Best Things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica in 2023
Here are the best things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica's capital, in 2023 that are perfect for families as well as all types of travelers in 2023. Nature lovers can choose from numerous national parks that range from towering volcanoes to pristine beaches to cascading waterfalls. Other options involving natural scenery include a bit of adrenaline like white water rafting on several rivers, ziplining through the canopy or try the aerial tram at Braulio Carrillo National Park. Cultural tours include the colonial town of Cartago, the San Jose Central Market or visit a coffee plantation and the historic architecture of the National Theatre is a treat. Several museums are superb like the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum as well as the Jade Museum and when you want to relax stop at Morazan Park or Parque La Sabana where you can listen to live music.
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One of the main reasons that travelers visit Costa Rica is because of the natural scenery and one of the best things to do in San Jose is to take advantage of an Eco tour to view biodiversity of the country. These excursions are ideal for families looking to spend a day in the natural beauty of the tropical landscape as well as viewing volcanoes, pristine beach areas and a variety of natural features such as waterfalls. You will be pleased with the wide variety of tours that range from Tortuguero National Park to Poas Volcano to the Sarapiqui River Valley. You have several options on how to enjoy these tours that can have you ziplining through the canopy, hiking to the top of a volcano to taking a boat cruise to an island as well as an aerial tram ride that is superb for watching wildlife.
Arenal Volcano Tours from San Jose
One of the most exciting things to do in San Jose for people searching to visit one of the world’s most notorious volcanoes is to take an Arenal Volcano tour from San Jose. Located 55-miles northwest of San Jose, the Arenal Volcano National Park encompasses more than 30,000 acres and the volcano boasts a 460-foot wide crater. Once at the park you will be thrilled in viewing an active volcano while hiking on one of the many trails that wind through the park. The surrounding area of Arenal Volcano National Park showcases the biodiversity of Costa Rica with sixteen different ecological zones. There are numerous excursions that provide for exciting adventures in this park and there are additional add-ons like viewing La Fortuna Waterfall, soaking in a local hot springs and floating down the Penas Blanco River to help make for a perfect day in nature.
Poas Volcano National Park Tours from San Jose
When you are looking for an accessible volcano which provides excellent viewing opportunities of a live volcano then a perfect thing to do in San Jose is to plan a Poas Volcano National Park tour from San Jose. Located 34-miles from San Jose, Poas Volcano National Park is a 16,000-acre wonder land of geologic features that can be accessed by a number of excursions. Once at Poas Volcano National Park you will be amazed at looing down into a smoke filled crater, viewing an aquamarine lagoon as well as viewing geysers from one of the many hiking trails that wind through the park. You will be happy with the add-on options that you can include which range from viewing La Paz Waterfall to white water rafting to a leisurely boat cruise and you can even stop at a working coffee plantation to complete your day.
One of the most intriguing things to do in San Jose for nature and thrill seekers is to plan on taking a zipline tour. These excursions are family friendly and will give your heart that extra beat and you will be pleased with the bird’s eye view of the natural landscape. There are tours that take you on 25 different cables over 11 waterfalls as well as have you flying like Superman over the lush tropical canopy below. You will have ample opportunities for wildlife sightings and you can smell the tropical landscape as you soar above the treetops. Other add-on options that fulfill a day of adventure with these excursions include horseback riding, indulging in an organic lunch, white water rafting, a dip in a natural hot springs or a quiet boat cruise on a river surrounded by jungle.
San Jose City Tours
When you want to see all the historical sites and learn the history of San Jose then the perfect thing to do in San Jose is to try a San Jose City Tour. These excursions will take you to places such as the National Theatre, the Metallic Building, Morazan Park, Correos de Costa Rica, La Sabana Park and Plaza de la Cultura. You can relax while riding in a mini-coach or get some exercise while taking a walking tour. The sights and smells of the Central Market will have you thinking of lunch or you can decide to try a dinner and dancing excursion or perhaps a traditional Costa Rican dinner in Escazu. These tours are family friendly and many of them include complimentary hotel pick-up and drop-off service.
