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San Jose (Costa Rica)

Photo © katcharles

Travel Guide Central America Costa Rica San Jose

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Introduction

Mercado Central - San Jose

Mercado Central - San Jose

© All Rights Reserved Cyprian

San José is the capital and largest city in Costa Rica. It has a total population of about 1.7 million inhabitants living in the metropolitan area, although the city itself is much smaller with around 400,000 people. It is located in the central part of the country in the Central Valley at an elevation of about 1,200 metres above sea level. San José is the administrative, political and economic centre of the country and functions as the main transportation hub of Costa Rica. The city was founded in the 18th century and became the capital in 1823. It has seen massive growth during the last decades and now is a sprawling urban area full of attractions for travellers. A visit to San José before travelling onwards to explore the great nature is highly recommended.

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Sights and Activities

  • Plaza de la Cultura
  • Central Plaza
  • Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica
  • Cathedral
  • El Pueblo nightlife
  • Lankester Botanical Gardens

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Events and Festivals

  • Independence Day - Every September 15th, the city of San Jose erupts in celebration for its Independence Day. This holiday is hugely celebrated throughout the country, but San Jose houses one of the most elaborate events. Visitors should expect to see grand parades and patriotic decorations all around town.
  • Festival Internacional De Las Artes - This annual arts and music festival features both national and international performers. This eclectic event showcases culturally-fueled music, theater, film, and dance presentations. Held every year in March, this is a great event for those visiting San Jose in the springtime.
  • Fiesta De Las Carretas (01 Nov 2013 - 30 Nov 2013) - A low-key, but important festival held every year during the month of November. In an effort to remind an ever increasingly urban San Jose of its agricultural roots, this festival features traditional, hand-painted ox carts, or carretas, that make their way slowly past downtown's high-rises on their journey to Parque La Sabana. Once at the park, the oxcart drivers are greeted by food stands, live music, and religious ceremonies.
  • Holy Week - As a primarily Catholic city, San Jose, practically shuts down for its Holy Week celebrations. Beginning on the Thursday before Easter, the city features various religious events, sells traditional holiday food, and hosts parades all around town in preparation for Easter.
  • Virgin of the Sea Festa - This popular Costa Rican celebration features a colorful display of decorated fishing boats in the Nicoya Gulf to celebrate the Virgin of Mount Carmel. Thousands of locals flock to the harbor to view the boat decorations and witness the blessing of the boats by a local priest. Special masses, parades, and concerts are also held during this time. Visitors can also expect to see a grand fireworks display in the evening. Local food will be offered, like casado (rice, beans, stewed beef, fried plantain, salad and cabbage), olla de carne (soup of beef, plantain, yucca, nampi and chayote)) and picadillo (meat and vegetable stew). This event takes place the Saturday closest to July 16th.
  • Tope Nacional de Caballos & Fiesta de la Luz (26 Dec 2013) - This horse parade, or "tope", is held every year on the 26th of December. During this event, the most talented horsemen in Costa Rica perform along the Paseo Colon with more than 3,000 horses. Also held on the 26th of December is the Fiesta of “The Light”. This fiesta is a a beautiful Christmas parade held near the city's capitol. The evening events culminate with a beautiful fireworks display.

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Weather

Because of its elevation, San José enjoys a climate which is much milder than its lower counterparts towards the Pacific and Caribbean sea. Average day temperatures are around 26 °C, but from February to May it is slightly warmer, around 28 °C. Night temperatures are around 18 °C year round. From May to October is the rainy season with 300 mm of rain a month on average. From November to April is the best time to visit, and January to March sea barely any rain at all. Humidity is high year round, but higher during the rainy season, and the relatively low temperatures compared to lower parts of the country make it more bearable as well.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max23.4 °C23.9 °C25.1 °C25.7 °C26.1 °C25.7 °C24.9 °C25.2 °C25.8 °C25.4 °C24.2 °C23.4 °C
Avg Min15.4 °C15.3 °C15.8 °C16.4 °C17 °C16.9 °C16.3 °C16.7 °C16.5 °C16.4 °C16.3 °C15.8 °C
Rainfall9.1 mm5.4 mm12 mm43.8 mm222 mm282.6 mm208.1 mm252.2 mm325 mm326 mm139.1 mm40.3 mm

