San Jose is the most cosmopolitan city in Costa Rica. Anyone visiting the country will have to travel through or stay for a while here, as it’s the main transportation hub in Costa Rica. But, don’t worry, you won’t be getting bored. At most you’ll get tired of the urban life and want to get somewhere relaxing pretty fast.
The city is filled with quality museums , the parks which offer the best option for unwinding, while the many restaurants offer the traveler the possibility to enjoy the local cuisine.
Here is a list of some of the things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica:
Visit the Jade Museum
For someone who loves jewelry and precious or semi-precious stones, this is heaven. The museum is located on the 11th floor of the Institute for National Security and exhibits the largest American jade collection in the world. You can see over 6,000 items of pre-Columbian art and jewelry.
Open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
A day trip to the La Paz Waterfall
The waterfall is located about 50 km from San Jose, so rent a car and drive there in the morning. The River La Paz forms the waterfall after traversing 8 km of volcanic terrain to continue through a rainforest.
Upstream from the fall, there is the La Paz Waterfall Gardens , which features a hotel and a park (where you can see the local wild life). There are also hiking trail available for those who want to spend more time in the nature.
Admission to the park is US$35 for an adult and US$20 for a child. Tours are available.
Half a day at the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum
If you like jade, chances are you also like gold, so don’t miss this museum either. It is located in a subterranean building underneath the Plaza de la Cultura and features over 1,600 artifacts of pre-Columbian gold dating back to AD 500.
You can see the first coin minted in Costa Rica , as well as amulets, figurines, earrings and erotic sculptures.
Entrance is US$10 (5500 Costa Rica colones) for International visitors. The museum is open year round from 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.
DOWNLOAD OUR TRAVEL GUIDES
The same building houses the Central Bank Museum , the Numismatic Museum , temporary Exhibition Galleries and various cultural activities.
Day trip to the Arenal Volcano
It takes about 2 hours (137 km) to drive from San Jose to the La Fortuna Entrance of the Arenal Volcano National Park. Arenal used to be the most active volcano in Costa Rica but has been dormant since late 2010. However, no one knows when it might erupt again. While you cannot see the eruptions now, take the time to explore the area , spend time on the bank of Lake Arenal and visit the near-by waterfall.
Visit the Metropolitan Cathedral
Where you visit churches because you want to stop and pray for a while, or because you want to see the beautiful architecture, don’t miss the Metropolitan Cathedral. It was built in 1802 but was destroyed by an earthquake. It was rebuilt in 1871 and in the interior you can see the fine colonial style tiled floor and stainless windows.
The morning at Mercado Central (Central Flea Market)
The market spans over 3 blocks near Coca-Cola train station and it’s the best place to shop for variety. You can find anything from fruits to t-shirts, crafts and baked goods.
It may fell into the “tourist trap” badge, but if you are careful and watch your back, it should be fun and fine.
Take a break at Parque National
This park provides a green “escape” for those who spend most of the time in the city. Pick some food at the market and then head to the park for a short lunch break in between sightseeing. Concerts are held here on Sundays.
A weekend in the Parque Nacional Santa Rosa
Rent a car and drive to Liberia (or grab a local bus, but it takes longer) and set your base for further explorations. Most travelers come to Parque Nacional Santa Rosa for a chance to surf the Playa Naranjo.
Since the access to the park is quite difficult, you won’t need to worry about the crowds especially during the week days. In the wet months (July to December) you surely feel like you have the entire park for yourself.
>>read more about Getting from San Jose to Libera
>>read more about What to do in San Jose
Photo credits:Jade Museum , La Paz Waterfall , Pre-Columbian Gold Museum , Arenal Volcano , Metropolitan Cathedral , Mercado Central , Park , Playa Naranjo