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

  • Museo de Oro Precolombino (The Gold Museum), ☎ +506 2243-4202, e-mail: museoro@racsa.co.cr. An underground museum below Plaza de la Cultura. Tu-Su 10:00am-4:30pm. Entrance fee $5,500 Colones or $11 for foreigners (or 4,500 Colones with a student ID card). It is cheaper to pay in Colones here as of Jan 2015. The collection consists of 1,600 pieces of Pre-Columbian gold work dating from 500 AD to 1500 AD. Although not of the quality seen in the Andes, the animal pieces are very impressive and make the museum a must-see for those interested in art or history. The museum explains the processing and production of the pieces as well as their social, cultural, and religious meanings. The entrance fee includes The Numismatic Museum (under renovation Jan 2015) and The Temporary Exhibition Galleries, which are inside the same labyrinthine complex. There is a nice museum shop and a tourist office at the entrance.
  • Museo del Jade (The Jade Museum), Avenida Central, Calle 13., ☎ +506 2287-6034. M-F 8:30am-3:30pm, SA:10:00am to 1:00pm. The museum has recently relocated to a large modern building next to the Artesanal Market. Most tourist maps still show the old location across from Hotel Hemingway, but the new location is only 4 blocks away and closer to the Plaza de la Cultura. The brand new complex is now one of the hemisphere's premier museums and is worth the sizable entry fee. It hosts the largest collection of precolumbian jade in the Americas and explains how these impressive pieces were produced. The museum displays a wide variety of other objects made of gold, stone, bone, ceramics, and shells. There is a smattering of objects similar to those at the Museo de Oro (gold pieces) and Museo Nacional (stone spheres and ceramics). You can gain insight into the daily lives of the people in the precolumbian era with numerous bilingual English-Spanish. If you only have time for visiting one museum, this is the recommended choice, albeit the craftsmanship of the pieces at the Museo de Oro is higher. Entrance: USD $15 for foreigners, $5 for locals.
  • Museo de los Niños (The children's museum), Antigua Penitenciaría (the old prison). Tel. 258-4929. M-F 9:30am-3:30pm, Sa-Su 10:00am-4:00pm. Entrance fee 600 Colones for adults and 300 for children. This is an edutainment museum, and it was designed for Costa Rica's children, all the exhibits are in Spanish only. Not recommended as a visit, except when the Auditorio Nacional is hosting a concert or art gallery.
  • Museo Nacional, Calle 17 Avenida 2. Tel 257-1433. Tu-Su 8:30am-4:30pm. Entrance fee 2000 Colones. The museum includes a large butterfly garden (With many morpho butterflies) and a collection of large stone spheres from the Diquis Valley near the Pacific Ocean, a permanent precolumbian exhibition, the barracks, the rooms of the army general and his family, and a couple of temporal exhibits at the time. The museum building is an old fort called Cuartel Bellavista, in this place the Army was symbolically abolished by then president Jose Figueres Ferrer on December 1st, 1948 after the last civil war and armed conflict in the country.
  • Museo de Arte Costarricense, east end of Sabana Park. This used to be San Jose's main airport terminal back when La Sabana was the airport. Tel 222-7155. Tu-Sa 10:00-16:00, Su 10:00-14:00. Entrance fee $5 (students $3).
  • Insect Museum at the Universidad de Costa Rica A very elegant collection of exotic bugs. Only a few dollars, but check the times when they are open.
  • Museo de arte y diseño contemporáneo (MADC) - Definitely the main institution in Costa Rica dedicated to the broadcasting of contemporary art. Centro Nacional de la Cultura, Antigua Fábrica Nacional de Licores. Avenida 3, calle 15/17. San José, Costa Rica. Tel: +506 2257-7202 / +506 2257-9370 Fax: +506 2257-8702. Info related to current exhibitions, schedules and admission fees can be found at their oficial website www.madc.ac.cr.
  • Zoológico Simón Bolivar - An almost hidden zoo in Barrio Amón, some of the most representative animals are available in this small zoo. There are many big cats, including a non native lion, the serpentarium is one of the most interesting spots, with colorful (and dangerous) snakes available.

