San José picture1 of 2
San José2 of 2
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Key Info

Price & Hours

Free
24/7 daily

Details

Free, Neighborhood/Area Type
More than Full Day Time to Spend
4.0

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 4.0Food Scene
  • 4.0Atmosphere

San José, Costa Rica's vibrant capital, serves as a central base for exploration. You'll likely want to stop here before heading to the country's magnificent rainforests and beaches. Soaring offices, apartment buildings and museums will tower above you as you roam through the city's interconnected barrios (districts). Barrio Amón is popular with tourists for its centuries-old mansions and photo-worthy architecture. Barrio Escalante is equally popular for its variety of restaurants, bars, cafes and bakeries. If you plan on staying in the city for a few days before connecting elsewhere, consider heading downtown to explore the exquisite collections at the Jade Museum and Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. Both facilities house dazzling and rare pre-Columbian artifacts.

Recent visitors were equally impressed with the Jade Museum's presentation as they were with the extensive collection displayed in its confined space, though they did say it is a bit pricey. Travelers in search of the city's trendier areas may wish to drive about 3 ½ miles west of San José to reach Escazú, a sophisticated spot that boasts vibrant shops, nightclubs and restaurants. If you need help navigating the capital's dining scene, consider signing up for a food tour.

Once in San José, it is easy to traverse the city on foot. Visitors should note that San José's streets are not clearly marked; however, the city sprawls across a grid, making it easy to navigate. Also, you'll want to stay vigilant and watch your belongings: Scam artists are known to run amok throughout the city, particularly in public areas. To reach San José, fly into Juan Santamaría International Airport, which is about 10 miles northwest, and then hop in one of the many cabs or buses headed to the city.

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Type
Time to Spend
#1 Nicoya Peninsula

The Nicoya Peninsula's sparkling 80-mile shoreline boasts beach-centric towns with cream-colored shores and dense forests. Half of the peninsula is found in the Guanacaste province, while the other half sits in the Puntarenas province. Nosara Beach's powdery sands line the Nicoya Peninsula's western edge. You'll also find fishing and cattle-ranching communities east of the rustic coastline. After a significant rise in tourism that began in the 1970s, an influx of restaurants and hotels have enticed visitors to the peninsula's sandy coast.

Recent travelers highlight Nosara Beach's gorgeous sunsets, colorful fish and turquoise waters as ideal for surfers and beach lovers alike. But be warned: shade is minimal (and it gets hot!) and the undertow can be challenging; sunset walks on the beach are highly encouraged. Other hot spots include Mal País and Montezuma, a charming coastal town that boasts affordable hotel accommodations and untamed splendors, like magnificent waterfalls and gentle cerulean waves.

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