nut pancakes (2000 Colones).
  • Cafetería Parisien Gran Hotel, between Theatro Nacional and Plaza de Cultura. Not the most exciting food, but elegant settings.
  • Manolo's Churreria, Avenida Central, Calle 0/2. Popular soda. Try the chicken tacos, but stay away from the hamburgers. You may also see the local bookie here, taking bets from the regulars.
  • Mercado Central This very old and interesting, bustling food market also contains a number of small restaurants and quick-serve counters for the locals. You will find fresh c ooked fish and shellfish, sopa de pescado (fish soup) and such exotics as "squid in his ink", ceviche (small bits of raw fish "cooked" in lime juice) and more. Perhaps not for the faint of heart.
  • Pizzeria Il Pomodoro One of the best known casual restaurants in Costa Rica, Cerca de Parque Kennedy y Banco Nacional en San Pedro. Italian cousine, very good pizza and pasta, good cheap wine, from second floor great view or the mountains to the west.
  • Mango: The street vendors often sell mango with salt and lime, it's great.
  • La Calle Anything a street vendor is selling is probably good.
  • News Cafe On Avenida Central and Calle 7, in the Hotel Presidente, a few blocks from the Plaza de la Cultura, the National Theatre and the National Museum. The News offers American Style "comfort" food at great quality and good prices. Daily specials are served during lunch hours and are outstanding value.


  • El Cafetal de la Luz, Hotel Plaza Amon, Calle 3 Avenida 11, Tel 257-0191. Cocktails (1700-2900 Colones) served on the balcony. Slow service. This cafe is attached to the Clarion Hotel in Barrio Amon, and namesake of the coffee plantation that existed in this neighborhood when electricity was first introduced.
  • El Pueblo, is the clubbing district. There are several bars and nightclubs cluttered in the tiny little alleyways. Just mention El Pueblo to your taxi and he'll know where to go. The area is secure and safe for travellors to go to. When leaving the taxis that are parked outside the gates are cheaper than the ones that are waiting for you within the compound.
  • San Pedro, is the university district of San Jose. There are several bars full of students, with capacities ranging from a couple hundred people to a couple thousand. Planet Mall is open on the weekends and is the largest club in Costa Rica.


San Jose is full of hotels from one star to perhaps three. To the east on the Caribbean and the west on the Pacific are numerous tourist hotels and lodgings of every description. To the northwest near Guanacaste, close to Nicaragua, are more. Closest to the airport are Hampton Inn and Marriott. At least one guest has reported a bed bug infestation at the Hampton Inn.


  • Casa Ridgeway C 15, Av 6/8, Tel +506 221-8288, [3]. A comfortable Quaker hostel with a shared kitchen and dining area available for use, a great place to meet like minded travelers, a simple breakfast is included. dorms, singles, doubles, triples available $10-$12 /person.
  • Costa Rica Backpackers, Avenida 6, Tel +506 221-6191, [4]. great place to meet other travellers in town affordable and comfortable hostel, facilities include an outdoor pool,free internet. Great place to party!
  • Casa Yoses Hostel, Avenida 8, Calle 41, Los Yoses, 250 west from Spoon Tel +506 234-5486, [email protected], [5]. Casa Yoses is in a great central location surrounded by tons of restaurants, bars, and stores, just off the University of Costa Rica and the San Pedro Mall.
  • Hostel Bekuo, Avenida 8, Calle 40, Los Yoses, 325 West of Spoon Los Yoses, (), [1]. Hostel Bekuo is one of the nicest and cleanest hostels in all of Costa Rica, and you can't ask for a better location while staying in San Jose. Includes free breakfast, pool table, internet, coffee & tea, and above all a great atmosphere and staff, though a bit boring.
  • Hostel Casa del Parque, On the corner of Avenida 3 and Calle 19, Barrio La California, Tel + 506 233 3437, [email protected], [6]. 40 comfortable beds with real mattresses in dorm style rooms of 6 to 8 beds and one double room. Five full newly remodeled bathrooms with hot water. There is also a common room equipped with cable TV, free internet, and coffee.
  • Galileo Hostel, corner 40 th calle 2nd avenida. Close to parque metropolitana, 15 min walking distance from center. dorm 7 US, double 8 US pp. small hostel with nice colombian staff/owners, popular with Israelis.