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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, Frankfurt with Condor Flugdienst and Gatwick Airport with British Airways and flights to and from Toronto, and 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.

There is an exit tax that has to be paid at the airport. As of December 3, 2014, the tax is supposed to be included in the price of airline tickets purchased from that date and moving forward. So airlines are including this tax in the ticket price. Be sure to check on this. In addition to the exit tax, you are not allowed to take liquids or gels on the plane, even if you bought them after you went through security. There is a second security inspection on the end of the Jet Bridge.

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.

By Train

Trains have recently made a comeback in Costa Rica and, after being shut down for many years, several routes have been put back into service using second-hand equipment brought over from Spain and some very ancient wooden carriages that look like they have been taken from a museum. Lines are mostly singe-track and level crossings have no lights or protection at all, which has led to several accidents. There's also no signalling. Overall it's an interesting experience if you have the time and it's the best way of getting to Heredia (a lot faster and more comfortable than the bus).

  • Heredia - on weekdays, trains run between San José and Heredia every half an hour in the mornings (6:00-9:00am) and afternoons (3:30pm-8:00pm), leaving from Estación del Atlántico near the Parque Nacional. Some of these trains continue on to the UCR and U Latina in San Pedro. The 6:00pm departure from San José (returning at 7:00pm) is a big train, so you can almost always get a seat on this one.
  • Pavas, San Pedro and Curridabat - another line runs through the south of the city, stopping at Estación del Pacifico, Sábana and heading west into Pavas and eventually turning round in a fairly dangerous slum area in the middle of the hills. If you take it east, it stops across the road from Estación del Atlantico and then goes to the UCR, U Latina and Curridabat. Timetables are very limited, with just one train per hour early in the morning and in the evening on weekdays.
  • Belén - A new service to Belén (just south of the airport) started on 5th April, leaving from Estación del Pacifico. Services are approximately every half an hour between 6:00-8:00am and 4:00-8:00pm on weekdays only and take 35 minutes.

By Bus

Buses from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama both arrive to and leave from San José.

The Tica Bus terminal is the most common choice for locals and foreigners alike when it comes to traveling around Central America and even Mexico. Please take note that it has recently been moved to the other end of town, near the Mercedes Tower. (Address: 200 metres north and 100 metres west of Torre Mercedes (Paseo Colón), in front of the Magisterio Nacional Mortuary)

King Quality is a new choice available, their prices are considerably more expensive or cheaper than Tica Bus depending on the destination. There is also Transnica, note they don't have a website up, for information their phone number is +506 2223-4123.

Of course most local buses start or end here. There are several bus terminals in San José. It is important to know which bus terminal serves your bus route. Bus stops are usually every few blocks in the city. Take always a taxi, when traveling with luggage.And it is highly likely to speak to you when you arrive.

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Getting Around

By Car

Taxis are generally cheap. All taxis should have a meter. The fare starts at 570 colones, and is 570 per kilometer. The value of the Colón fluctuates roughly above 500 to the US Dollar and some locals still call 500 Colónes "one Dollar" in day to day life. A ride inside the city centre will normally cost 580-2500 colones. Basically a couple dollars, which they will accept, will get you anywhere in the city. Be aware that it is close to useless to give a taxi driver an exact street address. You have to point out some well known building, park or hotel close to where you are going. Often there are no street signs and addresses are difficult to find, so be sure you know where you are going or you could get lost very easily. If you are driving in Costa Rica (one may see vehicles from Mississippi, British Columbia, Panama, and other places) note that the traffic lights don't have the yellow border around them and can sometimes be difficult to see, the road network is well utilized by locals (to overcapacity) so don't expect to get anywhere fast, also motorcycles weave in and out of traffic. Keep in mind the pet peeve most tourists have with tico kindness: oftentimes when a tico has no idea where a certain destination you may have had in mind is, he or she will simply direct you to a random location. Oftentimes simply incomprehensible, these directions are a reflection on the cultural approach to kindness many Costa Ricans adopt.

