Although Costa Rica is a relatively small country, there's so much to see and do once you get here. Maybe you're fortunate enough to have a week or two set aside to explore this tropical paradise, but if you've only got a few days, you'll want to make the most of your time here. Come with me to discover everything that the capital of San Jose has to offer!
A richly cultural city
Costa Rica gets a lot of attention for its stunning beaches and lush tropical rainforests - and the cute tree frogs that inhabit them, of course! - but some visitors overlook the variety of cultural attractions that can be found in San Jose. The many theatres and museums of the capital offer you the chance to see a different side of Costa Rican culture, and are definitely worth checking out, even if you're only here for a day.
Costa Rican National Theater
The National Theater of Costa Rica is considered by many to be the finest historic structure in the entire country. First built in 1897, this stunning theater boasts some of the most lavish decor and fabulous interiors of any building in Central America. If you're a fan of opera, ballet or just want to admire the incredible furnishings and decoration, a visit to the National Theater of Costa Rica is a must. Do me a favor, though - please take some pictures and post them to our Facebook page, as they won't let tree frogs inside!
Costa Rican Art Museum
Located in La Sabana Park, one of San Jose's most beautiful outdoor spaces, this fascinating museum was originally the country's first international airport terminal. Today, the Costa Rican Art Museum is home to the largest collection of work by native artists in the country. If you're an art lover and want to learn more about how European painters influenced generations of Costa Rican artists, this museum is an essential stop on any tour of San Jose.
After wandering through the exhibitions of the museum, be sure to check out the beautiful sculpture garden outside. Here, you'll find striking work by sculptors such as Jorge Jiménez Deredia, Max Jiménez, José Sancho, Edgar Zuñiga and Francisco Zuñiga.
Melico Salazar Theater
Often compared to Madison Square Garden in New York City, the Melico Salazar Theater is another of San Jose's most prestigious performing arts centers. Although this building may not be as impressive as the National Theater of Costa Rica, its European Baroque architecture is still very beautiful. This concert house hosts operas, plays and traditional Spanish zarzuelas, a style of operetta that incorporates strong elements of humor. Although I've never seen one myself, they're very funny by all accounts!
This part of San Jose is styled after a Spanish village and boasts dozens of shops, bazaars, bars and restaurants. After checking out some of the city's impressive museums and theaters, why not stop in and grab a bite to eat or pick up a souvenir of your trip? This area can get really busy during weekends, so if you're traveling in a group, stick together as it's easy to get separated!
While you're here, you can grab some authentic Costa Rican food at Lukas', or indulge in some local seafood dishes at Papa Pez. Why not try local specialities like casado, gallo pinto and tamales? I prefer flies myself, but to each their own...
Located just off Avenida Central, La Casona is San Jose's answer to the traditional flea market. Dozens of vendors set up stalls across two floors of a charming old mansion, offering a variety of goods for sale including handmade arts and crafts. If you're looking for a unique souvenir, you'll probably find it here!
Grab some chow downtown
After trekking around San Jose for a couple of hours, you'll probably have worked up quite an appetite! Fortunately, no matter what your tastes, you'll find plenty of eateries and restaurants to satisfy your hunger.
For some of the best Chinese food in Costa Rica, don't miss Don Wang's. This renowned restaurant features traditional decor and an extensive menu of exotic Asian dishes, including beef casserole with plum sauce, beef chow foon and Singapore rice vermicelli curry. Don Wang's also has a large koi pond in the center of the restaurant! Don Wang's is an ideal place to grab a bite if you're in a group, as they have private areas where you can reserve a large table and share favorites like dum sum platters. Hmm...
Celebrate Guanacaste Day on July 25
Explore a world of family fun at The Children's Museum, San Jose
The 44-day civil war of 1948