Top attractions in San Jose, Costa Rica
Top things to do in San José
Costa Rica may be best known for its beaches, but the bustling capital of San José—or Chepe, as it's affectionately nicknamed—is absolutely worth visiting. Rich in history and surrounded by breathtaking nature, the city is perfect for a delightful sojourn.
1. La Fortuna
This picturesque town sits at the foot of the majestic Arenal Volcano. About 75 miles from San José, La Fortuna makes for a great day trip, with plenty to discover en route.
2. Braulio Carillo National Park
For another amazing day out, drive out of San José along Route 32 and you'll hit on the Braulio National Park, one of Central America's most spectacular natural treasures.
3. Teatro Nacional Costa Rica
Gorgeous both inside and out, the Teatro Nacional is one of San José's most cherished attractions. Be sure to take a tour to learn all about its architectural and artistic riches.
4. Arenal Volcano
If hiking's your thing, head over to the Arenal Volcano, about 3 hours from San José by car. Though the eruptions ceased in 2010, the area is a paradise for nature lovers.
5. Celeste River
The Celeste River is another hiker's dream come true. Set within rich and varied flora, the river is bordered by many natural hot springs and leads to a magnificent waterfall.
6. Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
History buffs should make sure to visit San José's national museum, the Museo Nacional. This beautiful museum offers a highly informative overview of the country's rich history.
7. Pre-Columbian Gold Museum
This museum houses a collection of over 1,600 artifacts made of pre-Columbian gold, giving fascinating insight into the culture of the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans.
Planning Your Visit
Eat like the locals
To taste the real flavor of Costa Rican cuisine, you shouldn't miss out on San José's central market, the Mercado Central. This gigantic market is not only one of the best spots in the city for food (as well as souvenirs), but also one of the cheapest, where a delicious meal will set you back as little as $3 – a fraction of most restaurants!
When to go
While the city's pleasant climate allows for visits throughout the year, the best period is December, right after the rainy season. But even though the days are warm, the nights do get chilly, so make sure to bring a sweater. Moreover, both the Festival de la Luz and the Fiestas de Zapote take place in December. The whole city comes alive during the festivals and these typically Latin American festivities are a singularly delightful experience.
Good to know
- CRC (₡)
- Time Zone
- UTC (-06:00)
- Country Code
- Best time to visit
- December is the best month to visit, when the rainy season has ended, the days are warm, and the city comes alive with festivities.
Other Sightseeing Options in San Jose, Costa Rica
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What people are saying about San Jose, Costa Rica
THANK YOU for being part of our first trip to such a gorgeous country! The tour was jam-packed with different stops and activities, even if they were short, and allowed for plenty of restroom and coffee breaks. Juan hustled tirelessly, ensuring that we were on schedule despite a small setback in the beginning (Costa Rica doesn't use addresses in the way that some countries do, so it was harder to find our hostel, but the tour manager was accessible by phone and willing to help us out too). So did all the boys working the ziplines - what they did was tough work but they were so friendly and experienced. To clarify the drop-off policy, if you plan to stay in La Fortuna at the end, let the tour company know in advance where your hotel is, and they will drop you off there as long as it's near the center of town. Just remind your driver after the hot springs. You'll miss out on dinner which is too bad only because all the food was a 10/10, but overall, we have no regrets about booking!
Overall a great experience, for a quick beach day with multiple complementary stops along the way. The itinerary is accurate but we made a couple additional quick stops attempting to locate a Macaw (which we found!). Kenneth (guide) clearly was experienced. He was very talkative and informative with the guests that made the trip fun. NOTE to anyone interested in going, Manuel Antonio is very touristy by nature. The paths are very well defined and you'll likely see sloths, monkeys, lizards, and most of all... other people! Also they are very restrictive on snacks at the entrance (NONE ALLOWED), but there are shops outside the park you can buy water and food if you are starving.
We had a fantastic time with Marcelo. Not only did we see all the animals expected (birds, sloths, even leafcutter ants), but Marcelo went out of his way to provide interesting explanations and equipment to make sure we got the most out of our experience (binoculars ans telescope). We were delighted with our experience and definitely recommend it as one of the best things to do in San Jose!
Alturo and Leo were terrific. We enjoyed Alturo sense of humour. Weather definitely corporated for us especially at the volcano. There was a definite problem with the pick up. The only information we received was 8am but the tour bus was there at 6:15am so had to scramble to get ready. The places we went to though we really enjoyed.
Our driver was local and very knowledgeable. We saw the waterfalls, watched birds, ziplines, repelled, dat in hot springs and ate great local cuisine. An amazing day seeing the mountains and valleys during the drive. We even saw sloths and iguanas. I recommend this tour. Even the ziplining Instructors were patient and amazing