Cultural Activities in San José

As the capital and largest city in Costa Rica, San José is brimming with cultural diversity. It is located near a number of top-rated national parks and preserves, and has more than its fair share of exciting activities to offer. From live music to museums filled with hundreds of years of history to a night out at the theater, San José has got it all. Here's a glimpse at some of the best things to do to take in the true Tico lifestyle:


Spend an evening at the National Theater, which sits at the southern end of Plaza de la Cultura. Constructed in 1897, this beyond-elegant building is decorated with exquisite Italian marble, a neoclassical facade and gilded furniture. On the walls of the auditorium hang 19th century paintings that highlight the Spanish way of life. The gorgeous stage is home to lyrical shows, discussions with world-class artists and a range of Spanish music performances, including the Concert Symphony Orchestra and Flamenco duos. National Theater even has a tasty cafe to enjoy a quick snack at before and after shows. Travelers who can't make it to a show will want to enjoy a tour of this beautiful building. They are offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., starting every hour.

Named after the internationally-known Costa Rican tenor, Teatro Melico Salazar features performances, operas and concerts. Its architecture calls upon Baroque influences and is a pristine venue for the arts. Watch dance companies and diverse national acts mesmerize you as they take the stage. It's a great location for a romantic night out, or to soak in the Costa Rican high life.


Pre-columbian Gold Museum packs Central America's largest collection of indigenous gold jewelry, dating from 500 A.D. to 1500 A.D. The three-story underground structure sits below the Plaza de la Cultura. From dragons to coins to musical figures, the gold pieces will blow you away in their glitter and range. The second floor even takes you through the social evolution of the ancient civilizations while the top floor delves into the meaning and purposes of each golden piece.

Immerse your kids in the Tico experience at the Children’s Museum. With 40 interactive exhibits, the museum is perfect for tinkering, prodding and exploring. "The Universe, Earth and Living Things," Physical Sciences" and "Center for the Arts" units will keep the little ones entertained for days. It’s a best bet for the young or just the young at heart.

Music and Dance Scene

For a flavor of the vibrant nightlife, swing by Club Gaira off of Highway 27. It's one of the most exclusive clubs in San José, and is located in a wealthy residential area of the city. With room for more than 1,000 people, Club Gaira is a hot spot among the 18-plus crowd. If you're looking for live music and DJs with a night of dancing and drinks, this is the place for you. It's open Wednesday through Saturday, 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Get your groove on at Jazz Cafe. From live Latin, fusion, world and of course, jazz music, this cafe always has the best in store. What's more, there is a live set every night. With drinks and different styles of great musicians, this spot is not to be missed!

Learn the Language

San Jose is a great place to learn or perfect your Spanish. There are literately hundreds of different language schools all over San Jose and the surrounding area for you to choose from. It is also a great way to meet fellow travelers and to give you the opportunity to go out at night to experience the theaters or the music scene.

For the best resources on current happenings in the San José arts, pick up an issue of the Tico Times (English) or La nación (Spanish) to learn what's going on in the city.

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