What to do in San José

Activities, attractions and tours
San Jose showing mountains and forests

San José Attractions

The capital city of Costa Rica, San Jose is also the cultural hub of the nation. Boasting a mix of lush parks, curated museums, historic architecture, and a booming coffee culture that has flourished since the 19th century, San Jose—or Chepe, as it's known locally—is also one of the safest cities in Latin America. Blessed with the temperate weather characteristic of the Central Valley, there are plenty of things to do and see in San Jose for the curious traveler.

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Most fun & popular experiences in San José

What to do in San José

Free Things to Do in San Jose

They say the best things in life are free. Make sure you visit the following around San Jose:

TEOR/éTica - This is a wonderful place to get your culture hit and find out about the region's artistic side.

Casa Amarilla - This popular local landmark is an interesting backdrop for a selfie.

Estación del Ferrocarril de Costa Rica - If you're curious about bygone times, this is one stop you ought to visit.

Plaza de la Cultura - Wander the streets and take in the character and charm of this vibrant local haunt.

Mercado Central - Strike up a conversation with a few locals and discover why many travelers swing by this place.

San Jose Cathedral - Gain a better understanding of the local faith at this spiritual sanctuary.

Chirripo National Park - Bring along your camera and let the natural surrounds spark your imagination.

Central Park - Revitalize your mind and body by spending a little time with Mother Nature.

Areas & Neighborhoods in San José

As Costa Rica's largest city, San Jose has no shortage of distinct districts and barrios to explore. Landmark museums and parks are spread throughout the city's neighborhoods, making it worth your time to slow down and absorb each area's unique flavor before finding the next spot to visit.


Downtown San Jose is the cultural heartof the city, with the pedestrian-only Avenida Central acting as its backbone. Home to the Plaza de la Cultura, the downtown area is a popular starting point for tourists looking to explore San Jose's urban attractions. Nearby are sightseeing hotspots such as the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and the National Theatre, as well as the Tourism Information Office where you can get pointers on where to go next.

Barrio Amon & Aranjuez

The historic areas of Barrio Amon and Aranjuez are home to some of the city's oldest and most ornate buildings. Barrio Amon claims fame as San Jose's first modern neighborhood and is replete with restored colonial architecture, giving it a special charm.

West San Jose

This side of downtown opens up into green spaces and wide, tree-lined residential streets. Here you can find La Sabana Metropolitan Park—a sprawling urban green space also known as the "Lungs of San Jose"—in addition to museums of art and science and the elegant headstones of the General Cemetery, where families gather on All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.

What to See in San Jose

A relatively young capital—it wasn't officially named as such until 1823—San Jose is characterized by modern buildings mostly from the last century and a handful of elaborate, European-influenced structures that date to the coffee boom of the 19th and 20th centuries. Sites like the National Theatre of Costa Rica, with its elegant, Neoclassical designs, offer a visual break from the concrete complexes. The city's many scenic parks, such as the Japanese-style garden of Okayama Park, are also a natural getaway from the gridlock of downtown.

Sightseeing in San José

Get your fill of Costa Rican heritage and culture by visiting San Jose's museums and historic theaters. Walk back through time in the Jade Museum, whose extensive collection of artifacts features pieces from as early as 500 BC, or visit the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum to see the country's first coin. The National Museum of Costa Rica, housed in a retired military fortress, also showcases the geological, religious, colonial, and modern history of the country. Nearby parks, like the pristine Morazan Park, are dotted with gazebos, fountains, and sculptures and are ripe for hours of relaxed exploring. Costa Rica is also famous for its coffee, and it’s also well worth checking out the growing craft beer scene in Barrio Escalante.

Things to Do in San Jose with Kids

There are lots of incredible experiences in San Jose that the whole gang will enjoy. These are some of the best family friendly experiences around.


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Frequently asked questions

What to do in San Jose on a sunny day?
What to do in San Jose on a rainy day?
With fantastic indoor activities like a Nocturnal Experience & Costa Rican Dinner to keep you entertained, there’s no need to let a few showers stop you from having fun.
What should I not miss in San Jose?
If you want to see the best of this place, fit these attractions into your itinerary:

  • La Paz Waterfall Gardens
  • National Park
  • Museum of Costa Rican Art
  • National Theater

Are there cheap things to do in San Jose?
What can you do in San Jose for free?
You’ll barely have time to pull your wallet out of your pocket with so many free attractions:

  • National Park
  • Sabana Park
  • Morazan Park
  • Plaza Real Cariari

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