Things to do in San Jose

Things to do in  San Jose

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As the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose is a bustling city whose metropolitan thrum contrasts with the natural wonders that surround it. Before you flock to the country’s biodiverse rain forest in search of wildlife, waterfalls, and Arenal and Poas volcanoes, stop to get acquainted with San Jose’s neoclassical grandeur. The city boasts museums dedicated to everything from jade and gold to insects and natural science, and plays host to theaters, churches, and cathedrals. Once you’ve had your fill of culture, get outside the city with a canopy tour through Monteverde Cloud Forest, white-water rafting on the Pacuare River, or a soak at Baldi Hot Springs.

Top 15 attractions in San Jose

Arenal Volcano National Park

Although visitors once flocked to Arenal Volcano for its impressive lava shows, the 5,437-foot (1,657-meter) volcano has stayed quiet since its last eruption in 2010. However, Arenal and the surrounding Arenal Volcano National Park remain a hot spot for visitors to Costa Rica, especially popular among those seeking hiking trails, swimming holes, hot springs, bird- and wildlife-watching, and sweeping views of the tropical rain forest.More

San Jose Central Market (Mercado Central)

Bountiful produce stalls, local-approved cafeterias, and vendor stalls selling everything from coffee beans to cowboy boots give visitors to San Jose’s Central Market (Mercado Central) a taste of real Costa Rican culture. Visit as part of an epic errand run or for a chance to look behind-the-scenes at everyday life in Costa Rica.More

Poas Volcano National Park

Poas Volcano National Park houses one of the more popular volcanoes in Costa Rica—a telling superlative for a country with world-famous geothermal activity. But with its spectacular wildlife, informative museum, and variety of hiking trails, the accolade comes as no surprise.More

Braulio Carrillo National Park

The vast protected forest of Braulio Carrillo National Park is a natural for toucans, eagles, armadillos, sloths, monkeys, and jaguars. Catch a glimpse of its rugged beauty from the comfort of your car, or hike along the trails that lead to thundering waterfalls, towering mountains, and rapid rivers.More

National Theater (Teatro Nacional)

Modelled after the Paris Opera House, the National Theater in San José’s Catedral district is a neo-classical masterpiece representing Costa Rica’s greatest era of extravagance and sophistication. The historic building has been the epicenter of the city’s fine arts scene including opera, symphony, and other performing arts since its inaugural performance by Fausto de Gounod in 1897.More

Sarapiqui Canopy

Costa Rica is famous for its amazing biodiversity, and Sarapiqui is a place where you can experience the thrill of the rain forest firsthand. Whether that’s ziplining through the trees at high speed, rafting along the river, or wildlife-spotting, the area is packed with natural wonders.More

Morazan Park

This lush public park at the center of San Jose was named after Francisco Morazan, an old-school general who tried to unite all of Central America into one common country. And while Morozan Park was once a hub for San Jose’s grit and grime (it used to be a known for drug sales and prostitution), the park has recently undergone a complete renaissance.Travelers can safely wander through the green gardens that make Morazan Park a respite from the otherwise urban feel of San Jose and stretch out for an afternoon picnic on thick lawns under massive shade trees. The Templo de Musica, a concrete gazebo at the center of the land, is the highlight of any visit to Morazan Park—especially when live local musicians are playing.More

Gold Museum

Housed in a historic building and managed by the Central Bank of Costa Rica, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum holds one of the largest collections of gold artifacts in Latin America. In total, the museum holds more than 1,600 pre-Columbian items, including Costa Rica’s very first coin, handmade ceramics, jewelry, and religious icons dating from 500 AD to 1500 AD.More


The quaint town of Sarchí is famous throughout Costa Rica for its handicrafts. From the brightly painted oxcarts that were once used in the coffee industry to decorated bowls, handmade jewelry, leather goods, and furniture, visitors looking for memorable souvenirs should plan to visit the town, only an hour’s drive from San José.More

National Museum (Museo Nacional)

Housed in the barracks of the Bellavista Fortress, the National Museum (Museo Nacional), displays indigenous and pre-Columbian artifacts, religious artwork, and geological and archaeological pieces linked to Costa Rica’s rich and colorful history since 1950. Separate rooms explore ancient cultures dating back some 12,000 years, as well as collections of ornate jewelry, medallions, and gold statues.More

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park

Offering scenic views of Volcan Arenal and Lake Arenal, the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges are a series of tall suspension bridges that form meandering trails through the rain forest, providing access to remote areas filled with natural beauty. The bridges immerse you deep into the heart of the forest, close to the extraordinary biodiversity of the jungle.More