By Public Transport

Public transport system includes buses, tram is planned in the city center. Bus lines, maps, schedules and ticket prices are available at Ruta en linea San José.

By Foot

Central San José can be explored on foot.

By Bike

It is as well possible to get around by bicycle in San José. If you want to buy a bicycle you find stores in Calle 6 / Av. 5 (Coca Cola) or south of "Avenida Segunda" on the corner or Av.6 / Calle 4. In the south east corner of plaza Viquez you find a small bicycle store.

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Eat

Mercado Central is a very old, interesting and bustling food market, which also contains a number of small restaurants and quick-serve counters for the locals. You will find fresh cooked fish and shellfish, corn based dishes, sopa de pescado (fish soup) and such exotics as "squid in his ink", ceviche (small bits of raw fish "cooked" in lime juice), helado de sorbetera (artesanal local cinnamon ice-cream) and more. Perhaps not for the faint of heart. And you could always just go for La Calle - Anything a street vendor is selling is probably good, for example the Mangos, street vendors often sell unripe mango strips with salt and lime, it's great.

  • Bar Poas, Avenida 7, Calle 3 y 5 (Two doors down from the Pangea Hostel, across the street from St. Thomas Hotel in Barrio Amon), ☎ +506 2-223-8677. 12:00-02:30. Photos of regular customers adorn the wall of this dimly lit but friendly bar and restaurant. A decent menu of Gringo and Tico food is available from 12:00 to 02:30. Try the award-winning Chili con Carne. There´s always an interesting group of characters there including proprietor Harry Hart who is always willing to dispense useful advice about San José and Costa Rica.
  • Bagelmen's (Escazú, San Pedro, Curridabat, Guachipelín, Belén, Heredia). Good prices, excellent quality fast and healthy food (bagels, cream cheeses, coffee, salads, desserts and more). Very popular among tourists and American expats. Free internet.
  • Cafetería Parisien (Gran Hotel, between Theatro Nacional and Plaza de Cultura). Not the most exciting food, but elegant settings. edit
  • Ganesha (Located in Hotel America, 50 meters south of Central park in Heredia), ☎ +506 8379-7951. This is an Indian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurant in Heredia, Costa Rica about 15 minutes drive from the airport. Indian food lovers can get their garam masala fix here. Great Hummus, Baba Ganoush, Seekh Kebab and Chicken Tikka Masala. The lassis are great too.
  • Hotel Grano de Oro, Calle 30 Avenida 2/4, ☎ +506 2255 3322. Beautiful but expensive restaurant. A breakfast menu costs around ₡2400 or treat yourself to the delicious banana-macadamia nut pancakes (₡2000). The entrees are diverse and creative, do not hesitate to try the soup of the day, even if it sounds less than exciting. Duck is on the menu, and is some of the best to be had anywhere. Numerous seafood dishes are cooked to perfection, as is the beef and pork.
  • Hotel Vesuvio Restaurante, Barrio Otoya, ☎ +506 2256 1616. Italian food, pastas ₡1900; chicken ₡2000-2500.
  • Lukas, Centro Comercial El Pueblo. One of two other restaurants at the El Pueblo.
  • Machu Picchu Restaurant, (Paseo Colón) 1st Ave (125 meters north from Kentucky FC restaurant), ☎ +506 222-3679. Peruvian food & sea food. Try the Causa Rellena, Cebiche, Lomo Saltado, Ají de Gallina and Peru's traditional and landmark drink: Pisco Sour.
  • Pizzeria Il Pomodoro, Cerca de Parque Kennedy y Banco Nacional en San Pedro. One of the best known casual restaurants in Costa Rica. Italian cuisine, very good pizza and pasta, good cheap wine, from second floor great view or the mountains to the west.
  • Soda Esnider (Walk a few blocks to the east from Plaza de la Cultura over the Central Avenue and get into Galerías Avenida Central. You will find several stores and if you go down the stairs you will come across Soda Esnider). You can have a wonderful “Casado” for lunch with a natural drink for as little as ₡1600.
  • Tin Jo, Paseo de los estudiantes. This is an incredible Asian restaurant featuring Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Indian food. Don't be scared by the looks on the outside, the restaurant is clean, beautifully decorated and offers excellent service.
  • Vishnu. Vegetarian and organic restaurant. With very reasonable prices and a varied, tasty menu they are easily the best choice for vegetarian food in SJ. There are three locations downtown San José: South side boulevar, near the Banco popular; across Omni Center; and North side of the Iglesia Del Carmen.
  • El Balcón del Marisco (appx 1 km. East of EPA toward to hwy to Cartago). 10:00-23:00. Great place for fish. Always busy. Service very good. No other place comparable. Clean and safe. ~US$11.
  • Pupusería Salvadoreña, Avenida 3, Calle 22 (Two doors down from the Pangea Hostel, across the street from St. Thomas Hotel in Barrio Amon), ☎ +506 2222-7214. M–Sa 06:00–20:00; Su 06:00–18:00. More food - Costa Rican & Salvadoran - for less money than most other places. Lots of workers grab meals-to-go in the morning. Delivery available. ₡1,000–3,000.

