Things To Do In San Jose
Lively and filled with elegant looking Victorian chateaus, Costa Rica's progressive capital city was based on the benefits of the coffee industry. The Spanish colonizers named this land Costa Rica (rich coast) because they mistakenly believed there was a lot of gold in here. The truth is, its natural wealth lies in the rich volcanic soil of the central highlands, where some of the world’s finest coffee beans are planted, harvested, and processed. Today, about three fourths of the people live in San Jose City and most of them are working on coffee plantations.
The city offers feast, processions, and Catholic festivals. About 90% of the people are Roman Catholic. In the 1500’s, the Spaniards came here and tried to enslave them, but the Native Americans fought back and kept their freedom. Today, almost all Costa Ricans are of mixed Native American and Spanish descent.
When To Go:
Temperatures are consistent all throughout the year, ranging around the mid 70s and low 80s. Unlike other cities in Costa Rica, San Jose is not characterized by the seasons you might be familiar with like; spring and fall. Rather, the weather is distinguished into two, the rainy (stormy) and the dry season. The humid and dry season runs from about mid-December up to April, which is the high season. Amid the stormy season (May to December), it is mostly sunny in the morning and rainfall occurs mostly towards the evening. Basically, February is classified as the driest, while September gets the most rain.
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These are the top things to do and attractions to explore when in San Jose City.
San Jose National Theater
From the outside it looks like a simple building, but look inside and let yourself be guided through by the resident tour guides and you will learn a lot of great stories from the San Jose National Theater. Explore the interiors of the National Theatre and be impressed by its splendor. It is laced with beautiful marble, ornate Parisian lamps in Belgian steel, impressive flooring that used tropical woods, and lovely Italian murals.
In short, the richness of coffee is visually reflected in the materials of the National Theatre. It is a theater that is still in use. The English guide is very helpful and gave good information.
At the stroke of 9:00 AM the gates are opened and everyone with tickets is allowed to tour inside. When buying a ticket ensure that an English tour would be given. The guide knows all the ins and outs and will take all the time to give a lively and informative tour. The best part is you get to enjoy a stunning ambiance accompanied by the amazing knowledge of the well-trained guides. The experience is sublime and worth the effort. Do not forget the coffee + cake to eat in the cafeteria!
Pre-Columbian Gold Museum
It is so surprising that there are so many pre-Columbian gold statuettes that were found in Costa Rica. The Pre-Columbian Gold Museum offers good information about the history associated with the discoveries, including the finding of the ceramics and some jade. The museum has a nice set-up and besides the gold, it also highlights a collection of modern painting, contemporary art pieces done by local artists and so on. It is well worth a visit and in two hours you'll be educated about the history of Costa Rica and admire some of the best exhibition views about gold and other treasures.
This well built and neatly presented interactive museum contains immense wealth. You will admire the new banknotes with colorful drawings and the objects of pre-Columbian art that has an inestimable value. The reconstructions of the pre-Columbian men speak about the way they survive, dress and even how they died. The short films clearly show the characteristics of this civilization during that old era. The huge rooms have very large areas and put all the best highlighted objects chronologically.
The tour is very interesting and the Gold Museum contains a stunning collection of antique gold in full detail. Most of the guests like the room where there are captured images and scenes showing how pre-Columbian men use to live. Be fascinated by the "El Guerrero" a sculpture of a warrior that is adorned with gold ornaments and visit the site called the Finca 4, which shows a replica of a prehistoric burial tomb containing 88 gold objects. All in all, it is a super interesting museum and a visit is mandatory when in San Jose.
Orosi River Valley ( El Valle del Rio Orosi )
The Orosi River Valley ( El Valle del Rio Orosi ) is an idyllic valley where a trout stream is flowing. To reach it, you must go around and through the charming village of Orosi then pass along the Lake dam to Cachi and rent a boat to get to the other side. The mountain slopes are covered with coffee fields. It is enveloped by lush green vegetation and Costa Rica’s wildlife. It provides a total immersion in nature for every guest who finds it a new and exciting adventure. It is situated in a nice atmosphere and an interesting location.
For those who like to mountain bike, the rides are great. The dining places offer simple food, not too thin but tasty in the rustic places located within the premises of the valley.
The lakes, rivers, and waterfalls are present here and in abundance. It is easily accessible and you can visit it any time of year, but the best time is from January to April. Along with a visit to this park you can also explore the nearby attractions like, the viewpoints you can climb in Church Ujarraz, Cachi Dam, Hotel Rio Perlas, Rio Revenatzon, along with finding exciting places to eat.
Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo
The Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo is like many places in Costa Rica, but in this case it is one of the first parks that you need to cross a real jungle to get to the park. Take the hike through the forest with wild animals, waterfalls, and the tall trees and peaks that form a beautiful tapestry. Bring a good camera and take shots while inside the beautiful rainforest. The place has several trekking routes, one is about 35 km from the San Jose Route 32.
There are three paths you can choose to make, a 1.6 km, 1.2 km and another one that is connected with the second path and measures 3.6 km. This trail is not recommended to do in winter because you must pass a ravine and be extra careful. The first two give an approximation to the very cute rainforest, and can be done with children ages 4 and up. Take a raincoat, insect repellent, packed foods, and drinking water. If you like a good walk and a memorable adventure this trek is not so expensive and can be arranged in advance from your tour operator.
Tropical Bungee in Naranjo
Tropical Bungee is definitely the best bungee jumping experience in the country. You can jump three times, twice in the front and once in the back. There are two more bungee jumping attractions in Costa Rica but one uses a movable platform and is located on the beach in Jaco and the other is a very interesting bungee and rather extreme that is located in the canyons of Monteverde. But for those who like the typical jump off a bridge, the Tropical Bungee in Naranjo is excellent. It is a very good place to put the adrenaline running throughout the body.