San Jose Central Market
A perfect thing to do in San Jose when you want to mingle with the local Ticos, learn about the food and view incredible merchandise is to plan a visit to the San Jose Central Market. Located along Avenida Central between Calle 6 and 8, the San Jose Central Market has been in operation since 1880 and will help you realize what the real San Jose is for the local people. The San Jose Central Market is filled with up to 200 stalls that contain everything from produce to leather belts to herbal remedies to local cuisine. As you stroll through the market you can look for that perfect souvenir or relax while having a nice cup of coffee. You can view the San Jose Central Market on several walking tours that include stops at restaurants, bars and numerous historical buildings that line the city streets.
Braulio Carrillo National Park Tours from San Jose
One of the best things to do in San Jose when you want to view the exquisite natural landscape and escape the bustle of the city is to take a Braulio Carrillo National Park Tour from San Jose. You have a wide variety of choices in which to view the 108,970 acres of pristine tropical landscape that includes several dormant volcanoes such as Cerros las Tres Marias and several distinct ecosystems. Braulio Carrillo National Park boasts miles of hiking trails to waterfalls and crater lakes such as Barva. You can decide to relax within a motor coach and take fascinating photographs at various stops along the highway that bisects the park. Other activities that can be added on these excursions include ziplining, horseback riding, a boat cruise as well as white water rafting and there is an aerial tram that is perfect for families.
Sarchi Day Trip from San Jose
If you are interested in hand crafted items, beautiful landscape and a community that still embraces the coffee industry of old then an ideal thing to do San Jose is to visit Sarchi. As you travel northwest 29-miles from San Jose to Sarchi you will see numerous natural features from volcanoes to waterfalls to the lush tropical landscape within the Cordillera Central. Once you arrive at Sarchi you will be delighted with the various arts and crafts that are produced from leather, wood as well as various other textiles. As you spend your time walking the streets searching for souvenirs you will notice several intricately painted carretas which are oxcarts that were used to carry coffee from the fields. Other exciting activities that can be combined with a trip to Sarchi include a stop at a coffee plantation and you can witness the mystifying Poas Volcano National Park.
Sarapiqui Canopy Tour from San Jose
When you are searching for an adventurous thing to do in San Jose then you should take the Sarapiqui Canopy Tour from San Jose. You will be thrilled with exploring the various natural places you will visit like Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui where you will cruise on a leisurely boat ride down the Sarapiqui River viewing the incredible wildlife and lush tropical landscape. You will be accompanied by a qualified naturalist that will explain all the various species of wildlife as well as fauna and flora on your 2-hour boat excursion. From here you will find yourself in the treetops awaiting your turn on an adrenaline filled zipline ride which will have you gliding over and through the forest canopy allowing you a bird’s eye view of the lush landscape. After your heart has stopped pounding from the adrenaline you will indulge in a Costa Rican style lunch before traveling back San Jose.
La Selva Biological Reserve
An ideal thing to do in San Jose for travelers including families that are seeking an outdoor experience with nature is to plan a trip to the La Selva Biological Reserve. As you travel you will view the lush tropical landscape then you will stop to view birds like hawks and hummingbirds at La Virgen del Socorro as well as indulge in a Costa Rican style lunch. Your travels will take you through Braulio Carrillo National Park and once you are at the Sarapiqui River area you will cross a suspension bridge and continue traveling to La Selva Biological Reserve which is recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Here you will take a nature walk and learn about the 400 species of birds that call the reserve home. Your next stop will be the Tirimbina Rain Forest Center where you will learn about the history of cacao and sample tasty treats of chocolate made by the Association of Women Amazilia del Caribe. Your travels for the day come to an end at a leafcutter ant farm before returning to San Jose.
