The 9 Best Things to Do in San Jose, Costa Rica

December 1, 2017 Leonarda Pillsbury

Vibrant and packed with Victorian mansions, Costa Rica's rowdy, bustling capital was built on the profits of the coffee trade and working "golden bean" plantations still surround the city. Try freshly roasted local beans at Mercado Central. For shinier gold, visit the Museo del Oro. Many renovated landmarks now house stylish hotels. Usually viewed as a hub, rather than a destination, nightlife is concentrated in Spanish village-inspired El Pueblo. Don't miss the elegant 1897 National Theater.
Restaurants in San Jose

1. Teatro Nacional Costa Rica

Second Ave. and Fifth St., San Jose, Costa Rica +506 2010 1100
Excellent
67%
Good
25%
Satisfactory
6%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 2 reviews

Teatro Nacional Costa Rica

Since 1897, this elegant theater has been a source of pride.

Reviewed By Prawet J - Washington DC, District of Columbia

I did not have a chance to see inside of the National Theater but just the lobby and the outside. The Teatro Nacional Costa Rica is situated in the heart of the busy old town San Jose. The plaza in front of the building is very lively with a lot activities. According to the history, the Theater was built in 19th Century for performing art purpose and is considered the finest historic building in the country. It is worth stopping by for photos.

2. Galeria Namu

7th Avenue | Between 5th And 7th Streets, San Jose, Costa Rica +506 2256 3412
Excellent
81%
Good
16%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

5 based on 165 reviews

Galeria Namu

Galeria Namu is a fair trade art gallery for local and indigenous artists from Costa Rica and surrounding Central America countries. Established in 1998 at this same location, visitors to Costa Rica's capital city of San Jose can find us easily behind the Holiday Inn (across from Parque Morazan).Knowledge and passion for the artists and their work is what makes a visit to Galeria Namu special; the owner, Aisling, and her son Conall, along with their support staff love to share with visitors the background of the tribe or individual artisans and the remarkable collection of unique and very special pieces available for purchase. For the past 15 years, Galeria Namu has nurtured a relationship with the artists who create folk art, gold and jade replicas, handwoven baskets, originals paintings, tagua carvings and jewelry and much more. Visit the website for hours and a sampling of what you will encounter. Be prepared to catch their enthusiasm for fair trade with these local arts and crafts.

Reviewed By Peytonsage - Barrie, Canada

This was our second trip here and once again we were impressed by many of the items offered for sale. The baskets are such high quality crafts and it's nice to see that many of the indigenous communities they come from are identified. They also have some great reproductions of many of the pre-Columbian artifacts you see in the Gold and Jade Museums. Not your usual souvenir shop!

3. Museo de Arte Costarricense

Parque Metropolitano de La Sabana, San Jose 10109, Costa Rica +506 2256 1281
Excellent
57%
Good
32%
Satisfactory
10%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 298 reviews

Museo de Arte Costarricense

This museum displays works by local artists.

Reviewed By Rachel Z

It's a tiny art museum but it's free. The museum was repurposed from an airport terminal, which renders a sense of history for this museum - reminds me of Musee D'orsay! Pretty amazing collection of Latin artwork! Took an hour to finish viewing all the pieces of artwork. Then it's a good idea to take a walk in the La Sabana Park which is right behind the museum.

4. Precolumbian Gold Museum

Calle 5 | between Central and 2nd Ave, San Jose, Costa Rica 506-243-4202
Excellent
54%
Good
34%
Satisfactory
10%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 2 reviews

Precolumbian Gold Museum

A large collection of indigenous gold art.

Reviewed By Larry R

This museum, just around the corner from the National Theatre is incredible. It is all underground and should be considered a must see if you are spending any time in San Jose. The gold creations and art created by the precolumbian people may be considered better than some of the recent art I have seen in some more modern museums. The gold jewelry is extremely sophisticated.

5. Jade Museum

Central Av | Street 13 and 13 bis, San Jose 10106, Costa Rica +506 2521 6610
Excellent
56%
Good
29%
Satisfactory
12%
Poor
2%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1 reviews

Jade Museum

The Jade Museum and of precolumbian culture is positioned as an innovative state-of-the-art cultural proposal in the protection and conservation of archaeological heritage in Central America. Located in the center of Costa Rics's capital, the building was especially constructed to house the museum's collection, its architecture evoking a cut jade block. Its five levels exhibit objects crafted by artisans specialized in solving their daily subsistence needs, their spiritual and political world.

