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San Jose Area

San Jose is the economic, geographical and political center of Costa Rica. It sits in the Central Valley,which is home to more than half of Costa Rica's population. It is blessed with an extremely pleasant climate year-round.

You'll fly in and out of San Jose, which typically requires you to spend your first and last nights in the area. The airport is about 10 miles West of San Jose. In between are several high-quality hotels. Further out, in the mountains above the valley, are several small, charming B&B's.

Downtown San Jose has few sights to see, but lots of restaurants, hotels and nightlife. Traffic in downtown San Jose is congested at almost all times of day, and walking at night can be dangerous.

Many tours depart daily from San Jose, but most are long distances from town. San Jose is a central location with a wide variety of hotels to choose from.

Advantages

  • Access to many services and tours
  • Wide variety of hotels and restaurants
  • Great climate
  • Nightlife
  • The center of Costa Rica

Disadvantages

  • Terrible downtown traffic
  • Limited cultural attractions
  • It's a big, congested city!

 

Attractions
More InfoLa Paz Waterfall Gardens

La Paz is one of the highlights of Costa Rica. This immaculate property has perfectly maintained, safe trails along a river with 5 dramatic waterfalls, the World's largest butterfly observatory, a hummingbird garden, and a great restaurant. Trails are set within primary, unspoiled rainforest. This place is enchanting and we highly recommend a few hours here. more info

Poas Volcano

About 90 minutes from San Jose, Poas Volcano is geologically active. It spouts steam and sulfur, and features a 1-mile wide crater.  Trails through an "Elfin Forest" lead to the second, older crater.  Poas sits in an extremely scenic area with a very pleasant climate, and is a totally different experience than Arenal Volcano.  To properly experience Poas, you should be at the top of the volcano early in the morning. Well worth a visit.

More InfoCoffee Plantation Tours

Doka Estate is located on the slope of Poas Volcano, near San Jose and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This working coffee plantation and processing plant gives short tours about how coffee is cultivated, harvested and processed. This is a very pleasant experience in a perfect climate. Cafe Britt also has coffee tours with a historical theatrical presentation.

 

Irazu Volcano

Irazu volcano is often overlooked and undervisited. Like Poas Volcano, you can go right to the rim of the crater at and look down into it. But Irazu is much higher - about 11,000 feet above sea level. On a clear day, you can see the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans. You can also mountain bike down Irazu if you are up for an adventurous ride.

Sarchi Village

Famous for its oxcarts and woodworkers, Sarchi is a charming town in the rolling hills around San Jose with lots of giftshops. You could easily visit Poas Volcano, La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Sarchi in one day. A great place for getting high-quality gifts, it's a little "touristy," but very pleasant.

 

More InfoCultural Attractions

The National Theater and the Gold and Jade Museums are located in downtown San Jose. Although quaint, most tourists prefer to spend time visiting the natural attractions outside the business of the city center. The central market is another common attraction, however, outlying farmer's markets are our preference.

Ecological Attractions

Time allowing, Zoo Ave and In Bio Parque can be attractions worth interest. For outlying places, such as Lancester Gardens, the Orosi valley and the topiaries in Zarcero, some drive time is required. As always, time prioritization is key.

 

Activities
More InfoWhitewater Rafting

The Pacuare is always ranked as one of the top 5 whitewater rafting rivers in the World. This is a truly magical experience. This is not rigorous and no prior experience is needed. more info You must be in San Jose the night before this trip and the night after. Thus, it is best to do this at the end of your stay in Costa Rica. 2-day and 3-day trips allow immersion in the rainforest with overnight stays at a lodge near the river. more info We highly recommend it. For those with children, the Reventazon river is an alternative.

More InfoRainforest Aerial Tram

The tram lasts an hour and 20 minutes and cover a distance of 2.6 kilometers through the treetops of the primary rainforest at a leisurely pace. The open-air rain forest tram gondolas with canvas awnings seat six passengers plus a naturalist guide. It’s an excellent option for family and groups. Also included is entrance to the butterfly and frog garden. For the adventurous, two canopy tours are also available at this location.

More InfoTortuga Island Catamaran Cruise

Transfer from San Jose to board a lovely catamaran yacht to Tortuga Island, which is famous for its beautiful beach. Play in the surf or sun on the beach. This is a very scenic, relaxing full day on the ocean and beach.

Golf

Valle del Sol in the Western Central Valley features an 18-hole Championship course designed by Tracy May with forgiving fairways and greens.

Cariari Country Club near the airport features very tight fairways and mature trees: Cariari is challenging but fun and beautiful.

Hotels
More InfoBougainvillea DollarSignDollarSign

Located in a residential neighborhood, Hotel Bougainvillea is an oasis in the valley with 10 acres of botanic gardens. This hard to find haven does not disappoint with its excellent restaurant and fine artwork scattered throughout.

More InfoBuena Vista DollarSignDollarSign

Perched above the valley with fantastic views, Hotel Buena Vista is a smaller gem of a hotel. Although it offers few amenities, it is a great value with free breakfasts and airport shuttle.

 

More InfoVista del Valle DollarSignDollarSignDollarSign

Vista del Valle means view of the valley. This unique B&B is west of the airport, surrounded by coffee plantations. Free standing cottages are scattered on the grounds around the main house where the pool, jacuzzi and restaurant are located. Activities include hiking to their 300 foot waterfall or riding horses.

More InfoPeace Lodge DollarSignDollarSignDollarSignDollarSign

Truly the most romantic hotel, Peace Lodge combines rustic luxury with a lush, spectacular rainforest setting. Garden like bathrooms have waterfall showers and jetted tubs. Set within La Paz Waterfall Gardens, lodging includes entrances.

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