  • Adventure Inn, Tel: +506-239-2633, [7]. From $56 single, includes an all you can eat American breakfast, on-site sports bar / restaurant, fully-equipped gym, wireless internet, Mayan waterfall Jacuzzi, free airport transportation, complimentary admission to a nearby water theme park.
  • B&B Tambo Mundo, Del Cristo de Sabanilla 400 al Este, casa a mano izquierda antes de la entrada del Hogar Calasanz, Tel +506 273 0265, 506 8489707, [email protected], [8]. Guesthouse with 5 rooms with hot water, close to the University of Costa Rica and San Pedro. $20- $40 single occupation including taxes. A big Latin American literature, sustainable development and politics library, movies and documentaries are available. Fast Internet connection in every room and wireless. Telephone and cable TV. Laundry service (free for long stays). Fluent English/Spanish. Some German and French spoken.
  • Hemingway Inn, Avenida 9, Calle 9, Barrio Amon, (Behind I.N.S.), Tel +506 221-1804, [email protected], [9]. Friendly staff but a bit over priced. $58 for a double including traditional breakfast with gallo pinto and tamales. Has a hot tub. The hotel will credit your account with $10 if you get a receipt from the airport taxi. Free Internet service.
  • Hotel Presidente [10]. Located in downtown San Jose, on the walking boulevard of Avenida Central and Calle 7 (seven street). Great location close to historic landmarks, museums and plazas. 4 star accommodations with rooms starting at $85 + tax per night. Free internet. Buffet breakfast included.
  • Hotel San Gildar, next to the Costa Rica Country Club, [11]. A beautiful private hotel in the higher end side of San Jose, just 20 minutes away from the airport, and surrounded by the best gourmet restaurant in the region. Offers mid range 3 star accommodations, trendy bar-restaurant, souvenir shop, adventure tour desk, free delicious continental breakfast and high speed Internet.
  • Kap's Place, Street 19, Avenues 11 and 13, #1142 in Barrio Aranjuez, Tel +506 221-1169, [email protected], [12]. Guesthouse with 13 rooms and 1 large apartment. $30 - $80 including taxes. Guests have free kitchen use and free travel planning help! The K in Kap's Place stands for Karla. It's her house and her service is top notch. Bilingual (English/Spanish).
  • Rincón de San José, (formerly Hotel Edelweiss), Avenida 9 Calle 15 Barrio Otoya, Tel +506 221-9702, [email protected], [13]. 27 rooms, $50 + tax for a double including breakfast. 10% cash discount. Free Internet.
  • Hotel Santo Tomas, Av. 7 between Calle 3 and 5, Barrio Amon, Tel: (506) 255-0448 Fax: (506) 222-3950, [14]. Pleasant bed and breakfast inn, English speaking staff, single rooms are small, some downstairs rooms quite spacious. Rates from $80, including breakfast.


  • Hotel Don Carlos, Calle 9 & Avenida 9, Barrio Amón, Tel: 866 675 9259 (Toll Free) or +506 221 6707, [15]. Beautifully decorated hotel. $70 + 16.39% tax for a standard double. There is also a tour operator (expensive) and a nice souvenir shop inside the hotel.
  • InterContinental Costa Rica, Tel: +506 289 7000, [16] Located amid tropical gardens, only 15 minutes from Juan Santamaria Int’l Airport and 10 minutes from downtown San José, the hotel is close to an array of stores, movie theaters and fast-food restaurants and faces the modern Multiplaza Mall. It has 210 luxurious rooms, 54 rooms of the Camino Real Club, 5 junior suites and a presidential suite, for a total of 261 rooms. Each room is equipped with a mini-bar, hair dryer, air conditioning and a system of electronic key. Services: gym, swimming pool, jewelry shop, tennis court, restaurant, bar, conference rooms and gift shop.
  • Rosa Finca Blanca, Santa Barbera de Heredia, Tel +(506) 269-9392, [17]. $160-$240 for a double. Lovely upmarket bed and breakfast with sound ecological principles, set in an organic coffee plantation. Fantastic food, nice atmosphere - great for honeymoon or similar.
  • Rancho Margot, [18]. El Castillo 20 miles from La Fortuna. All you can eat breakfast, all you can eat lunch and a dinner to die for. It's an incredibly peaceful place surrounded by tropical forest. Getting closer to being self sufficient with a water turbine to produce electricity, biodigestors to produce hot water, cows to produce milk and cheese, pigs, chicken and a full vegetable garden, all of which are tended organically.
  • Hotel Villas Corcovado, [19]. Villas Corcovado is a beautiful community of luxurious villas found throughout 70 oceanfront acres of unspoiled rainforest on the Southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Perfect for those who seek adventure, flora and animal life in the inspiring framework of the Golfo Dulce.
  • Hotel Fleur de Lys, 50m north of Drs. Echandi Clinic, (506) 223-1206, [20]. Comfortable European style small hotel with eclectic class and grace. Excellent restaurant on site, suites feature jacuzzis.
  • Hotel Grano de Oro, Just off Paseo Colon , (506) 255-3322, [21]. Converted from a Tropical Victorian mansion, the 35-room hotel maintains the warmth and comfort of a private home. Hallways lined with period photographs and original art meander through the building and present lush tropical flower arrangements and luxuriant plants at every turn. Italian tile fountains grace intimate atriums, ensuring that one is never far from the soothing melody of falling water

