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San Jose (Costa Rica)

Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in san jose (costa rica)

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San José is the capital of Costa Rica.

san jose (costa rica) Travel Guide :

San Jose (Costa Rica)


Costa Rica is the oldest democracy in Latin America with no military. It is highly governmentalised with universal public schooling, health care, a pension system and other aspects of what is essentially a somewhat paternalistic social democratic government.

Its exports were formerly largely agricultural. It has extensive sugar Cane "plantations" and cattle but it is industrializing rapidly. Intel has built a large chip fab plant there which tells one something of the educational standards. However the service sector is the largest sector now. The GDP per capita is roughly USD $9,600 but in terms of purchasing price parity it is double that. The growth rate is a respectable 3%.

Eco tourism is a central focus of development and it shows. The country is stunning and unspoiled and the will is there to keep it that way. However one would have to exempt San Jose itself from this assessment.

San Jose, the capital, is on a plateau in the Central Valley at 1500 meters elevation. It is ringed by lush green mountains and valleys. The population of this city is probably half of the whole country. It contains the primary airport, the University of Costa Rica, the US' and other embassies and many museums, cultural venues, hotels, markets, etc. It is the hub of the country.

San Jose (Costa Rica)

Get in

San Jose (Costa Rica)

By plane

Juan Santamaría Airport is located in Alajuela 17km or about 20 minutes by car from the center of San José.
There is a local bus stop outside the airport, but you might have to change buses to get to the city center. The taxis charge around 12 US Dollars to take you to the city, be sure to take one of the licensed reddish-orange taxis that say "Taxi Aeropuerto." There are many unlicensed taxi drivers who will charge you almost twice as much as Taxi Aeropuerto. The taxis gladly take Dollars, but the local bus only takes Colones.
There is an ATM by the entrance to the departures that will give you both Colones and Dollars.

San Jose (Costa Rica)

By car

There is a decent, if busy, road from the airport to downtown San Jose. You can rent a car at the airport. Some say that driving is a little hectic in Costa Rica but probably not as bad as, say, Boston. Others who drive comfortably in Boston suggest not driving in Costa Rica until a visitor has an opportunity to ride in taxis and other cars and get a sense of driving habits.

San Jose (Costa Rica)

By bus

Buses from Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panamá arrive in San José. And of course most local buses start or end here. There are several bus terminals in San José. It is important to know which bus terminal serves you bus route. There is no pattern to this.

San Jose (Costa Rica)

Get around

Taxis are generally cheap. All taxis should have a meter. The fare starts at 285 colones. Conversion is 480 colones per USD as of July 2005. A ride inside the city center will normally cost 500-1000 colones. Basically a couple dollars, which they will accept, will get you anywhere in the city. Be aware that it is close to useless to give a taxi driver an exact street address. You have to point out some well-known building, park or hotel close to where you are going.

San Jose (Costa Rica)


Because of its elevation San Jose is usually 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit though it can get chilly at night. The rainy season is in the fall.

San Jose (Costa Rica)


  • Museo Oro Precolombino (The Gold Museum), under Plaza de la Cultura. Tel 243-4202,, Tu-Su 10:00-16:30. Entrance fee $5 for foreigners. The collection consists of 1600 pieces of Pre-Columbian gold work dating from 500 AD to 1500 AD. Information is given on the processing and making of the pieces as well as their social, cultural and religious meanings. Although nice, the museum can not be compared to the magnificent gold museum in Bogotá, Colombia.
    At the same place you will also find The Numismatic Museum and The Temporary Exhibition Galleries. There is a nice museum shop and a tourist office at the entrance.
  • Museo del Jade (The jade museum), Avenida 5-7, Calle 11-13 bis, INS, 11th floor. Tel 223-5800. Mo-Fr 08:30-15:00. Entrance fee 500 Colones.
  • Museo de los Niños (The children's museum), antigua penetenciaría (the old prison). Tel 258-4929. Mo-Fr 09:30-15:30, Sa-Su 10:00-16:00. Entrance fee 600 Colones for adults and 300 for children.
  • Museo Nacional, Calle 17 Avenida 2. Tel 257-1433. Tu-Su 08:30-17:00. Entrance fee 200 Colones.
  • Museo de Arte Costarricense, east end of Sabana Park. This used to be San Jose's main airport terminal back when La Sabana was the airport. Tel 222-7155. Tu-Sa 10:00-16:00, Su 10:00-14:00. Entrance fee $5 (students $3).
  • Insect Museum at the Universidad de Costa Rica A very elegant collection of exotic bugs. Only a few dollars, but check the times when they are open.
San Jose (Costa Rica)


