Things to do in

San José, Costa Rica

Costa Rica's capital rewards explorers with lively markets, must-see museums, and unforgettable volcanos close by.

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Top things to do in San José

Costa Rica may be best known for its beaches, but the bustling capital of San José—or Chepe, as it's affectionately nicknamed—is absolutely worth visiting. Rich in history and surrounded by breathtaking nature, the city is perfect for a delightful sojourn.

  • 1. La Fortuna

    This picturesque town sits at the foot of the majestic Arenal Volcano. About 75 miles from San José, La Fortuna makes for a great day trip, with plenty to discover en route.

  • 2. Braulio Carillo National Park

    For another amazing day out, drive out of San José along Route 32 and you'll hit on the Braulio National Park, one of Central America's most spectacular natural treasures.

  • 3. Teatro Nacional Costa Rica

    Gorgeous both inside and out, the Teatro Nacional is one of San José's most cherished attractions. Be sure to take a tour to learn all about its architectural and artistic riches.

  • 4. Arenal Volcano

    If hiking's your thing, head over to the Arenal Volcano, about 3 hours from San José by car. Though the eruptions ceased in 2010, the area is a paradise for nature lovers.

  • 5. Celeste River

    The Celeste River is another hiker's dream come true. Set within rich and varied flora, the river is bordered by many natural hot springs and leads to a magnificent waterfall.

  • 6. Museo Nacional de Costa Rica

    History buffs should make sure to visit San José's national museum, the Museo Nacional. This beautiful museum offers a highly informative overview of the country's rich history.

  • 7. Pre-Columbian Gold Museum

    This museum houses a collection of over 1,600 artifacts made of pre-Columbian gold, giving fascinating insight into the culture of the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans.

Frequently asked questions about San José, Costa Rica

Planning Your Visit

  • Eat like the locals

    To taste the real flavor of Costa Rican cuisine, you shouldn't miss out on San José's central market, the Mercado Central. This gigantic market is not only one of the best spots in the city for food (as well as souvenirs), but also one of the cheapest, where a delicious meal will set you back as little as $3 – a fraction of most restaurants!

  • When to go

    While the city's pleasant climate allows for visits throughout the year, the best period is December, right after the rainy season. But even though the days are warm, the nights do get chilly, so make sure to bring a sweater. Moreover, both the Festival de la Luz and the Fiestas de Zapote take place in December. The whole city comes alive during the festivals and these typically Latin American festivities are a singularly delightful experience.

Good to know

  • Language
  • Currency
    CRC (₡)
  • Time Zone
    UTC (-06:00)
  • Country Code
  • Best time to visit
    December is the best month to visit, when the rainy season has ended, the days are warm, and the city comes alive with festivities.

Other Sightseeing Options in San José, Costa Rica

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What people are saying about San José, Costa Rica

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 400 reviews

Our guide Gladys is a Biology Student working on finishing her degree at UCR, and she was fantastic during our tour of the nature reserve and campus. She was very knowledgeable about many of the local plants, birds, and insects. We definitely got some interesting stories about the unique habits of local animals and how they interact with each other. There are no guarantees of seeing any specific types of animals on this tour except the farmer ants, but you are pretty likely to see at least a handful of unique birds and insects around the campus. Although we didnt get to see a sloth on campus, we did get to see and learn a lot that we didnt expect. Definitely a great time and a very informational tour.

The guide, Álvar, very attentive, entertained the trip with explanations and stops. The experience was great and the day was well spent. Perhaps half an hour more in Tortuguero to visit with more pause. I recommend it.

Excellent tour. The guide Óscar is very knowledgeable about all the topics, very willing and very good vibes. It was a very good experience, it completely met my expectations. Fully recommended, we really enjoyed it.

It was amazing. My wife and I really enjoyed ourselves. We're looking forward to coming back. Yordan was an awesome guide.

Wonderful nature, unique and fantastically beautiful, highly recommended