Nestled in the heart of the gorgeous and fertile Central Valley or Meseta Central, San Jose is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Central Americas. Your typical Latin American metropolis with overcrowded conditions, traffic, smog and congestion, this city still manages to rise above all this, to offer a charm that is uniquely distinct. If you look past the urban, commercial and unattractive exterior of San Jose, you will find a vibrant city emerging with a lot to offer, both in terms of culture and spirit.
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A great place to use as a base camp while exploring Costa Rica, San Jose today, has its fair share of attractions with world class gourmet restaurants, museums, theaters, cinemas and a lively nightlife. As one drives into the city from the Juan Santamaria International Airport, the first thing that one is stuck by are the rows of working coffee plantations on either side of the road. It is these very plantations that have helped develop San Jose into the city that it is today. Founded in 1737, little remains of San Jose’s colonial heritage. However, time and a rapidly rising population has transformed this city into what it is now – a central pulsating heart of a stunningly beautiful country.
As Costa Rica’s entire public bus system is centered in Downtown San Jose, you can get from here to any part of the country very easily. Even if you are in Costa Rica for just a few days, there are many trips that one can take from San Jose. Visit cities like Alajuela, Cartago and Heredia or tour the active Poas Volcano and Irazu Volcano, with a few national parks nearby as well.
For those looking for some adventure, try white water rafting down the Pacuare River, one of the best rivers to raft on in the country. With the Rios Reventazon and Sarapiqui nearby as well, one has plenty of world class rafting options open for them to try out. If you do decide to go white water rafting, make sure that you go with an experienced and well trained outfitter/guide.
Another popular feature of the San Jose metropolitan area is that it is a hotpot for foreigners and tourists to learn Spanish. With numerous Spanish language schools that even provide accommodations with local Tico families, these places are a great help for those who plan on working or would like to stay in Costa Rica for an extended period of time. One of the best ways to speak Spanish is by using the local buses that allow you to closely interact with the locals.
Overall, San Jose is an interesting place to visit with many sights and sounds that give this city its unusual appeal. Tour the Jade Museum, Contemporary Art & Design Museum, the National Theatre, and the various city mercados or markets to get a feel for what San Jose is all about.