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Drink

  • El Pueblo (Paseo Colón, Escuela Juan Rafael Mora, esquina noreste). A shopping center that becomes a clubbing district at night. There are several bars and nightclubs cluttered in the tiny little alleyways. Just mention El Pueblo to your taxi and he'll know where to go.

8 San Pedro is home to many bars and clubs, try to avoid the University of Costa Rica area at night as the many bars in the university district tend to attract brawls and even the occasional bullet shot. The other bars and clubs in San Pedro are free of trouble.

  • Barrio La California is the place to be if you're into the bohemian/rock crowd. Many bars have local bands playing every night. Great place to go bar-hopping!
  • Ristorante Tutti Li, Plaza Itskatzu, Escazú (Near Multiplaza, Courtyard, Holiday Inn, Residence Inn, Hotel Intercontinental), ☎ +506 2588-0425. One of the best Italian restaurants in town. Fresh pastas, traditional Italian plates, brick oven pizza and exquisite wine selection, all with a modern flare. A must while in San José. Located in one of the most premium locations in the city.

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Sleep

  • Casa Ridgway, C 15, Av 6/8, ☎ +506 2221-8288. A comfortable Quaker hotel with a shared kitchen and dining area available for use, a great place to meet like-minded travellers, a simple breakfast is included. Dorms, singles, doubles, triples available US$10-12/person.
  • Casa Yoses Hostel, Avenida 8, Calle 41, Los Yoses (250 west from Spoon), ☎ +506 2234-5486, e-mail: info@casayoses.com. Casa Yoses is in a central location surrounded by tons of restaurants, bars, and stores, just a few blocks from the University of Costa Rica and the San Pedro Mall. There is a great onsite gastropub with many craft beers. Dorms are US$14 as of Jan 2015 and include a large breakfast.
  • Costa Rica Backpackers, Avenida 6, calle 21,23, ☎ +506 2221-6191, e-mail: costaricabackpackers@gmail.com. Great place to meet other travelers in town, 20 minutes walking from the center, affordable and comfortable hostel, facilities include an outdoor pool, kitchen, free internet and bar. Great place to party! Dorm US$12.
  • Gaudys Backpackers Hostel, Cnr Ave 5/Calle 36-38 (Close to Parque La Sabana, 2 km west of town), ☎ +506 2248-0086, e-mail: gaudys@backpacker.co.cr. Free breakfast, internet and WiFi, kitchen and laundry use, storerooms, dorms from US$12.
  • Hostel Bekuo, Avenida 8, Calle 40, Los Yoses (325 West of Spoon Los Yoses), ☎ +506 2234-1091, e-mail: info@hostelbekuo.com. Includes free breakfast, pool table, internet, coffee & tea, and above all a great atmosphere and staff.
  • Hostel Casa del Parque, On the corner of Avenida 3 and Calle 19 (Barrio La California), ☎ +506 2233-3437, e-mail: info@hostelcasadelparque.com. 40 comfortable beds with real mattresses in dorm style rooms of 6 to 8 beds and one double room. Five full remodeled bathrooms with hot water. There is also a common room equipped with cable TV, free internet, and coffee. Excellent hosts, knowledgeable and friendly.
  • In & Basic Hostel Lounge, 300 m South and 75 m west of Spoon, Los Yoses, Fátima´s church North side, (Barrio Los Yoses, San Pedro), ☎ +506 2234-2998, e-mail: reservations@inandbasic.com. Lounge Hostel with private rooms (with/out baths, from US$15 per person) and dorms (from US$11), breakfast included. Free WiFi inside the rooms, pool table, air-hockey table, a garden with BBQ area, kitchen for free use. All new and modern. Tell blocks away from bars, supremarket and the San Pedro Mall.
