So you’re heading to Costa Rica for its lush green rainforests, picturesque beaches, and a vacation filled with wild adventures. Same!
Costa Rica is all about Ad Meliora or “towards better things”, and before you start kayaking and trekking, you’ll probably have to fly into San Jose.
Most visitors treat San Jose as a transit hub to reach enigmatic beaches and volcanoes and skip touring the city. Though while it’s easy to think it looks rough around the edges, the city is well worth spending a few days.
Costa Rica in 2021: Travel Guide to San Jose
COVID-19 Access Requirements
Costa Rica allows all countries in the world to enter by air, as long as they meet the country’s visa and COVID-19 entry requirements. You’ll need to complete the digital form called Health Pass (available at salud.go.cr), and have health insurance that covers 50,000 USD for medical expenses, plus 2000 dollars for surface lodging (if needed).
You’ll need to take a PCR Covid 19 test to receive access to San Jose, though as of now (February 2021), Costa Rica does not need tourists to self-quarantine or have received a vaccination.
Remember that these measures are subject to change and dependent on the evolution of the pandemic both in Costa Rica and around the world, so it’s always worth confirming the latest information from official sources before you travel.
Using face masks is of the utmost importance in public places as well as at airports, and it’s important that visitors practice social distancing norms and regular sanitization practices to enjoy a safe stay.
Hotels and accommodation also have to follow strict hygiene protocol. Within San Jose, Selina Hostel San Jose Costa Rica was just awarded a high cleanliness score for keeping up with Covid 19 hygiene guidelines.
Best Time to Visit San Jose?
San Jose is best known for offering comfortable weather throughout the year with a tropical wet and dry climate. The weather in Costa Rica is never terrible, but you can visit between September to October to enjoy a moderate, pleasing climate that favors travel.
San Jose’s summers are comfortable, but the precipitation varies widely between the coldest months and driest months. The hottest month is April, with temperature moving to an average of 74.7° F, while the coldest month is October with an average temperature of 71.2° F.
In San Jose, the rainy season are very humid and overcast. However, the dry season stays cloudy, and the region remains warm throughout the year. The best time to visit San Jose is from mid-December till the end of March as it allows you to enjoy all the activities it has to offer.
The weather starts to get cloudy from April and usually lasts for 7.5 months, ending around late November. Read this post to know how to plan for the weather.
Some Facts About San Jose
San Jose is home to more than 333,980 people and is the capital of Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s population boomed during the late eighteenth century by employing colonial planning, and today there are many cultural and historical things to do.
The geographical location of San Jose makes it a popular holiday destination. Surrounded by mountains on both sides, it offers a comfortable climate, picturesque views, and leverages local culture.
This is an incredibly diverse locale, where people from all over the world come for the pleasant weather, high-quality life, recognized institutions, and a degree of globalization. Even though San Jose possesses a strong economy, the downtown area is different from the city life and feels suburban.
Yes, the city might feel gritty on first impressions, but there are some fantastic things to do. The best ways to get around will be by bus, uber, taxi, or to simply walk (though we don’t recommend walking after dark – it’s a city like any other).
San Jose Holiday Itinerary (Things to Do in One Day)
Kick start your day with a stylish brunch
San Jose has a wonderful food scene, so start your day in ostentatious La Divina Comida for brunch. This is a Peruvian restaurant which is known for having the best Peruvian food in Costa Rica – it’s a modern place with tapas and cocktails before entrees for lunch and dinner.
After brunch, if you’re interested in designer or handicraft shopping, cross the street and go on to Mercado Nacional de Artesania. This craft market offers top designer clothing lines as well as affordable fashion staples.
Hunt for Cultural Icons
Some of San Jose’s most extravagant monuments are near the city and are within walking distance. Cross Paseo Colon and head straight to Teatro Nacional (National Theater of Costa Rica), an impressive neoclassical 1897 building now home to national ballet companies and the opera.
This is San José’s most famous piece of architecture, and many of the city’s walking tours start from this historic landmark. You’ll find a columned neoclassical facade flanked by statues of Beethoven and famous 17th-century Spanish dramatist Calderón de la Barca.
Even if you’re not booking a show, take a 10 dollar introductory tour to cover the interior. “The lavish marble lobby and auditorium are lined with paintings depicting various facets of 19th-century life.”
On the ground floor is the Alma De Caf where you can enjoy freshly brewed Costa Rican coffee with options for local craft beer and sweets made of Costa Rican chocolate.
To continue your cultural tour, San Jose has many fantastic museums, and if you walk down Central Avenue you’ll be able to hit quite a few.
Start with the yellow National Museum of Costa Rica, which is directly across from the Legislative Assembly in the Bellavista Fortress. It was built in 1917 and originally used as military barracks, and while inside it gives context on Spanish colonization, and its effect on their indigenous history, outside you can still see hundreds of bullet holes in the walls from the 1948 Costa Rica civil war.
Quite underrated, but still worth a visit, is the Jade Museum. Don’t expect to witness a heavy jewelry collection; this place is more about showing Jade as a trading tool, weapon, and lastly, adornment. It has the most extensive collection of pre-Columbian jades in the world.
The Pre-Columbian Gold Museum is also closeby (10 minute walk from the National Museum) and has several floors of gold artifacts created by indigenous people that date back to AD 0. About 688 pieces of pre-Columbian gold are displayed.
End the day with a natural view
If you’re looking to end your day in nature (after-all, that’s what defines Costa Rica!), swing by Costa Rica’s largest La Sabana Park, with 72 hectares of green land in the city center.
This park is not at all desolate and is filled with kids playing soccer, and people relaxing. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods of San Jose and offers unique food options, outdoor and indoor seating areas, and most importantly, great ambiance.
San Jose is the most popular metropolis in Latin America and hosts more than a million Costa Ricans. As this state holds much historical and cultural significance, there are many things to do and places to visit. Make sure you spend some time before venturing further out into the country.