The staff is friendly, well trained, and experienced. They offer several styles of jump, so that each hop promises to be unique. The only bad thing is that after jumping for the first time, you adrenaline gets pumped up and want to do it for another round.
You will get excellent treatment from the staffs that are very patient with beginners. The experience is very safe and done in a nice place. The trip to this place takes about 40 minutes from downtown San Jose. The most beautiful thing is you get the DVD copy of your jump and a certificate of participation. It is definitely worth a try and not to be missed when in the city of San Jose.
Museo de Arte Costarricense
The colonial-style building is architecturally very interesting, it was in the 40’s and 50’s the site of the former international airport of the country. The best part is the Salón Dorado housing along the walls of a masonry relief depicting the history of the country in pre-Columbian era to the 1940’s. It is evident that the influence of the Mexican muralists can be seen from the style. Although to some extent it is epic and visionary, it still adheres better to a more sober style and content that is typical of the Costa Rican figurative art.
The Museo de Arte Costarricense is a real gem that you do not expect to find in San Jose. Likewise, most Costa Ricans are aware of the consciousness effort that it wants to impart. In all honesty, an artistic treasure of this caliber is oftentimes underrated. It is highly recommended for everyone, domestic and foreign tourists, and particularly to schools who need exposure of what Costa Rican art is all about. The work is in fact a perfect compendium of the history, traditions, and national values of Costa Rica.
Museo de los Ninos
The Museo de los Ninos is a park-museum designed especially for children. The place is good and they retrieve an old prison and converted it into a modern museum where children can definitely have fun and learn. It is also a good location for holding events or conferences. You can organize an event in the auditorium and get assistance from their competent staff, the property offers already established services (lighting, sound, venue, etc.) that are all very good. The backstage is quite small, but you can use the outdoor facilities if you are unable to optimize.
By far, it is one of the best places in San Jose where children are lords and masters. If you want a place to feel at home this is the perfect spot. It displays different topics of human knowledge in a simple way for children to understand and assimilate. It is an ancient structure rescued from a sad and dark past for the benefit of the future generation. The kid’s museum is full of activities for the kids, too much science, history and joy, is great for kids to know that it was a former jail but is now a place full of laughter and fun.
The Pueblo Antiguo is a beautiful recreation of the Old San Jose. It is located within the premises of the Amusement Park of the city. It is an excellent park to get an idea of how it was before in the capital during the eighteenth century. It also has restaurants and cafes to spend a whole day of entertainment. The park is great for a family outing on weekends where anyone can enter for free, or pay a special pass to enjoy everything it has to offer.
It is a beautiful place full of traditions, a bit commercial but equally very informative. As its name suggests, the famous Pueblo is the perfect setting that recreates an ancient village, church, restaurant, fire station, etc., all in a very cozy little place in San Jose.
Parque La Sabana
The Parque La Sabana is one of the huge parks located within the city. It is an ideal place for families to enjoy because it is very spacious with various options to perform any physical activity like; running tracks, tennis courts, badminton areas, skateboard rinks, and bicycle lanes. It is easily accessible and has ample places to park. There are also great social activities that are generally carried out in certain sections of the park.
This park is great for a walk near the lake while you watch the ducks, squirrels and several birds, you are also getting eager to play in the trees and bamboos with the kids. If you like to exercise outdoors, do various physical exercises or simply run, you will love it. It is best to come here early in the morning, when there are not much crowds and you can enjoy the recreational park in peace.
Ruinas de Ujarras
Relive the first stage of the Spanish colonization when you visit the Ruinas de Ujarras. It is well preserved and mostly located in the environment that allows you to enjoy nature in perfect balance with its ancient walls. The place has nice vegetation and allows a break for the mind and spirit. The Ujarras is beautiful from any side. You can go to the viewpoint, it is a lovely picnic area which has a view of the entire valley.
The site has a beautiful and well maintained garden area where you can enjoy a delicious lunch and play with children. It is very nice to see how even some old buildings in Costa Rica are well maintained and interesting to know that the historic place still stands in all its glory and people can still relate to its important role in the colorful past of San Jose.
Cathedral of San Jose (Catedral Metropolitana)
The Metropolitan Church (Catedral Metropolitana) or the Cathedral of San José stands out for its particular style. It is huge and has several side entries. It calls attention to the amount of green parakeets that sit on the beams of the cathedral, especially if it rains where they take refuge. The cathedral is in the center and has a great schedule of Masses that you can check outside its premises. It has a nice monument to the Blessed Pope John Paul II that looks very striking and contemporary.
The construction of this church is pretty, especially the application of the colorful floor mosaics that are nicely done in blue and red and compliments the arrangement of the borders and frescoes designed on its walls. Here you can access a space that allows for reflection at incredibly almost any time of the day despite being located in the busy Second Avenue that is characterized by a huge amount of vehicular movement. It is a place that breathes in peace and tranquility that makes it ideal for deep moments of contemplation.
National Museum (Museo Nacional)
The National Museum (Museo Nacional) provides a good immersion in Costa Rican history and culture. It has interesting insight into the historical, artistic and lifestyle it offers, including the same historic building that houses it. A nice surprise is the Butterfly Garden at the beginning of the museum. The museum is divided into themed rooms in a very comfortable size.
The building is interesting and shows a nice introduction about the culture and overall history of Costa Rica. The space is very well maintained and the information is easy to understand and enjoyable. The Columbian area is complete with markers and explanations in a very detailed manner. A visit to this museum is a journey into the history of the country as it highlights the educational and interesting facts, photos, objects and evolution of presidents in Costa Rican politics which is more than enough reason to learn and explore in San Jose City.
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