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San Jose Downtown, San Jose

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Traditional carreta in San Jose

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Founded in 1737, San Jose today is a sprawling metropolis. Costa Rica’s capital and the largest city in the country, San Jose is considered to be among the most cosmopolitan cities in Latin America. Here, you can find not only good accommodations and hotels, but many wonderful museums, bars, restaurants, shopping centers, colorful markets and a fast paced night life.

A Hub to Costa Rica

A bustling city nestled inside a tropical paradise; San Jose sits in the center of the country in the Central Valley and is surrounded by gorgeous untouched cloud forests. Serving as a hub to the rest of the country, San Jose is the prefect place to use as a base camp to tour Costa Rica. With the Juan Santamaria International Airport just 20 minutes from downtown San Jose, there are plenty of tour bus companies based here that run buses throughout Costa Rica.

Downtown San Jose is the busiest part of town. A maze of streets and avenues, here you can find most of the city’s museums as well as a number of hotels and plazas. Plenty of tour companies, restaurants and hotels can also be found here, with the Coca Cola Bus Terminal sitting just north of Central Avenue.

Since the downtown area is fairly small and is one of the most frequented parts of the city, do keep in mind that you will come across heavy traffic here with lots of noise and congestion. But don’t let this deter you, as this part of the city is the heart of San Jose. The streets and avenues here are usually bustling with pedestrians and traffic, so the best way to explore this area is by foot.

Museums & Markets

Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design inside CENAC or tour the Jade Museum in the Instituto Nacional de Seguros here. If you have kids, a great place to take them would be to the Simon Bolivar National Zoo on Avenue 11 or the Children's Museum on Calle 4. To get up close and personal with the residents of this city, visit the many local mercados or markets such as the Mercado Central on Avenue Central.

Learn Spanish Fast!

Besides touring, there are also a number of language schools in downtown San Jose that can help you speak Spanish fluently. Very popular and offering good value for money, you can attend intensive language classes for up to 5 hours a day and at the same time live with a host family that will take care your boarding and lodging. This is an excellent way to not only learn Spanish, but understand the Tico culture more intimately.

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