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San Jose

Known for Volcanoes, Jungles and Culture

Immerse yourself in Spanish language, culture and food and European architecture in this inviting Central American capital city.

How do you get to San Jose?

European charm and Central American vitality combine to provide an interesting blend of old and new, making San José a fascinating Costa Rican city. Interact with friendly locals, investigate impressive European architecture, enjoy cultural arts and perfect your Spanish language skills.

Several of San José’s impressive public structures date back to Spanish settlement from as early as the 1700s. Experience some of the best of San José ’s cultural activities and see interesting buildings near the large Plaza de la Cultura. Here, admire the neo-classical architecture of the Teatro Nacional. Reserve seats for outstanding cultural events at this national theater or tour the opulent interior decorated with murals, paintings and sculptures.

Nearby, visit three exceptional museums. See dazzling indigenous pieces in the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. The Museo del Jade has plenty of jade as well as anthropological artifacts. Learn about Costa Rican history and natural science at the Museo Nacional, another example of striking architecture.

Costa Rica is a popular location for language learners looking for immersion in a Spanish-speaking region, either through formal training or casual interaction with local residents. Sign up for one of many structured programs or test your Spanish skills in restaurants in the different barrios of San José.

You’re sure to get a friendly smile if you order gallo pinto (rice and beans) for breakfast just as the locals do. When you need a break from Spanish, go to the restaurants and country clubs of the western Escasu barrio with many English-speaking expats or visit the relatively new Chinatown area.

In March, the city hosts the Transitarte Festival. Enjoy pleasant summer weather and travel from one urban park to another to enjoy music, crafts, workshops and art.

Reach San José via Juan Santamaría International Airport, 10 miles (17 kilometers) northwest of the city center. Use public buses and taxis to get around the city. Many of the main landmarks are in the downtown or “el centro” area, easy to walk from one to another.

Things to do in San Jose

Trover photo by Krystalvatio

During your trip to San Jose, you can find the perfect gifts to bring home at Mercado Central. Amble around this vibrant area's beautiful beaches or experience its acclaimed art scene.

Trover photo by Andy Mumford

Enjoy a stop at Plaza de la Cultura, a landmark worth seeing in San Jose. Make time for the shops and local tours in this vibrant area.

Explore the great outdoors at Poas Volcano National Park, a lovely green space in Poasito. Discover the volcano viewpoints and restaurants in this family-friendly area.

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Feel your worries float away in the breeze during a guided cruise across the Gulf of Nicoya to Isla Tortuga. This full-day getaway invites you to relax on the beach and snorkel or participate in an exhilarating banana boat ride before indulging in a 4-course lunch with fresh fruit and soft drinks.

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Admire the volcanic colossus of Arenal—though it hasn’t erupted recently, this cinder cone on the Costa Rican skyline is considered one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Then, soak up the thermal benefits in the mineral-rich waters at Tabacon Grand Spa’s natural hot springs.

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Stunning rainforest, diverse flora and fauna, aromatic coffee—they all await you on this full-day excursion from San Jose. Begin with a look behind the scenes at the Doka coffee plantation, and then uncover the incredible trails and exhibits at La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

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This is the best nature and adventure getaway from the city of San Jose and surrounding areas. On this tour you will get to visit the town of Jaco Beach, one of the most popular beach towns in all of Costa Rica due to its proximity to the capital city of San Jose only 1.

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At Poas National Park, look down into the blackened lunar landscape of the 8,885-foot (2,708-m) tall crater. As the billowing smoke and steam dissipate over the fumaroles and sulfuric lake at its center, watch for erupting geysers—they've been known to shoot up to 820 feet (250 m) into the sky.

Best neighborhoods to visit in San Jose

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