San José is most probably the city where youwill enter Costa Rica as most people arrive by plane. The city is not particularly beautiful, and most travel guides will recommend you to leave it quickly, however there is much to explore and if time allows you should stay a couple of days here and enjoy the capital Tico. It can also be a base to do daytrips to the Central Valley and Highlands.
Like in most countries, taxi drivers are closer to the mafia than to their customers. Uber is working perfectly and will guarantee a smooth ride to your Ritz. Exit the arrival area to the right. The pick-up point is in front of the restaurant. The app will guide you to the correct spot. If you take a taxi, force the driver to turn on their “Maria“, which is how they refer to their meters here. US Dollars are widely accepted in Costa Rica, though local Colones are a better option. Don’t change at one of the Exchange booths in the arrival area. Get a better deal at the only ATM located on the departure level. The machine supplies Dollars and Colones. Banco National has no fees for cash withdrawal for DKB VISA cards.
Save your rental car money for the adventures outside of San Jose. Uber is affordable and depending on the location of your hotel, mostly everything is in walking distance anyway. San Jose is safe to walk, also in the evening, but to be on the safe side, ask your host for an update.
The Selina Group offers a nice stay for every budget and is well located in the heart of San Jose. Occupying a whole block, it is also a good place for breakfast or a drink in the evening. Hotel Presidente has an even better location with larger rooms. Pamper yourself in king-size beds.
A place to be in the evening is definitely the Barrio Escalante. The “Olio“ offers a Mediterranean influenced cuisine and refreshing cocktails. If you‘re looking for a purely Italian option the “Sapore Trattoria“ (although not in Escalante) could be the place for you, though the pizza did not fully convince us.
For breakfast, head to “Sobremesa“, only a few steps from “Olio“ for their poached egg sandwiches.
The best coffee in town is served at the “Cafeoteca“. Choose between many different beans and preparation methods and feel like a hipster. Coffee can not be fresher and better. If you’re still feeling hungry, sit down on the beautiful patio and enjoy some healthy bites at “Kalú“ located in the same space. It is an excellent option as well for breakfast and you can find your necessary souvenirs here too.
If you are in a hurry, skip the Museo del Oro, which is more interesting for its architecture than the exhibits. You could also skip the Museo Jade and head directly across to the National Museum where you will find a perfect combination of everything including the history of the country.
Stroll through the Mercado Central, which also offers a good possibility to buy souvenirs, herbs and much more and walk over to the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Jose to light a candle. For your afternoon coffee, Alma de Café in the Teatro Nacional offers good coffee and Pecan Pies and “Pai de Limon“ to die for.
If you happen to be in San Jose on a Saturday, get up early and skip breakfast in your auberge and head to the Feria Verde. This mostly organic food market is an excellent place for breakfast. Enjoy a fabulous coffee while enjoying a bite of the artisanal chocolate you just bought and listen to the vibes of the DJ. You might also buy some souvenirs for your loved ones.
Poas volcano is an excellent day trip from San Jose. It would be worth renting a car for this trip or hire a private driver for around 50 $ as all the tours and public transportation arrive around 10.00 or 11.00. By this time the clouds will have already covered the volcano. Unfortunately the volcano is closed at the moment due to increased activity and is not due to open again before 2019.
If you are a coffee addict, the Britt Coffee tour is a half day trip from San Jose. For 25 $ per person you will learn everything about coffee, visit a small plantation, roastery and enjoy more than enough coffee to keep you awake.
Please note that activities and excursions are rather expensive in Costa Rica compared to other Latin American countries so stock up your dollars before you go. Credit cards are widely accepted though. Always ask to pay in Colones as the rate is better for your budget.
Did you know
Costa Rica does not have an army. This helped the country to develop well as money went into education and healthcare instead of arms. The country is also on its way to becoming one of the first carbon free countries in the world. The electricity is already 100 % renewable.
Stay online during your visit with a chip from Movistar. A prepaid chip can be bought for 10 $ which will include 2 GB of LTE Data. Remember to take your passport with you when you go to a Movistar shop to buy the chip. Avoid buying the chip at the airport at the “turista“ counter, it is a pure rip off.
A 10 % service charge is already included in your restaurant bill. Only tip if the service is extraordinary and watch out that this charge is not applied to your hotel bill or other invoice where no service is included.
In this blog post we use affiliate links. If you choose to click on one and use the services it will be free of any charge for you. We might get a little comission to support our travels.