There are a lot of tours and local events and doings in and from San José. Buses are well marked, pretty reliable and crowded.

  • Butterfly farm
  • Coffee farm
  • Canopy
  • Rafting
  • Volcanoes
  • Casinos Many hotels have gaming.
San Jose (Costa Rica)


Costa Rica in general, and San Jose in particular, is a great place to improve your Espanol. Many, if not most, people speak some English and there are many Spanish classes available, including at the Universidad de Costa Rica, as well as "immersion" classes in private homes.

San Jose (Costa Rica)


  • Boutique Annemarie, located inside Hotel Don Carlos, is a nice souvenir shop. But don't buy your stamps here, they'll charge you an extra 40% for the "service".
  • El Pueblo shopping mall has lots of small souvenir shops.

San Jose (Costa Rica)


  • Hotel Vesuvio Restaurante, Barrio Otoya, Tel 257-5411. Italian food, pastas 1900 Colones, chicken 2000-2500.
  • La Palma, Avenida 9, Barrio Amón. Italian food, recommended by the nearby hotels.
  • Hotel Don Carlos, the Precolobian Lounge serves some small dishes that you probably should skip.
  • La Cocina de Leña, Centro Comercial El Pueblo, Tel 255-1360. Cozy restaurant with good typical food and friendly service. 5500 Colones for a steak. Recommended.
  • Hotel Grano de Oro, Calle 30 Avenida 2/4. Tel 255-3322. Beautiful but expensive restaurant. A breakfast menu costs around 2400 Colones or treat yourself to the delicious banana-macadamia nut pancakes (2000 Colones).
  • Cafetería Parisien Gran Hotel, between Theatro Nacional and Plaza de Cultura. Not the most exciting food, but elegant settings.
  • Manolo's Churreria, Avenida Central, Calle 0/2. Popular soda. Try the chicken tacos, but stay away from the hamburgers. You may also see the local bookie here, taking bets from the regulars.
  • Mercado Central This very old and interesting, bustling food market also contains a number of small restaurants and quick-serve counters for the locals. You will find fresh cooked fish and shellfish, sopa de pescado (fish soup) and such exotics as "squid in his ink", ceviche (small bits of raw fish "cooked" in lime juice) and more. Perhaps not for the faint of heart.
  • Il Pomodoro Cerca de Parque Kennedy y Banco Nacional en San Pedro. Italian cousine, good cheap wine, from second floor great view or the mountains to the west.
  • La Calle Anything a street vendor is selling is probably good.
San Jose (Costa Rica)


  • El Cafetal de la Luz, Hotel Plaza Amon, Calle 3 Avenida 11, Tel 257-0191. Cocktails (1700-2900 Colones) served on the balcony. Slow service. This cafe is attached to the Clarion Hotel in Barrio Amon, and namesake of the coffee plantation that existed in this neighborhood when electricity was first introduced.
San Jose (Costa Rica)


San Jose is full of hotels from one star to perhaps three. To the east on the Caribbean and the west on the Pacific are numerous tourist hotels and lodgings of every description. To the northeast near Guanacaste , close to Nicaragua, are more. Closest to the airport are Hampton Inn and Marriott.