Orosi River Valley Day Trips from San Jose
When you are ready to explore the countryside of Costa Rica in an area that offers numerous adventures a superb thing to do in San Jose is to take an Orosi River Valley day trip from San Jose. Located 40-miles west of San Jose and 5-miles south of Cartago, the Orosi River Valley is packed with activities that range from rafting to historical buildings to nature hikes to freshwater fishing. The Orosi River Valley boasts white water rafting on the Reventazon River or kayaking on Cachi Lake. Other adventures include hiking to Irazu Volcano where you will find plenty of green farmland and crater lakes. You can visit the Ruins of Ujarras or stop by at the Iglesia de San Jose de Orosi Church which is the oldest church in Costa Rica still in use and you can even cool off in a nearby swimming pool.
White Water Rafting
When you are looking to combine an excellent adrenaline rush while being immersed in a natural setting then a superb thing to do in San Jose is to plan a white water rafting tour. These excursions offer a great fun for all types of travelers as well as family friendly and can accommodate novices to expert river rafters. While on the river you will have a unique perspective into the natural landscape as you experience class II, III and IV waves on rivers such as Sarapiqui, Savegre and the Pacuare which is home to the Cabecar Indians. You will have a blast as you travel down the river taking instructions from an expert river guide who will explain the several species of animals and plants that you will see. Most of these excursions include a complimentary lunch and you can even add-on a zipline adventure if you choose.
Cartago Day Trip by Rail from San Jose: Bike Ride and Market Tour
When you are ready to combine several modes of transportation with a great historical experience then the only thing to do in San Jose is to take the Cartago Day Trip by Rail from San Jose: Bike Ride and Market Tour. This 5-hour excursion is perfect for all types of travelers and your day begins with a hike to several sites such as Parque de Espanol and the National Liquor Factory before heading out by train to the colonial town of Cartago. During your 45-minute train ride you can see working plantations and the gorgeous Costa Rica landscape. Once at Cartago you will be outfitted with a bicycle and safety gear before heading out for a casual ride around the city. You will learn the early and present day history of Cartago from your expert guide as you travel to places such as the Central Market where you can indulge in sample of Costa Rican delicacies. On your way home you can mingle with the Ticos who regularly take the short bus ride Cartago to San Jose for work.
Cruises and Water Tours
One of the best things to do in San Jose for people looking to enjoy the natural landscape of this tropical area is to plan on taking a cruise and water tour. You will be amazed at the places you can visit on these excursions that range from the tranquil beach surroundings of the Gulf of Nicoya to a stunning tropical landscape that exists in several of the river valleys within the country. There are tours that will take you to a relaxing beach area on Tortuga Island or a calm boat cruise down the Sarapiqui River where you can view incredible wildlife like crocodiles, spider monkeys and thousands of tropical bird species. Many of these excursions combine other activities like swimming, horseback riding as well as an adrenaline filled zipline ride and many of these excursions include a Costa Rican style lunch.
One of the more interesting things to do in San Jose that combines a variety of activities that help you understand the culture of the country is to try one of the many cultural tours. Excursions range from half to full-day with stops at important cultural centers like the historic architecture of San Jose, a trip to a strawberry plantation and you can even learn about coffee as well as the influence of chocolate on the local culture. You can immerse yourself in nature at the San Gerardo de Dota within the Savegre River Valley or you can choose to visit a cheese factory. All of these activities will leave a lasting imprint on how you understand the culture of Costa Rica as you wander the streets of San Jose or relish the pristine natural landscape which has always been a focal point of culture for Ticos.
Horseback Riding Tours
One of the more outstanding things to do in San Jose that combines a trip into the nature with exciting activities is to try a horseback riding tour. These all-day excursions are great for people that like to get out in nature and explore the beautiful tropical landscape as you listen to your expert guide explain the various species of wildlife that can range from spider monkeys to crocodiles to parrots and don’t forget the several thousands of plant species you will see. You will travel through pristine areas such as Braulio Carrillo National Park, Madero Negro and the Sarapiqui River Valley. Added bonuses on most of these tours range from a dip in a hot springs to a thrilling zipline adventure to a cruise down the Sarapiqui River and you will indulge in a Costa Rican style lunch.