  • Hostel Casa Colón, Paseo Colon, C 24 North, in front of Torre Mercedes, right in the corner, ☎ +506 2256-0276, e-mail: info@hostelcasacolon.com. Dorms, private rooms,private and shared bathrooms, huge flat screen TVs, big lounge with wire/wireless high speed internet 24/7, video surveillance, international restaurant and cafe-bar, airport shuttle service, free tourist info and travel tips, free maps, free parking, typical Costa Rican rican breakfast included, plenty of services around the area, public and private transportation to anywhere in the country upon just a few steps.
  • Castle Tam Hostel, 100 al oeste de la Escuela Roosevelt (san pedro San José), ☎ +506 4034 0070, +1 619 866 4553 (USA), e-mail: castletamhostel@gmail.com. Check-in: 24 hours, check-out: 11:00. US$10 and $12 a night dormitory rooms. $20, $29 and $39 a day private rooms available. There are also monthly rates from $295, $370 and $495. Castle Tam is in the safe San Pedro/Los Yoses area close to central San José and the University District of Universidad de Costa Rica. Its next to all the bus terminals, government agencies, cheap restaurants, museums and historical centers. Offers free Wi-Fi, free city tours and pub crawls on student Calle de La Amargura From US$10.
  • Hotel Danubio, calle 18, avenida 3 (75 m North of estacion Coca Cola), ☎ +506 2221-9446. Check-out: 13:00. Clean and safe and extremely peaceful. You'll get a good nights sleep here without having to worry about all the hippies in CR, free internet/Wi-Fi, and a friendly knowledgeable staff. Singles from US$18, doubles from $25.
  • JC & Friends Hostel, Cnr Ave 3/Calle 34, ☎ +506 8374-8246. Phone, free breakfast, internet, kitchen use, dorms from US$10. Near Tica Bus Terminal.
  • Molino Rojo Hostel, Paseo Colón y Calle 32, diagonal a KFC, ☎ +506 2221-6868, e-mail: info@molinorojohostel.com. Hostel in a safe and central area of San José with dorm beds from US$10 and private rooms from $25 per night. Free breakfast, free use of the internet, communal kitchen, garden, lounge and bar. Big party the first Saturday of every month!
  • Tranquilo Backpackers, calle 7, avenida 9y11 (250 m North of park Morazán, in front of Kabata Hostel), ☎ +506 2223-3189, +506 2222-2493, e-mail: tranquilobackpackers@hotmail.com. Clean and safe with a fun and lively atmosphere with guitars and movie everyday at 20:00. Free breakfast everyday, free coffee and tea all day, free internet/wifi, free storage, full kitchen, and a friendly knowledgeable staff. Dorms from US$10, singles from $17, doubles from $24.
  • Hostel del Paseo, Paseo Colón, Calle 26-28 (across from Torres Paseo Colón), ☎ +506 4020-1212, e-mail: reserve@hosteldelpaseo.com. Very clean, hostel in city center. All rooms have free wi-fi and good air conditioning, plus fan. Each bunk in dorms has its own locker, big enough for large luggage, and a bed-lamp with electrical outlets. Premium rooms include free continental breakfast, available to others for US$3, payable when you register. Very helpful, knowledgeable staff. Registration open 09:00–21:00, with night staff on duty 24/7 for entry and exit. One minor problem (Oct 2017): because of drainpipe problems, some bathrooms have air fresheners with a noticeably strong smell - on request, staff will remove them or leave them in, whichever you prefer. Dorms from US$14, premium (private) from $45.
  • B&B Tambo Mundo, Del Cristo de Sabanilla 400, ☎ +506 2273 0265, +506 8848 9707, e-mail: juancarlos@tambomundocostarica.com. Tambo Mundo is a bed & breakfast with an amazing view of Braulio Carrillo National Park and Irazú Volcano in a big house with cozy common places. 5 rooms with plenty of hot water, delicious breakfast (close to the University of Costa Rica and San Pedro. US$30- $45 single occupation including taxes. A big Latin American literature, sustainable development and politics library, movies and documentaries are available. Fast Wireless Internet connection all around. Telephone and cable TV. Laundry service (free for long stays). Fluent English/Spanish. German and French.