San Jose (Costa Rica)


  • Casa Ridgeway C 15, Av 6/8, Tel +506 221-8288. a comfortable Quaker hostel with a shared kitchen and dining area available for use, a great place to meet like minded travelers, a simple breakfast is included. dorms, singles, doubles, triples available $10-$12 /person.
  • Casa Yoses Hostel Avenida 8, Calle 41, Los Yoses, 250 west from Spoon Tel +506 234-5486,, Casa Yoses is in a great central location surrounded by tons of restaurants, bars, and stores, just off the University of Costa Rica and the San Pedro Mall.
  • Hostel Casa del Parque On the corner of Avenida 3 and Calle 19, Barrio La California Tel + 506 233 3437,, At Hostel Casa del Parque we offer 40 comfortable beds with real mattresses in dorm style rooms of 6 to 8 beds and one double room. We have five full newly remodeled bathrooms with hot water. There is also a common room equipped with cable TV, free internet, and coffee.
San Jose (Costa Rica)


  • Kap's Place Street 19, Avenues 11 and 13, #1142 in Barrio Aranjuez. Tel +506 221-1169,, Guesthouse with 13 rooms and 1 large apartment. $30 - $80 including taxes. Guests have free kitchen use and free travel planning help! The K in Kap's Place stands for Karla. It's her house and her service is top notch. Bilingual (English/Spanish).
  • Rincón de San José (formerly Hotel Edelweiss), Avenida 9 Calle 15 Barrio Otoya. Tel +506 221-9702,, 27 rooms, $50 + tax for a double including (boring) breakfast. Try to get a 10% cash discount. Free internet service.
  • Hotel Hemingway Inn, Avenida 9, Calle 9, Barrio Amon, Behind I.N.S. Tel +506 221-1804,, Friendly staff but a bit over priced. $58 for a double including traditional breakfast with gallo pinto and tamales. Has a hot tub. The hotel will cr your account with $10 if you get a receipt from the airport taxi. Free internet service.
San Jose (Costa Rica)


  • InterContinental Costa Rica ( Tel: +506 289 7000. Located amid tropical gardens, only 15 minutes from Juan Santamaria Int?l Airport and 10 minutes from downtown San José, the hotel is close to an array of stores, movie theaters and fast-food restaurants and faces the modern Multiplaza Mall.
  • Hotel Don Carlos, beautifully decorated hotel. $67 + tax for a double. There is also a tour operator (expensive) and a nice souvenir shop inside the hotel.
  • Rosa Finca Blanca Santa Barbera de Heredia. Tel +(506) 269-9392 . $160-$240 for a double. Lovely upmarket bed and breakfast with sound ecological principles, set in an organic coffee plantation. Fantastic food, nice atmosphere - great for honeymoon or similar.
San Jose (Costa Rica)


San Jose (Costa Rica)

Stay safe

The traffic is dangerous. Cars don't stop for pedestrians, and they generally drive fast. The area around the Coca Cola Bus Terminal is not safe at night, and you should watch your belongings at all times in the city.

Most Ticos (Costa Rican natives) are friendly to Americans and basically honest. However, if you have flat tire on the main highway to the airport, don't accept help except from an established service station, and never accept help from a person who offers to help on the highway. It will likely become a car-jacking. Petty theft is high risk, including from valet parking staff and housekeepers in hotels. Carry a cell phone and know the number of "policia."

San Jose (Costa Rica)


San Jose (Costa Rica)

Get out

Being the capital, San José is the hub for all travel in Costa Rica. You can take the local buses or the more expensive bus services from Interbus or Gray Line Fantasy Bus. There is also a lot of smaller airports dotted around the country.

The small Pavas airport (Tobias Bolanos Airport) acts as a small hub for local flights within the country and also has flights out to Granada (Nicaragua).

At trip to Jaco on the Pacific Coast is a delight, although the highway that goes there is not a superhighway. Surfing is great, and since many young chefs are surfers, you can get some really great dining at amazingly low prices. A little farther down the coast, a stop at Manuel Antonio National Park is a must.

Driving to Jaco, stop for lunch at Mirador del Cafetal (View of the Coffee Plantation), just beyond Atenas. Views are spectacular!

San Jose (Costa Rica)

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