When you want to learn about a true Mayan delicacy then the best thing to do in San Jose is to try a chocolate tour. You will be amazed at the places you will view and visit on these excursions that include tasting several forms of exquisite chocolate. As you travel you will view the tropical landscape, walk inside a coffee plantation and you can even travel to La Selva Biological Reserve where you will watch native animals like sloths as well as spider monkeys in their natural habitat. Along the way your focus will be on chocolate and the history of cacao in Central America. There are half and full-day tours available that will have you learning about the chocolate making lifecycle from plant to processing. Added bonuses on these excursions are the several chocolate tastings you will enjoy as well as complimentary lunch and hotel transportation.
Beer Tasting Tours
When you want to combine tasting great beer with an interesting take on the history of San Jose, then a perfect thing to do in San Jose is to go on a beer tasting tour. These excursions are ideal for people that want to learn the history of craft beer in Costa Rica from an expert who will also explain the many historical sites you will view. Each tour will take you to specific areas of town like Barrio Escanlante which is laced with local breweries making unique craft beers. On your excursion you taste up to ten different samplings from several of the breweries and you will learn about the brewing process through an acclaimed beer expert from La Bodega de Chema. An added bonus on these tours is the mingling with local Ticos and sampling many Costa Rican food delights that are similar to tapas.
If you are interested in nature and viewing the main driving force for the economy of Costa Rica for many centuries, then a great thing to do in San Jose is to take a Coffee tour. There are a wide variety of these excursions that will please not only the coffee aficionado but families and all travelers while you learn about the history and culture of the many coffee plantations that dot the Costa Rican landscape. Tours include transportation options by coach or train that will take you to small communities like Heredia, Grecia, Sarchi and some of the excursions include sightseeing stops at Barva Volcano National Park. You will enjoy a stop at Cafe Britt for a splendid coffee tasting and you will stroll through some of the world’s best country regions while you learn the lifecycle of a coffee plantation.
When you are interested in experiencing the nightlife of this vibrant city then an ideal thing to do in San Jose is to attend a thrilling pub crawl tour. On these excursions you will travel the streets of downtown while you listen to interesting commentary from your expert bar guide about historically significant sites as well as the history of San Jose’s nightlife. During your night on the town you will be pleased with the opportunities to dance and mingle with other tourists as well as the local Ticos while you enjoy several lively atmospheres. Most tours include stops at three different locations with VIP no waiting in line entrance and once inside the fun never stops with specials on libations as well as an open bar at one of your stops.
Parque La Sabana
Taking a walk through Parque La Sabana is one of the best things to do in San Jose when you want to relax and enjoy the largest urban park in Costa Rica. Located 1.5-miles west of central downtown in the upscale Paseo Colon area, Parque La Sabana features 153-acres of green open space and contains the National Stadium as well as the Museum of Costa Rican Art. Parque La Sabana is considered by Costa Ricans to be the lungs of San Jose and contains numerous miles of exercising paths that wind through a manicured forest. There is plenty of green open space for lawn games and the park has several sporting fields, skating tracks, a shooting range and an artificial lake complete with fountains as well as ornamental sculptures. The original area of Parque La Sabana was the original Sabana International Airport which now houses the Museum of Costa Rican Art. Also located within the park is the National Stadium where crowds of up to 40,000 will gather to watch soccer games.