  • Costa Rica Guesthouse, ☎ +506 2223-7034, e-mail: costaricaguesthouse@gmail.com. From US$35 a night, located in downtown San José near the supreme court, housed in a beautifully restored 1904 building, this fine guesthouse features 23 decorated private rooms with king size beds, semi-orthopedic mattresses and free Wi-Fi access. Especially designed for couples, families and people looking for a little extra comfort, Costa Rica Guesthouse is the upscale hotel at budget price.
  • Courtyard by Marriott San José, Autopista Prospero Fernandez, Calle Marginal N., Plaza Itskatzu San José, Tel:+506 2208-3000, The Courtyard San José is located nearby San José's industrial parks, businesses, international companies and within minutes from shopping, nightlife plaza and the best restaurants in San José. Spacious rooms, free high-speed Internet, on-site restaurant, outdoor pool and health club.
  • Hemingway Inn, Avenida 9, Calle 9, Barrio Amon, (Behind I.N.S.), Tel +506 221-1804, reservations@hemingwayinn.com, [3]. Former mansion turned into a hotel. Friendly staff. Quiet neighborhood. Safe and secure. Decent price for the area: US$35-45 for a double including traditional breakfast with Gallo Pinto and Tamales. Hotel has a small bar and hot tub on the premises. The hotel will organize eco-tours for the rest of Costa Rica. Free Internet service and Wi-Fi.
  • Hotel Del Rey, ☎ +1-866-765-8037. Infamous, overpriced, unsafe, and overrated. Sort of a decadent area (prostitution). You're better off hanging out in one of the many other, better priced places, no matter what your buddies have told you.
  • Hotel La Rosa de America, Tel: +506 2433-2741. Located 15 minutes west from the San José Airport, in the town of La Garita de Alajuela. This hotel offers sparking clean accommodation in twelve rooms and two family suites arranged in cabinas, located around a large beautifully maintained tropical garden and swimming pool. Breakfast at the restaurant is included.
  • Hotel Out of Bounds (Hotel Out of Bounds Escazu), Escazu, ☎ +506 2288-6762, e-mail: info@bedandbreakfastcr.com. US$70. edit
  • Hotel Presidente. Located in downtown San José, on the walking boulevard of Avenida Central and Calle 7 (seven street). Great location close to historic landmarks, museums and plazas. 4-star accommodations with rooms starting at US$85 + tax per night. Free internet. Buffet breakfast included.
  • Hotel San Gildar. Next to the Costa Rica Country Club. A beautiful private hotel in the higher end side of San José, 20 minutes away from the airport, and surrounded by gourmet restaurants. Offers mid-range 3-star accommodations, trendy bar-restaurant, souvenir shop, adventure tour desk, free delicious continental breakfast and high speed Internet.
  • Hotel Santo Tomas, Av. 7 between Calle 3 and 5, Barrio Amon, ☎ +506 255-0448, fax: +506 222-3950. Pleasant bed and breakfast inn, English-speaking staff, single rooms are small, some downstairs rooms quite spacious. Rates from US$80, including breakfast.
  • Kap's Place, Street 19, Avenues 11 and 13, #1142 in Barrio Aranjuez, ☎ +506 221-1169, e-mail: info@kapsplace.com. Guesthouse with 13 rooms and 1 large apartment. US$30-80 including taxes. Guests have free kitchen use and free travel planning help! The K in Kap's Place stands for Karla. It's her house and her service is top notch. Bilingual (English/Spanish).
  • Marcela Bell, e-mail: homestay@racsa.co.cr. Arranges accommodation in private homes; will advise on all aspects of visiting Costa Rica.
  • Residence Inn San José Escazu (15 minutes from downtown San José), ☎ +506 2588-4300. Complimentary hot breakfast daily, outdoor pool and fully functional gym. The Residence Inn San José also has two meeting rooms.
  • Rincón de San José (formerly Hotel Edelweiss), Avenida 9 Calle 15 Barrio Otoya, ☎ +506 221-9702, e-mail: info@hotelrincondesanjose.com. 27 rooms, US$50 + tax for a double including breakfast. 10% cash discount. Free Internet.

