San Jose Costa Rica Travel Guide
Introduction to San Jose
While many people only visit San Jose in order to transit to their final destination in this popular Central American country, there are enough attractions in and around the hub of the Central Valley to justify a visit of 2 to 3 days.
With an elevation that averages 3,500 feet, the weather here is not too hot during the day, with a daytime high averaging around 27 degrees Celsius. As such, don’t feel like you have to blaze in and out of this underrated city, as there is enough to do to either start or end your trip to San Jose Costa Rica in this place.
Cultural Attractions in San Jose
Start your time in the capital of Costa Rica by exploring the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. Located underneath the Banco Central de Costa Rica, This subterranean facility is home to hundreds of artifacts that were used as symbols of authority and wealth in societies that existed before the Spanish arrived in Costa Rica.
From jewelry the figurines, there are many dazzling displays the prosperity here that will put you in the place of the Spanish conquistadors, whose eyes must have lit up when they saw all this wealth for the first time.
Those that seek the story of Costa Rica’s past will find plenty of exhibits that do this job handily at the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica. Located in a mustard yellow building just east of the downtown core that once served as the barracks for the nation’s military (the Armed Forces were disbanded in 1948, and has not been reconvened since then), the halls of this historical institution contains artifacts from the nation’s pre-columbian and colonial history.
While the civilizations that existed here were not as sophisticated as the Mayans or the Incas, they nonetheless had a variety of leftovers from that area, which included ceramic pottery and ceremonial tablets known as metates.
If you have been traveling for Central America for a while, and you are craving a bit of culture during your time here, then spending an evening out at the National Theatre of Costa Rica is a worthwhile way of spending one of your evenings in San Jose.
This beautiful neoclassical structure was built during the late 19th century, when coffee exports were starting to bring in large amounts of money. Today, it remains a central fixture in the cultural life of Costa Rica’s capital city, as the nation’s Symphony Orchestra counts this place as their home, and many other theatrical productions go on here throughout the calendar year.
Other Attractions in San Jose
While San Jose is decidedly lacking in attractions compared to the rest of the country, there are a number of very interesting day trips that can be launched from this city. Of these, the Poas Volcano is by far the most popular, as its proximity to Costa Rica’s largest urban center has made it the most visited national park in the entire country.
With easy motorable access right up to the edge of the crater, it is not hard to understand why; despite the crowds that result from this ease of access, the view into the crater is nothing short of spectacular, and with plenty of steaming fissures, lava eruption points, and lush rainforest and crater lakes in inactive areas of the summit, there is plenty to see and do on a day trip here.
Located on the slopes of Poas Volcano is La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which is another popular attraction for day-trippers from San Jose. Lovers of water features will love this place, as no less than 5 waterfalls can be found on the grounds of this well maintained green space.
In addition to this, the Butterfly Conservatory located on site is the largest of its kind in the world, making this site ideal for family travelers.
As alluded to earlier, coffee is the biggest economic export that this nation has, though tourism is quickly rivaling it in economic potential. Nevertheless, a trip out to the coffee plantations located throughout the Central Valley will give you an insight into what helped make this nation as stable as it is in the region.
As one of the world’s top coffee producers, the wealth that this crop produces, as well as the choices by the government’s in the past half-century has made Costa Rica a nation that stands out positively in a region that is known for extreme poverty.
A trip out to these farms will allow you to understand how this staple of everyday Western life is produced, how the volcanic soils that predominate in this part of Central America have contributed to its success, and the vital role that promoting fair trade has in the lives of ordinary hard-working Costa Ricans.