Reviewed By Prawet J - Washington DC, District of Columbia

The Jade Museum is located very close to the National Museum of Costa Rica and right next to the Mercado Nacional de Artesanias. The Museum is nicely designed and displayed throughout the 4 floors. A lot of information with different things and different era. It is a lot to absorb and to see. The Jade Museum in is dedicated and focused to present the archaeological heritage of the region. According to the information package, the museum has the largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts in the world. I recommend Reading about the displays and what they are before visiting the Museum. It is worth 15 dollars entrance fee.

6. Museo de los Ninos

Calle 4, al norte de la Avenida 9, San Jose, Costa Rica 506 258 4929
Excellent
51%
Good
36%
Satisfactory
10%
Poor
2%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 399 reviews

Museo de los Ninos

Reviewed By Shirley T - NJ

We come every time we visit Costa Rica and there are always new displays, so many great things to see and explore... Its very big inside and the costs is not bad. Each display has a helpful guide to answer any questions. Its educational even for adults. My favorite is the space display because of the astronauts costumes and all the information about Franklin Chan. The earthquake simulator is super cool also! plan to spend the whole day here. My kids love it and they are 7 and 9 yrs. old. Do wear comfortable shoes to walk all day but do take them off and enjoy digging for bones in the sand... It's amazing!!

7. Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo

North Of San Jose 19 km, San Jose 10104, Costa Rica 506 283 5896
Excellent
54%
Good
35%
Satisfactory
9%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 275 reviews

Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo

Reviewed By kitajenn8709 - Atlanta, Georgia

We took the 6 in 1 rainforest tour from San Jose which included a direct pickup from our Condo.
Pros:
- Our tour guide for the animals, tram and in the van (Edgar) was great! He was friendly and extremely knowledgeable about Costa Rica and the wildlife.
- We got to see a hummingbird exhibit which was really cool!
- We learned about the different species of frogs and snakes in Costa Rica.
- We took an amazing tram ride of the upper and lower rainforest! The sights were amazing!
- Our tour guides for the zipline tour (Joseph & Dennis) was incredible! The entire experience ziplining was sooo much fun and something I always wanted to do. The ziplining was very safe and secure. The sights were amazing!
- Lunch was provided with our tour which was a traditional Costa Rican meal which was delicious.
- Lockers were available to rent to store your baggage.
- I saw a sloth lol!
Cons:
- If going during the rainy season as I did, you will get caught in rain while on the tour. But that made the rainforest tour even better! But we did miss the butterfly exhibit.
- Our driver, Andreas, was terrible! He almost got into an accident going to the park and back to San Jose. On the way to the park, he was not paying attention and almost ran into the back of the vehicle in front of him. Returning from the park, he tried passing a gasoline truck into oncoming traffic. He ran out of space and almost crashed into the truck or an oncoming vehicle. That was TERRIFYING and which is why I am not giving the tour a 5 star rating.
Overall I would do the tour and recommend it but ensure Andreas is not my driver!

8. Universidad de Costa Rica

San Pedro Montes de Oca, San Jose 20603, Costa Rica +506 2511 0000
Excellent
60%
Good
29%
Satisfactory
8%
Poor
1%
Terrible
2%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 178 reviews

Universidad de Costa Rica

Reviewed By Kerri P - Calgary

I loved attending the university of costa rica, such a rich diverse student population, lots of great events to get everyone out and having a fun time. I even remember seeing projecto uno perform here, and some of the very best restaurants are located all around campus - mmmm, arroz con pollo fue muy fabuloso!

9. Ruinas de Ujarras

El Valle del Rio Orosi, San Jose 10104, Costa Rica
Excellent
46%
Good
42%
Satisfactory
11%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 222 reviews

Ruinas de Ujarras

Reviewed By Cris A - San José

This place has a free access and it's administration concern to the goverment (Tourism National Institute) and it is beautiful, good preservation, beautiful views of the Mountains around. It has clean barthrooms and playground for children. The ruins are perfect to take nice pictures. This is a perfect place to a family pick nick day, although it's located in Cartago, it has a hot weather, so, I recommend to carry sun protection.

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