Photo by m.prinke
National Theater - Teatro Nacional Costa Rica
When you want to combine an evening of the performing arts with viewing on of the most historically significant buildings in Costa Rica then the only thing to do in San Jose is to go to the National Theatre also known as the Teatro Nacional Costa Rica. Located adjacent to Plaza de la Cultura in the Catedral District, the National Theatre was constructed between 1891 through 1897 with an intricate Neo-classical Renaissance architectural design. The style of the building is marvelous from the outside with towering columns and arched windows which are adorned with terra cotta designs. There are several statues in the front of notables such as Beethoven, Chopin and Calderon de la Barca. The inside of the National Theatre is just as spectacular with hand painted murals by Aleardo Villa and intricate hand crafted balusters, molded ceilings, elegant chandeliers and numerous pieces of period furnishings. The National Theatre hosts a variety of events from the Costa Rican National Symphonic Orchestra to live theatrical performances to societal events. The National Theatre is considered to be a must see and when you are finished touring this historic theatre you can enjoy a delightful lunch at the theatre’s onsite restaurant.
San Jose Dinner, Live Music, and Traditional Dance
One of the best things to do in San Jose to understand the culture and history of Costa Rica is to try the San Jose Dinner, Live Music and Traditional Dance tour. This 4-hour excursion is ideal for all types of travelers including families who want to learn about the food, music and traditions of Costa Rica. Your entertaining evening begins with complimentary pick-up service from your hotel where you will meet your driver who will explain the interesting sites along your drive. Once at the hilltop restaurant you will be thrilled with variety of activities that start with a gorgeous view of San Jose, Alajuela and Heredia. From here you will indulge in Costa Rican delicacies such as chifrijo, olla de carne, chicharones and picadillo de arracache from a large buffet before listening to folk music that is accompanied by traditional dancers who are dressed in colorful dresses and costumes that reflect the culture of region. All throughout your evening you will be thrilled with the interactivity of the dancers, musicians and story tellers. At the end of your evening you can enjoy a firework display before being dropped-off at your selected hotel.
Jade Museum (Museo de Jade)
When you want to view the world’s largest collection of a single precious stone then the best thing to do in San Jose is to plan a trip to the Jade Museum also known as the Museo de Jade. Located adjacent to the Plaza de la Democracia, the Jade Museum focuses on the preserving, conserving and exhibiting pieces of jade that express the historical and artistic values of the pre-Columbian culture primarily that of the Maya. The Jade Museum is home to more than 7,000 pieces of pre-Columbian artifacts that range from pottery to jade to figurines to gold to stone to wood. The Jade Museum uses these artifacts in six permanent exhibits which highlight a specific subject such as the mythological world, the everyday use and hierarchy of ancient societies and the jade room brings together shamanism, trade as well as symbolisms of faith. The Jade Museum has interesting temporary exhibits which rotate on a continual basis while highlighting the beauty of jade and the ingenuity of the pre-Columbian society. The Jade Museum is instrumental in developing a story of how carving the rocks and minerals was formulated by numerous generations of communicating stone cutting techniques.
Chirripo National Park
When you need to get in touch with nature then an ideal thing to do in San Jose is to visit Chirripo National Park which is conserved to be one of the country’s most wildest yet accessible national parks. Located 100-miles southeast of San Jose, Chirripo National Park contains 125,600 acres that represent five different ecosystems and is home to Cerro Chirripo Grande which at 12,553-feet above sea level is the highest point in Costa Rica. Once at Chirripo National Park you will find numerous miles of ancient and present day hiking trails including the trail to summit Cerro Chirripo Grande which is a grueling 12-mile hike with an elevation gain of over 10,000-feet. Hiking and overnight camping is quite popular with tourists as well as the locals with overnight camping aided by several remote refugios which are bunk houses where you can reserve a bed and a meal. Wildlife within the park varies from peccary, jaguars, pumas as well as spider monkeys to more than 260 species of amphibians and reptiles. Birdwatchers will be pleased with over 400 species within the park and don’t be surprised if you see an oak tree that is more than 165-feet tall.