TRYP San José Sabana Hotel, Avenue 3, calles 38 y 40, ☎ +506 2547 2323, toll-free: +1-888-411-5487 (US number). Centrally located hotel with conference facilities.

  • Barcelo San José Palacio. Located a short way between San José and Heredia, Barcelo San José Palacio is minutes from the international airport and downtown, and is an ideal starting point for those who fly into the Costa Rica capital.
  • Costa Rica Marriott Hotel (700 m east of the Firestone), ☎ +506 2298-0000. The Costa Rica Marriott is a beautiful colonial hacienda set on a 30-acre coffee plantation. Comfortable accommodations, superb restaurants and catering, two outdoor tropical pools, Spa and more.
  • Doubletree Cariari by Hilton San José, Canas Highway San Antonio de Belen (5 minutes from the Airport), ☎ +506 2239-0022. Distinctive architecture with lots of plants and a great swimming pool US$89-229.
  • Finca Rosa Blanca, Santa Barbera de Heredia, ☎ +506 269-9392. The 13-room Finca Rosa Blanca Country Inn, situated above the beautiful Central Valley of Costa Rica, is surrounded by exotic flora and grows some of the world’s best organic coffee. Finca Rosa Blanca is nestled in 10 acres amidst hundreds of fruit trees and dramatic tropical flora, and offers spectacular views of volcanoes, cloud forests and coffee plantations. The inn has an à la carte restaurant, Spa and small gift shop on site. US$160-240 for a double.
  • Hotel Don Carlos, Calle 9 & Avenida 9, Barrio Amón, +506 866 675 9259 (toll free) or +506 221 6707, [4]. Beautifully decorated hotel, run by the same family for three generations. US$70 + 16.39% tax for a standard double. There is also a tour operator (expensive) and a nice souvenir shop inside the hotel.
  • Hilton Garden Inn San José La Sabana, Boulevard Ernesto Rohrmoser (Northwest corner of La Sabana Municipal Park at the intersection of Avenida de Las Américas and Boulevard Ernesto Rohrmoser), ☎ +506-2-520-6000, toll-free: +1-800-445-8667. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. A modern hotel on the 13th-20th floors of a high-rise building in downtown San José, the Hilton Garden Inn offers a gym, an outdoor pool, a business center, a 24-hour mini market and even free parking in a secure parking garage in the building. These amenities come at a price, with rates comparable to Hilton Garden Inns in the United States, but the location is excellent and the staff are very helpful and friendly. US$140-170 per night.
  • Hotel Fleur de Lys (50 m north of Drs. Echandi Clinic), ☎ +506 223-1206. Comfortable European-style small hotel with eclectic class and grace. Excellent restaurant on site, suites feature jacuzzis.
  • Hotel Grano de Oro (Just off Paseo Colon), ☎ +506 255-3322. Converted from a tropical Victorian mansion, the 35-room hotel maintains the warmth and comfort of a private home. Hallways lined with period photographs and original art meander through the building and present lush tropical flower arrangements and luxuriant plants at every turn. Italian tile fountains grace intimate atriums, ensuring that one is never far from the soothing melody of falling water. The restaurant is beautiful, opening upon a courtyard with a fountain at the center. Service is prompt and efficient, and the staff mostly speak very serviceable, if not near-perfect, English. The rooms are comfortable, but most lack air conditioning which means you will be awakened by bird calls most mornings. Carved woods dominate the public rooms, a beautiful venue which appears to be popular with Ticos as well.
