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What To Do with a Day in San Jose

Posted by Katie on February 23, 2018
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San Jose is the bustling capital of Costa Rica. Not only is this the most developed capital city in Central America, but it has proven to be a favorite destination for relocators to Costa Rica. This huge city has a melting pot of exciting cultures, all the international products you could want, and a strong industry, perfect for employment and entrepreneurship. Young Costa Rican professionals and incoming foreign residents alike pack up their belongings to move this lively city. While it may make for an exceptional living experience, most travelers do not include this city on their itinerary. The reason is obvious. While San Jose offers a great quality of life, it doesn’t include white-sand beaches, resort style spas, and nearby Caribbean adventures. You’re in Costa Rica to relax and enjoy, and staying out of a metropolis city may be in your best interest.

Regardless of your intention to stay out of San Jose, there’s a very good chance that you’ll find yourself with a day in the city. This could be before your flight back home or while crossing the country to experience both the Pacific coast beaches and the Caribbean. It may not have been your intention to spend a day here, but you don’t want to waste any time either. The truth is, San Jose has quite a lot to offer. Don’t let any part of your vacation go to waste, and spend your day in San Jose experiencing the city’s rich culture. You now find yourself in the region of Costa Rica with the best choice of restaurants, bars, and cultural experiences, so use your time wisely.


If you have an entire day in San Jose, you might even consider taking a guided day trip. San Jose is right in the middle of the country, and it has an incredible access to some of the country’s most incredible geographical features. Consider taking a tour of the Arenal Volcano and Tabacon Hot Springs. Your guide will take you for a 35 minute drive to reach the base of the volcano, and the rest of the day will be spent scaling rocky paths and lounging in hot springs after a long hike. It will be a physically challenging way to spend your day, but once you’ve reached the end of your hiking path, you’ll have the most incredible view of your host country.

If you’re looking for some jungle adventures, you’re in the right spot. Skip a guided tour and take a bus or taxi to the Braulio Carrillo National Park. From there you can either hire a tour guide for the more difficult paths, or spend the day with just your travel group, roaming the area. Entering the park, there will be a disorienting change from the bustling city to a thick, wildlife filled jungle. You’ll need hiking shoes and bug repellent, and make sure your camera is charged. You’re going to see plants and animals you’ve never even heard of.

You might not have time to go on an entire day trip, so just walk down to the Central Market. Your travel group will have the most cultural experience possible while just trying to buy some exotic fruits and tropical treats. There will be countless products available, but focus on what you need for the day. Go down with a canvas bag and pick up every exotic fruit you don’t recognize. You can have a tasting party in the nearest park or back in your hotel’s courtyard while sipping local rum.


Finding a great place to eat in San Jose will never be a challenge. You’ll have your choice of all types of cuisines from around the world. While San Jose is known to the locals as a great place to find Chinese and Lebanese food, you may want to stick with traditional Central American restaurants during your tropical vacation.

Head down to Mantras Veggie Café and Tea House for lunch. This vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurant has options for everyone. Because they concentrate on locally sourced and organic foods, they’ll come up with some incredible usages for local produce. You’ll taste some incredibly refreshing combos and have the most creative meal possible. You may even find some new, tropical usages for common vegetables you can take back home with you.

For dinner, try something heavier. Go to El Patio del Balmoral restaurant and get a table in the plant-filled patio. You’ll have a tropical environment and a huge meal at your disposal, so stay as long as you’d like. Try some local cocktails and appetizers to make this a truly cultural experience.


You may find yourself in San Jose between hiking expeditions. If that’s your case, there’s nothing wrong with spending the day with your feet up, recuperating for your next big adventure. Fortunately, San Jose bars and cafes offer some of the most tropical refreshments possible. There’s no reason to relax in your hotel room, find a great establishment and kick your feet up.

First thing in the morning, head to Cafeoteca. This may be the most impressing coffee shop you ever visit. You’ll find 23 varieties of local coffees from the 8 different coffee regions in Costa Rica. You’ll be offered different brewing methods, natural flavors, exotic combos, and the conversation of extremely knowledgeable baristas.

Later that night, it will be absolutely imperative that you set aside a couple of hours to spend at Stiefel Pub. Costa Rica is the home of some truly inventive and exotic foods, but the locals still prefer light, lager style beers. Beer lovers touring Costa Rica can be rather disappointed, and that’s where Stiefel Pub comes in. This is a huge learning opportunity for those new to craft beers, and will be just perfect to those looking for some creative, local brews. The servers are knowledgeable, the selection is extensive, and the creative craft beer names will be endlessly amusing to Spanish learners.


San Jose is the capital city and the center of culture, so you might want to take the afternoon to learn a bit about your host country. Fortunately, you can do so out of the classroom. Find some cultural spots where you can truly enjoy the information you’re learning.

The first place you should hit is Galeria Namu. This gallery is the most breathtaking expedition of indigenous artwork, and you’ll learn of artistic methods that date back hundreds of years. The displayed pieces will be absolutely astonishing and totally original to the area. Best yet, you’ll have access to affordable for-sale gallery pieces and souvenirs. If you are spending your day in San Jose waiting for your flight home, this is the perfect one-stop shop for cultural souvenirs and take-home gifts.

If half your tour group wants to hit a cultural museum, and the other half is resisting the idea of learning on their vacation whatsoever, there’s still a stop that will make everyone happy. Head to El Sotono. This establishment is registered as a cultural museum, but that won’t make the amply stocked bar or mouth-watering menu any less exciting. You’ll have a chance to learn about local music, Costa Rican influenced rock and roll, and modern art and culture. The live music will be to die for, the dancing will be lively, and you won’t find better vibes for rocking out to modern local culture anywhere in the country.