Photo by Ana Ruth Rivera
Costa Rican Art Museum (Museo de Arte Costarricense)
One of the best things to do in San Jose for people who like art and want to learn more about the fantastic artists that have lived in Costa Rica is to plan a trip to the Costa Rican Art Museum also known as the Museo de Arte Costarricense. Located on the eastern edge of Sabana Park just west of central downtown, the Costa Rican Art Museum is housed in the original airport of San Jose which was constructed in the 1930s with a Neo-colonial architectural design. Once inside the Costa Rican Art Museum you can view the largest collection of works by Juan Manuel Sanchez, Lola Fernandez, Max Jimenez, Franicisco Amighetti as well as Francisco Zuniga. In total the Costa Rican Art Museum has more than 6,000 pieces of art which was created from the colonial time period through present day. The pieces of art range from engravings to paintings to watercolors to photography and the original tarmac of the airport boasts a sculpture garden complete with grassy areas for relaxing. The museum utilizes much of the old space from the airport and even allows exhibitions within the Control Tower which offers views of the surrounding built environment.
Photo by Diane Herr
When you want to view an incredible historic building that is constructed with intricate metal materials, then the best thing to do in San Jose is to stop at the Metallic Building also known as the Metallic School. Located adjacent to Morazan Park between Calle 7 and 9, the Metallic Building was constructed in Belgium during the late 19th century and brought to Costa Rica by France during the same time frame as the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. The site where the Metallic Building resides was a former swamp area which led to the construction of the building overseas and later assembled in San Jose. The Metallic Building has an interesting Classical Revival architectural style which resembles imitation stone and is still used to house two schools which are Julia Lang and the Buenaventura Corrales. The Metallic Building is included in many different walking tours and has become a favorite of photographers over the years.
Photo by Adam Jones
When you want to stroll through a beautiful revamped green space that offers musical recitals on many evenings throughout the week then an ideal thing to din San Jose is to visit the Morazan Park. Located between Avenida 3 and 5 as well as Calles 5 and 9, Morazan Park was first constructed in 1887 and named after Francisco Morazan who was a general in the 19th century that tried to unify Central America. Morazan Park is a perfect place for music with the Neo-classical Temple of Music which is a kiosk fashioned after the Temple of Love and Music in Versailles. The acoustics at the Temple of Music are superb and there is a wide assortment of music played from the National Symphonic Orchestra to Latin to contemporary bands. There are beautiful garden areas with ideal places for a quiet picnic and plenty of shade trees to help with the sun. During political elections the Temple of Music and Morazan Park are used extensively for rallies by political groups. Another item you will spot while strolling in the park is the Metal Building also known as the Metallic School which was constructed during the same time frame as the Eiffel Tower.
Photo by Victor C.
Plaza de la Cultura
When you are interested in spending time mingling with local people and enjoying a relaxing afternoon or evening, then the best thing to do in San Jose is to visit the Plaza de la Cultura. Located along the Avenida Central Pedestrian Mall, the Plaza de la Cultura is situated adjacent to the historic National Theater and the plaza forms the roof for the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, the Numismatics Museum and the largest collection of plastic arts occupy the three levels beneath the plaza. The Plaza de la Cultura is a wide open space of designed concrete which offers plenty of benches for seating, fountains and grassy areas. In the afternoon and evening the Plaza de la Cultura comes to life with vendors, street performers and families seeking a place full of entertainment. Over the years the park has undergone many facelifts and serves as a central meeting place for people from all walks of life. The Plaza de la Cultura is also one of the safest places in town with a police tower overlooking the area.
Pre-Columbian Gold Museum
One of the more intriguing things to do in San Jose is to plan a visit to the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. Located in the heart of downtown within the Central Bank of Costa Rica building, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum is situated on the lower floors directly under the Plaza de la Cultura and contains more than 1,600 artifacts made of gold that date from 500 AD to 1500 AD which were created by the Pre-Columbian peoples of Costa Rica. The gold artifacts on exhibit at the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum include such items as fish, hooks, frogs, needles, turtles and objects related to fauna. The collection of gold artifacts also include the personal items like earrings and Costa Rica’s first coin the 1825 Media Escudo. Other notable artifacts include the El Guerro warrior statue and there is an exhibit on Pre-Columbian grave site found within a banana plantation that contained 88 pieces of treasure. Also within the Central Bank of Costa Rica you will find the Numismatics Museum where you will find 3,400 monetary artifacts that range from tokens to coins to bank notes that date from 1516 to present day.