Costa Rican Art Museum (Museo de Arte Costarricense)

Explore the works of some of Costa Rica’s greatest artists from the colonial era through today at the Costa Rican Art Museum, including almost the entire body of work from prolific local artist Juan Manuel Sanchez. The museum is housed in the building that once served as the main terminal of San Jose’s original international airport and outside, toward where the tarmac once sat, is a lovely sculpture garden where visitors can walk around an enjoy the tropical weather. The museum often has chamber music concerts playing in the Golden Hall.More

Orosi River Valley (El Valle del Rio Orosi)

Orosi River Valley is a tranquil, secluded area filled with rural charm and scenic landscapes, not far from the hustle and bustle of San José. With the silhouette of the volcanoes as a backdrop, the mountainous area has green forested hills covered by coffee plantations, natural hot springs, andxa0 colorful colonial towns in the middle of the lush vegetation.More

Plaza de la Cultura

As far as city squares go, Plaza de la Cultura leaves much to be desired. That’s because its unremarkable architecture and mostly concrete designs tend to make it one of the less visually pleasing squares in this colorful city.Still, travelers in search of a true taste of San Jose life will do well to visit this busy square, where locals gather after weekend shopping trips and stay well into the night. Ice cream vendors sell sweet, cool treats, which are perfect for taking the edge off a steamy afternoon. Plaza de la Cultura is typically teeming with street performers and vendors and a nearby police tower means that even with the crowds, it’s still one of the safest places in the city.More

La Sabana Park

With its 175 acres of green space and network of forested walking trails, La Sabana Park is San José’s version of New York’s Central Park. The large open lawns are perfect for Frisbee, soccer, or tossing a ball, and the walking trails and running tracks are where to work up a sweat. This site once housed the city’s airport until the 1940s, and today the former terminal building houses the Costa Rican Art Museum. Also within the leafy park is the country’s national stadium, where concerts and national soccer matches are held for up to 40,000 people. On most days, however, the park plays hosts to groups of locals all feeding the geese by the pond, or families simply enjoying a picnic beneath the shade of a tree. It’s a calming place to escape the crowds and the urban city bustle, and a comfortable perch for people watching and mingling with San José locals.More

Trip ideas

Rain Forest Canopy Tours From San Jose

Rain Forest Canopy Tours From San Jose

Top activities in San Jose

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All about San Jose

When to visit

Winter is high season in San Jose for good reason: not only is the weather warm and dry, but the event calendar is packed with festivities such as Festejos Populares and the family-friendly Zapote Fair. To score the best discounts on hotels, visit in the rainy season, from May to November, when cooler temperatures and vibrant greenery compensate for afternoon downpours.


People Also Ask

What is San Jose famous for?

The capital of Costa Rica is renowned as the gateway to the Arenal Volcano and Monteverde Cloud Forest, two of the country’s most impressive natural wonders. Along with its cloud forests and zipline canopy tours, Costa Rica is also famous for its chocolate, coffee, and adorable sloths.

How can I spend a day in San Jose?

One day is enough time to take in the highlights of San Jose, including the National Theater, the National Museum, and the National Park. Visit the Jade and Gold museums, shop for traditional handicrafts at the Central Market, then head to the San Pedro neighborhood to experience the buzzing nightlife.

What activities are popular in San Jose?

Once you’ve explored San Jose’s excellent museums, head out of the city to tour a coffee plantation, take a canopy tour in the Arenal Volcano National Park, or go ziplining in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. ATV tours through the rainforest and white-water rafting excursions are also popular choices.

What is there to do nearby San Jose?

Popular day trips from San Jose include ziplining in the Monteverde Cloud Forest and a canopy tour of the Arenal Volcano National Park. You can also enjoy wildlife watching and swimming at the beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park, hike in the Poas Volcano National Park, or tour a coffee plantation.

What should I not miss in San Jose?

San Jose has some of the best museums in Costa Rica, including the National Museum, Jade Museum, and Gold Museum. A visit to the Central Market is a must to experience local life and sample Costa Rican cuisine, and don’t miss a day trip to Monteverde Cloud Forest and Arenal Volcano.

Is San Jose expensive?

Yes, San Jose can be expensive compared to other Central and South American destinations. Expect to pay about US$30 a night for mid-range accommodation and $US25 a day for food. Taxis and private tours can also be pricey, so opt for shared tours and local transport if you’re on a budget.

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