Near the Airport

  • Adventure Inn, Tel: +506-239-2633, [22]. $65 single, $79 double, includes an all you can eat American breakfast, on-site sports bar / restaurant, fully-equipped gym, wireless internet, Mayan waterfall Jacuzzi, free airport transportation, complimentary admission to a nearby water theme park.
  • Hampton Inn. $105/night avg (from Travelocity) Right in front of the airport, adjacent to Fiesta Casino and a Dennys restaurant.


Stay safe

The traffic is dangerous. Cars don't stop for pedestrians, and they generally drive fast. The area around the Coca Cola Bus Terminal is not safe at night, and you should watch your belongings at all times in the city.

Most Ticos (Costa Rican natives) are friendly to Americans and basically honest. However, if you have a flat tire on the main highway to the airport, don't accept help except from an established service station, and never accept help from a person who offers to help on the highway. It may become a car-jacking. Petty theft is high risk, including from valet parking staff and housekeepers in hotels. Carry a cell phone and know the number of "policia."

If you travel by bus, never(!) put your luggage into the storage space, even if the driver wants you to at the beginning of the travel. The bus usually stops every 5 minutes and picks up people from the street. But there are also people who open the space while you are up in the bus, pull out a rucksack and disappear. If you put your rucksack between your knees, nothing will happen. Car theft is common so if you drive (as you can) from the US, or wherever else, bring a club (steering wheel lock) or park in locked fence areas. Most houses inside San Jose have bars on the windows and large gates in which to put vehicles.

More passports are stolen in Costa Rica than any other country. Crime is a serious problem, so be constantly on the alert. Also, police may stop you and take you to jail for not carrying your passport, or a photocopy of the main page and the entry stamp. A tour bus was stopped in Limon in January 2006 and several US citizens were taken to jail for not having their passports on them, but this is not common.

San Jose, as the largest city in Cr, has the largest hospitals, both public and private. Tourists can use the private hospital, and pay with cash or credit card. The wait is significantly shorter then public hospitals. Most doctors can speak medical English, and they provide translator services. If you are unlucky enough to have you child get really sick he or she will be transfered to the only children's hospital in the country in San Jose. That is public.

All dentists are private and there is a growing trade in tourist dentistry. The price the dentist to replace a crown in CR was below the cost of a North American dentist. There is a growing trade in cosmetic dentistry in CR.

Get out

Being the capital, San José is the hub for all travel in Costa Rica. You can take the local buses or the more expensive bus services from Interbus or Gray Line Fantasy Bus. There is also a lot of smaller airports dotted around the country.

There is a tourist exit tax to leave the country. You can pay for it at bank and get a receipt or wait in the line at the airport. Pay the tax as soon as you arrive at the airport so you don't miss your flight and arrive with cash. Tobias Bolanos Airport in Pavas serves as Nature Air's hub for flights within the country and also has 4 flights per week to Bocas del Toro, Panama. Nature Air used to fly to Granada, Nicaragua as well, but as of April 2007, the flights have been discontinued due to the poor condition of the runway in Granada.

A trip to Jaco on the Pacific Coast is a delight, although the highway that goes there is not a superhighway. Surfing is great, and since many young chefs are surfers, you can get some really great dining at amazingly low prices. A little farther down the coast, a stop at Manuel Antonio National Park is a must.

Driving to Jaco, stop for lunch at Mirador del Cafetal (View of the Coffee Plantation), just beyond Atenas. Views are spectacular!

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!