Photo by Kenneth Lu
National Museum (Museo Nacional)
When you are ready to view and learn about the fascinating cultural and natural histories of Costa Rica then the perfect thing to do in San Jose is to visit the National Museum or Museo Nacional. Located in the center of downtown, the National Museum was first created in 1887 and is a leading institution of protected the anthropology, archaeology, history and natural history of Costa Rica. The National Museum is currently housed within the barracks at the Bellavista Fortress which was constructed in 1917. The Spanish fortress style is unique and offers a look into the built environment of early San Jose and the trials of the Costa Rican Civil War of 1948. The natural history collection ranges from geology to zoology to botany. The archaeology and anthropology collections focus on human behavior, ceramics, metallurgy, human remains as well as fauna. The historical collection contains 33,544 items such as pre-Columbian artifacts, period furniture, tools, recreations equipment and numismatics. The National Museum incorporates the knowledge of these departments into four permanent and three temporary interactive exhibits that will value to your understanding of Costa Rico and the Ticos.
Photo by Andy Rusch.
When you want to relax in one of the poshest areas surrounding San Jose, then an ideal thing to do in San Jose is to make a stop at Escazu. Located 4.5-miles west of San Jose, Escazu is a relaxed suburb of the city that boasts numerous shopping, dining and entertainment venues as well as lodging options. Escazu has a very laidback atmosphere and is loaded with posh housing that could revival Beverly Hills. The suburb has three main neighborhoods along the hillside that overlooks San Jose. The residents within the community of Escazu are primarily expatriates from North America which makes for a quiet and secure area. Once at Escazu you will find plenty of opportunities for high-end shopping and dining as well as a movie theater with English speaking films at the ultramodern Multiplaza complex. While driving the neighborhoods you will be thrilled with the manicured gardens of each home. If you travel above the homes you will find hiking trails at the Escazu Hills Sanctuary which offer splendid views of the area.
Photo by Corie Bidgood
Ruinas de Ujarras
If you want to see a pristine garden area combined with historic church architecture, then an ideal thing to do in San Jose is to take a trip to Ruinas de Ujarras. Located southeast of San Jose and Cartago in the Orosi Valley, the Ruinas de Ujarras are situated in the Cartago Province adjacent to Cachi Lake and is the oldest church in Costa Rica with construction dating back to 1580. This Spanish Colonial styled church is built with limestone masonry techniques with features such as a large cross across the front gable of the building. The church has been vacant since 1833 after a devastating fire in the area. The Ruinas de Ujarras also known as Nusetra de la Limpia Concepcion is surrounded by a beautiful gardens that features waterfalls and walking paths. An added bonus to visiting the Ruinas de Ujarras is to stop at Mirador de Ujarras for a gorgeous view of the area including the church, the town, the surrounding tropical landscape and Lake Cachi. Facilities include restrooms, picnic tables with barbeque grills and a playground.
Photo by Oscar Carvajal
Costa Rica Day Trip from San Jose
The Costa Rica Day Trip from San Jose is an ideal thing to do in San Jose for travelers who want to combine the history of coffee in the country with beautiful scenery that includes a stunning waterfall. Your excursion begins with a drive through the lush tropical landscape that surrounds San Jose while you indulge in a quick breakfast until you reach the Doka Estate coffee plantation which has been operated for generations by the same family. Here you will learn about the lifecycle of coffee from planting to harvesting to roasting. After sampling some of the coffee you will then be transported to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens where you will witness one of the most incredible waterfalls within Costa Rica. You will have time to visit the Hummingbird Garden and Butterfly Observatory while you are hiking on one of the many miles of nature trails that lace the gardens where some 100 species of animals call home. Your perfect day in Costa Rica concludes with a superb lunch of local cuisine and a quick ride back to your San Jose hotel.