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Getting There

By Plane

Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) near San José receives a growing number of international flights, for example with the national airline Lacsa which is part of the Grupo TACA. Services are with a number of Lacsa/TACA flights to destinations mainly in Central America and several cities in the United States and South America. Destinations further away include Madrid with Iberia, Amsterdam with Martinair and flights to and from Frankfurt. Toronto, Guadeloupe and Martinique are other destinations. Paradise Air has flights to a few dozen of domestic destinations, including Barra de Tortuguero, Limón and Liberia. The Alajuela - San José route buses stop there in both directions. Buses from other routes also stop there. Licensed taxis are available in the airport.

The smaller Tobías Bolaños International Airport (SYQ) is located in the Pavas District in San José and has domestic and international flights with Nature Air to/from Arenal, Bocas del Toro, Drake Bay, Golfito, Liberia, Managua, Nosara, Palmar Sur, Puerto Jiménez, Punta Islita, Quepos, Tamarindo, Tambor and Tortuguero.

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Sleep

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Hotel Plaza RealDel Banco de Costa Rica, 200mts sur, 100mts esteHotel-
Casa GirasolSabana Sur, from MacDonalds restaurant, 100 west,100 south, 50 eastGuesthouse-
Casa Oshun Bed and BreakfastCalle 84-86 avenida 19, La UrucaGuesthouse85
Casa Yoses Hostel8th Ave 41 St 250 west from Spoon in Los YosesHostel83
Costa Rica BackpackersAvenida 6, calle 21/23Hostel78
Costa Rica GuesthouseAvenida 6 Calle 21 de la esquina noreste de la corte suprema,100 metrHostel89
Galileo HostelAvenida 2, Calle 40 De la Soda Tapia en Sabana, 100m esteHostel-
Gaudys Backpackers HostelAve. 5 / Calle 36 y 38, Casa 3636 Del Banco de Costa Rica de Paseo Colon, 200 al norHOSTEL83
Green House HostelPlaza Viquez Calle 11 Ave 16 y 18Hostel-
Guestplace – JC Friends34th Street and Avenue 3 Paseo ColonHostel-
Hostal LatinaLourdes Montes de Oca San PedroGuesthouse-
Hostel 1110Ave. 14 St. 11 #1110 500 mts. East from clinica Biblica Right hand yellHostel79
Hostel Bekuo San JoseWere are located 100 meters south and 25 meters weHostel89
Hostel Casa del ParqueCalle 19 Avenida 3era Casa In front of the northestern corner of National ParHOSTEL88
Hostel PangeaBarrio Amon Ave 7 st.3-3bis Barrio Amon Ave.11 st 3bisHostel80
Hostel RubianCalle Costa RicaHostel-
Hostel TorumaCentral Avenue, 29 and 31 St Barrio La CaliforniaHostel76
Hostel Trianon75 meters North of the Doctor Echandihostel-
Hotel Aeropuerto San Jose AirportCarretera PanamericanaHotel-
Hotel B&B Puerta del SolCiudad Cariari Residencial Los Arcos, Rotonda 1, N°17HOTEL-
Hotel CapitalCalle 4 Btw Ave. 3 and 5Hotel69
Hotel Europa San JoseCalle Central Av 5 down TownHotel83
Hotel Isla Verde2 blocks west from the U.S.A. Embassy, PavasHotel-
Hotel KekoldiAvenida 9, between Calles 5 and 7 P.O. Box 12150-1000Hotel-
Hotel La CuestaAvenia 1 , 50meters west from the national parkHotel80
Hotel VesuvioAve 11 / Street 13-15 San Jose - Costa RicaHotel81
Hotels Royal DutchAvenida 2 Calle 6 down TownHotel-
LaCatalina HotelBeside Cetal LaCatalina Birri,HerediaHotel-