  • Hotel Villas Corcovado. Villas Corcovado is a beautiful community of luxurious villas found throughout 70 oceanfront acres of unspoiled rainforest on the Southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Perfect for those who seek adventure, flora and animal life in the inspiring framework of the Golfo Dulce.
  • Hampton Inn & Suites. Close to the international airport and many Costa Rican company headquarters.
  • Real InterContinental Hotel and Club Tower Costa Rica, ☎ +506 289-7000. Located amid tropical gardens, 15 minutes from Juan Santamaria Int’l Airport and 10 minutes from downtown San José, the hotel is close to stores, movie theaters and fast-food restaurants and faces the modern Multiplaza Mall. It has 210 luxurious rooms, 54 rooms of the Camino Real Club, 5 junior suites and a presidential suite, for a total of 261 rooms. Each room is equipped with a mini-bar, hair dryer, air conditioning and a system of electronic key. Services : gym, swimming pool, jewelry shop, tennis court, restaurant, bar, conference rooms and gift shop.
  • Xandari Resort & Spa. Xandari Resort and Spa is home to 21 spacious villas on a 40-acre coffee and fruit plantation overlooking the Central Valley. The colorful villas, private terraces, furniture and gardens are designed with great attention to detail, and each villa is adorned with original works of art.
  • Cristal Ballena Resort and Spa, on the Pacific Coast between Dominical and Palmar Sur. Nature Air and Sansa fly into Palmar Sur, and the Resort can arrange pickup. The owners are an Austrian couple who "retired to go to work," and opened this beautiful resort just above the Pacific ocean with incredible views. Even in the off season, Waldemar will usually be in the restaurant in the evening making sure the guests are happy. Many tours and adventures are available, as usual. The restaurant is very good, one of the better ones in the area. Some Austrian dishes complement local seafood. The view is incredible, every room has a private balcony with a view of the Pacific. Monkeys can be heard howling in the morning, and tropical birds are common.
  • Quality Hotel Real San José, El Paseo Real, Costado Este Centro Empresarial Forum, Santa Ana., ☎ +506 2204-6700, fax: +506 2204-6800. Quality Hotel Real San José has 154 rooms, 16 mini-suites and rooms for disabled people. Also it has a restaurant, pool, business center with computers, printers and internet access high speed. Prices range between US$80-140.

View our map of accommodation in San José or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

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Learn

Costa Rica in general, and San José in particular, is a great place to improve your Spanish language skills. Many people can speak some English and there are many Spanish classes available, including at the Universidad de Costa Rica, as well as "immersion" classes in private homes.

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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

Accommodation in San Jose (Costa Rica)

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