Manuel Antonio National Park
When you are ready to hit the beach and soak up the natural lush scenery then an ideal thing to do in San Jose is to go to Manuel Antonio National Park. Your glorious day in the jungle and at the beach begins with a drive from San Jose to the Pacific Ocean coastline while you will enjoy a quick breakfast along the way. Once you reach the port of Quepos you will then take a short hike into Manuel Antonio National Park where no vehicles are allowed to enter. After walking through the jungle a short distance you will find yourself at a beautiful crescent-shaped white sand beach where you can spend the day lounging under the sun or swimming in the warm clear blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. While at the park you will also have the opportunity to take short nature walks with a qualified naturalist as they explain the various wildlife and fauna as well as hike to Cathedral Point for a panoramic view. After watching a stellar sunset over the Pacific Ocean you will return to San Jose.
Tortuguero National Park
One of the most amazing things to do in San Jose for travelers who want to view the lush tropical landscape, an eco-chic lodge and lounge on a pristine beach is to take a trip to Tortuguero National Park. Your excursion begins with a casual drive through Braulio Carrillo National Park where you can relax and absorb the natural scenery. As you continue your travels through a banana plantation you will change your mode of transportation and board a boat for an hour cruise to Tortuguero National Park. As you cruise along the archipelago of volcanic islands you will see incredible scenery that includes mangroves, lagoons and beaches. As you continue you will be thrilled with the wildlife from river otters to West Indian manatees to howler monkeys to numerous species of reptiles. Once at Tortuguero National park you will head to Evergreen Lodge for a nice Costa Rican style lunch before heading to the black sand beaches to learn about the island’s conservation methods for endangered green sea turtles. When you are finished with your boat ride you can lounge and finish viewing the tropical scenery on your ride back to your San Jose hotel.
Braulio Carrillo National Park
One of the best family friendly things to do in San Jose for those that want to see lots of wildlife and the tropical landscape of Costa Rica is to plan an aerial tram visit to Braulio Carrillo National Park. Located about an hour away from San Jose, the Braulio Carrillo National Park is a magical wonder land that is teeming with nature. When you arrive at the park you will have the opportunity to take a nature hike to get an up close view of the many plant species as well as the wildlife as you listen to an expert naturalist explain the biodiversity of this 108,000 plus acre national park. The second part of your excursion includes a 70-minute aerial tram ride that puts you above the jungle floor within the dense canopy. While in the air you will have perfect vantage points to spot wildlife like spider monkeys, sloths, numerous reptiles as well as several hundred brightly colored birds. Once back on the ground you will be treated to a complimentary Costa Rican style lunch before being transported back to your hotel in San Jose.
Irazu Volcano, Orosi Valley and Lankester Tour
When you are interested in seeing a majestic volcano, an orchid garden and historic colonial architecture then a superb thing to do in San Jose is to plan on taking an Irazu Volcano, Orosi Valley and Lankester tour. This excursion is fabulous for all types of travelers and you will first be transported to Cartago which is situated at the base of a volcanic mountain range where you will step inside the Basilica of Los Angeles. The inside of the church is adorned with numerous gifts of gold and silver that have been left by patrons over the years. While at Cartago you can view Irazu Volcano which is the tallest volcano in Costa Rica at over 11,000 feet above sea level. From here you will go to the colonial town of Orosi where you will indulge in historic architecture while eating a Costa Rican style lunch. Your last stop will be the lush scenery found at the Lankester Botanical Gardens which are packed with a plethora of orchids. This excursion also includes complimentary pick-up and drop-off service at your San Jose hotel.