Costa Rica’s capital
Costa Rica’s capital is often the most overlooked part of the country for travelers looking for sandy beaches or lush canopy. Few will confuse San José as the must-see part of Costa Rica when you have world famous waves, gorgeous mountains, and dense jungle into Central America’s tiny eco-jewel.
In recent years, however, the gritty metropolis adoringly called “Chepe” by the locals has taken part in some what of a revival in hopes of keeping more and more foreigners in the Central Valley. If you don’t mind the bad traffic and look past the mismatching architecture, then you may be able to find some hidden beauties amid San José’s concrete jungle.
Here are some of our favorite activities while we’re in the capital:
Museums: Not surprisingly, San José has the largest concentration of museums anywhere in Costa Rica. Some of them, like the Museum of Costa Rican Art that is attached to Sabana Park west of downtown even offer free entrance to locals and foreigners alike. The one-time airport servicing all of Costa Rica has now been remodeled to feature the best local modern art.
In the city center, you’ll find the more popular National Museum that was made from a military fortress that still bears the scars of cannon fire on its outer walls. Inside, the sprawling courtyard features the famous stone spheres that date back to pre-Columbian times. Other museums worth checking out are the Gold Museum, where you’ll find more indigenous work, and the National Theatre – although not a museum – makes for a cool tour due to its intricate interior design.
Craft beer scene: The first producers of craft beer in Costa Rica started in 2010 and ever since the industry has become unavoidable when checking out San José’s restaurants and bars. Well-established brands like Costa Rica Craft Brewing Co., Treintaycinco Brewery, and Costa Rica Beer Factory have taken over the market to give customers more of an offering the standard fare of Imperial and Pilsen.
Though the craft beer scene is still growing and sometimes hit or miss regarding quality, the tight knit group of Cerveza artisanal producers have done well in making their products readily available – whether it is a gastropub in the city’s booming Barrio Escalante or on the shelves of the local supermarkets. Established organizations like CarpeChepe offer tours that shuttle travelers around the city’s best bars, letting them imbibe without worry of driving.
Hiking: San Miguel peak, known more commonly by the Cruz de Alajuelita, and nearby peaks are popular day trips among locals looking to let off some steam. Impressive views of the city below await anyone willing to make the one-hour hike starting near Escazú. Once you reach the famous metallic cross that hovers over the city’s southern stretch of mountains, you can work your way back to peaks like Rabo de Mico, Pico Alto, and Pico Blanco.
Amusement Park: Though small compared to U.S. standards, the aptly named Parque de Diversiones (Amusement Park) is the lone full-time park in the country offering roller coasters and thrill rides. Located right off the InterAmerican Highway, the park is always a hit among kids and makes for a great day trip. But be advised it is only opened from Friday to Sunday each week when local schools are in session.