Mi Casa Hostel150 mts North from the west corner of I.C.E´s bui Sabana NorteHostel85
Molino Rojo HostelPaseo Colón y Calle 32 Diagonal a KFCHostel-
Pensión de La Cuesta B&BAvenida Primera Calle 11 Y 15, 50 Metros Oeste ParGUESTHOUSE85
Tranquilo BackpackersSan José Downtown.7th Street, between 9th and 11th AvenueHostel-
Turrialba Bed and BreakfastApartado 211 Cartagoguesthouse-
Hostel Costa Rica Morazan & CasinoAvenida 1 Esquina Calle 3 Frente al Parque MorazanHOTEL-
Taylors`s Inn Bed & BreakfastAVenida 13, Calles 03-3B, #336. Apartado 531-1000GUESTHOUSE-
Nomadas Backpackers100 N 125 W from Sabana ScotiabankHostel87
In&basic Hostel Lounge200 m South and 75 m west of Spoon, Los Yoses.HOSTEL89
Aldea Hostel San JoseCalle 28 y Av.Segunda, frente a Sala Garbo, Casa EHOSTEL85
Hotel Mesón del Angel20 th streetHotel-
Hotel Posada Canal Grande500 metros al Sur de la Terminal de Buses de Pieda Detrás del Restaurante Da MarcoHOTEL-
Yurustí Costa Rica HostelBreña Mora Street HerediaHostel-
Collage Hostel BoutiqueBarrio Los Yoses, del bar Rio 75 metros al sur.HOSTEL-
Tierra Magica800E del BNCR en el centro de Escazú, 50SGUESTHOUSE-
Hotel RitzliCentral Street, 8 & 10th AvenueHOTEL-
The Montserrat's PlaceAve. 2/4 St 6HOTEL-
Hostel Casa ColonPaseo Colon, 24th Street N Next to Mercedes TowerHOSTEL85
Natural HostelPaseo Colon, 250m norte de la Toyota. Paseo Colon, San JoseHostel-
Los SaulesDel Pali los SaucesGUESTHOUSE-
Castle Tam HostelAvenida 4,100 metros oeste Escuela de la Roosevelt San PedroHOSTEL84
Costa Rica Love Hostel75meters east in front the playground, 2nd floor w Santo DomingoHOSTEL84
Taylor Inn B & BBarrio Amon San Jose Avenida 13 Calle 3Guesthouse-
Hostal del Este Santa Fe300m south y 25m este from the National Theater 8th Avenue 3rd and 5th StreetHOTEL79
Hotel Santo TomasAve. 7th Streets 3 & 5Hotel-
Hotel Posada del MuseoDiagonal esquina sureste del Museo NacionalHOTEL-
Hostel UrbanoSan Pedro in front of Kennedy Park adjacent to Municipalidad Montes de OcaHOSTEL89
Casa LeónAvenida 6, Calle 13/15 de la clínica Drs. Echandi 50m nor/esteGUESTHOUSE-
Modo Digital De Costa RicaUrb Loto 3 Casa 4B DesamparadosAPARTMENT-
Hostel Shakti8-street, Avenida 13 It is on the top floor of the restaurant Shakti. FHOSTEL-
Casa PrimoMalecon StreetGUESTHOUSE-
Hotel Le VoltaireAvenida 8 Calle 31HOTEL-
Hemingway Inn San JoseCalle 9, Avenida 9 Barrio AmonGUESTHOUSE-
Casa IsabellaPalma De Mallorca Bello HorizonteGUESTHOUSE-
Casa 6969 Calle 25 bisHOTEL86
Hotel GuimaCostado del la Terminal de San CarlosHOTEL81
Kaps Place Hostel B&BStreet 19, Avenue 11 Barrio AranjuezGUESTHOUSE-
Apartments Condo CasaLugano Residencial, 43APARTMENT-
Stolas HostelAv 14, Calle 35HOSTEL-
Boutique Hotel Calle 20350 metros Norte del Hospital Nacional de niños Calle 20 entre avenida 3 y 5HOTEL-
Casa ArekaSan Pedro de Montes de OcaGuesthouse-
Hostel La Corte75 Este de los TribunalesHOSTEL-
Hostal Casa Areka Costa RicaBarrio Los Yoses Avenue 8 Simon Bolivar, along side of the ICE buildingHOTEL-
Casa Ridgway Hostel16th Ave bis, 15th streetGUESTHOUSE-
TorremolinosCalle 40Guesthouse-
Hostel Van Gogh7th street, 150 mts North from Parque Morazan, BarHOSTEL-
Hostal Casa UrbanaCalle 11, Avenida 8, Edificio Jorayte San JoseHOSTEL-
Ara Macao InnSan Jose 75 mts Sur de Pizza Hut, Barrio La CaliforniaHOTEL-
Downtown Hotel San Jose7 Avenue, 6 Street San Jose DowntownHOTEL-

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Keep Connected

Internet

It's easy to find internet access, and although you can still can find a lot of internet cafes, wifi is growing fast in the country. The further away you get from San Jose, the slower and more expensive it becomes when you are using an internet cafe. Wifi is generally free of charge at most places though and apart from off the beaten track parks, jungles and mountains, the connection generally is ok. Some internet cafés also offer international calls via either phone or IP using services like Skype.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

  • The country calling code to Costa Rica is 506.
  • To make an international call from Costa Rica, the code is 00.

There are plenty of phone booths around and you will get the best rate using a pre-paid international card (can often be purchased in internet cafés and other small stores). There is usually a connection fee making short calls extra expensive. International calls are fairly expensive. The cheapest way to make them is over the internet using a service such as Skype at an Internet café. But making short calls using the domestic calling cards (you can make international calls using these but the denominations of the calling cards are quite small so your call will be short!) or the international calling cards available within Costa Rica (all from the government phone monopoly ICE) is the next best deal.

Those travelling with a mobile phone and willing to pay the roaming costs should ensure it supports 1,800 MHz GSM network. Note that the GSM phone systems in the United States and Canada use different frequencies and that travelers from there will need a "world" handset, such as a tri-band or quad-band phone, if you want to use your existing cell phone. If you want to use a local Costa Rica number, you can rent cell phone service, and of course anyone can buy a cell phone. If you have an unlocked cell phone (either one from home or bought in Costa Rica - all cell phones sold in Costa Rica must be unlocked), prepaid (prepago) SIM cards can provide a local number and service can be purchased throughout the country by anyone with a passport from any country. Try using companies like Grupo ICE under the Kölbi brand, TuYo Movil, Movistar and Claro.

Post

Correos de Costa Rica (website in Spanish only) is the national postal services of Costa Rica. You can find post offices (correos) in almost any city and town and they are generally open from 7:30am to 5:30pm or 6:00pm Monday to Friday and 7:30am to noon on Saturdays. There are not that many mailboxes, so it's best to ask your hotel or go directly to the post offices. Services tend to be slow but generally reliable and on the whole cheap regarding letters and postcards. It costs about US$0.20 to the USA and Canada (taking about 1 week to 10 days), US$0.25 to Europe (about 2 weeks) and US$0.30 to Asia and Australia (3 weeks or even more). All in all, if you can try and arrange your mail from the capital San José as it's generally quicker from there. Small packages are also no problem, though take them to the post offices unpacked for inspection first! Otherwise, arrange things through private international courier services like UPS, FedEx, DHL or TNT.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 9.927128
  • Longitude: -84.082012

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This is version 42. Last edited at 7:39 on Apr 23, 14 by Utrecht. 40 articles link to this page.

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