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Things to do in San Jose

Things to do in  San Jose

Welcome to San Jose

As the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose is a bustling city whose metropolitan thrum contrasts with the natural wonders that surround it. Before you flock to the country’s biodiverse rain forest in search of wildlife, waterfalls, and Arenal and Poas volcanoes, stop to get acquainted with San Jose’s neoclassical grandeur. The city boasts museums dedicated to everything from jade and gold to insects and natural science, and plays host to theaters, churches, and cathedrals. Once you’ve had your fill of culture, get outside the city with a canopy tour through Monteverde Cloud Forest, white-water rafting on the Pacuare River, or a soak at Baldi Hot Springs.

Top 10 attractions in San Jose

#1
Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal Volcano National Park

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Although visitors once flocked to Arenal Volcano for its impressive lava shows, the 5,437-foot (1,657-meter) volcano has stayed quiet since its last eruption in 2010. However, Arenal and the surrounding Arenal Volcano National Park remain a hot spot for visitors to Costa Rica, and is especially popular among those seeking hiking trails, swimming holes, hot springs, bird- and wildlife-watching, and sweeping views of the tropical rain forest.More
#2
Poas Volcano National Park

Poas Volcano National Park

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Poas Volcano National Park houses one of the more popular volcanoes in Costa Rica—a telling superlative for a country with world-famous geothermal activity. But with its spectacular wildlife, informative museum, and variety of hiking trails, the accolade comes as no surprise.More
#3
Gold Museum

Gold Museum

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More than 1600 pre-Columbian artifacts, including Costa Rica’s very first coin, handmade ceramics and a life-sized warrior, are housed in this museum that was opened in 1985. The museum’s collection displays indigenous works dating from 500 AD to 1500 AD, including traditional jewelry and culturally relevant pieces from other Latin American countries. Displays on the second floor explore the influence of these artifacts on the social and cultural development of the nation, as well as a history of Costa Rica’s currency. Signs in both Spanish and English easily guide guests through hallways filled with rich history.More
#4
National Theater (Teatro Nacional)

National Theater (Teatro Nacional)

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Perhaps the most famous (and certainly most prized) public building in all of San Jose, the National Theater of Costa Rica (Teatro Nacional) in the city’s Catedral district, is home to the nation’s cultural community. Classical music, theater and dance performances take place several times a week. And while it’s always worth catching a show, the theater’s traditional Renaissance architecture, breathtaking ceilings and grand interiors make it a must-see stop even if you can’t get tickets for the symphony.Free tours of the historic building, which was built in 1897, take place daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and the theater’s highly regarded café with picturesque San Jose views, is a perfect spot to grab lunch before exploring the rest of the city.More
#5
Morazan Park

Morazan Park

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This lush public park at the center of San Jose was named after Francisco Morazan, an old-school general who tried to unite all of Central America into one common country. And while Morozan Park was once a hub for San Jose’s grit and grime (it used to be a known for drug sales and prostitution), the park has recently undergone a complete renaissance.Travelers can safely wander through the green gardens that make Morazan Park a respite from the otherwise urban feel of San Jose and stretch out for an afternoon picnic on thick lawns under massive shade trees. The Templo de Musica, a concrete gazebo at the center of the land, is the highlight of any visit to Morazan Park—especially when live local musicians are playing.More
#6
Braulio Carrillo National Park

Braulio Carrillo National Park

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The vast protected forest of Braulio Carrillo National Park is a natural for toucans, eagles, armadillos, sloths, monkeys, and jaguars. Catch a glimpse of its rugged beauty from the comfort of your car, or hike along the trails that lead to thundering waterfalls, towering mountains, and rapid rivers.More
#7
San Jose Central Market (Mercado Central)

San Jose Central Market (Mercado Central)

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Bountiful produce stalls, local-approved cafeterias, and vendor stalls selling everything from coffee beans to cowboy boots give visitors to San Jose’s Central Market (Mercado Central) a taste of real Costa Rican culture. Visit as part of an epic errand run or for a chance to look behind-the-scenes at everyday life in Costa Rica.More
#8
Orosi River Valley (El Valle del Rio Orosi)

Orosi River Valley (El Valle del Rio Orosi)

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The thick green forests, fertile coffee plantations, and scenic mountains of the Orosi River Valley (El Valle del Rio Orosi) draw bird watchers, freshwater fishermen, and nature lovers to the banks of the Reventazon River, as well as the pristine lake formed by the Cachi Dam.Travelers can spend the morning wandering through Iglesia de San Jose de Orosi Church, where Spanish Colonial artifacts and religious paintings line the interior of Costa Rica’s oldest church still in use. Adventurers will enjoy an afternoon at the Irazu Volcano. Crater lakes and lush farmland make for scenic hikes and picturesque views.The Ruins of Ujarras, with peaceful gardens and even a nearby public swimming pool, prove another popular destination for both travelers and residents. Buy lunch from one of the local women selling fragrant arepas before exploring the historic ruins and cooling off with a refreshing dip.More
#9
Jade Museum (Museo del Jade)

Jade Museum (Museo del Jade)

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The Jade Museum (Museo del Jade) proves to Costa Rica visitors that this small Central American country is as rich in its history and cultural offerings as in biodiversity. The museum, located in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose, showcases more than 1,000 years’ worth of artifacts from Mesoamerica dating from 500 B.C. to 800 A.D.—including pre-Columbian jade, wood, and ceramics—in a renovated space.More
#10
Costa Rican Art Museum (Museo de Arte Costarricense)

Costa Rican Art Museum (Museo de Arte Costarricense)

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Explore the works of some of Costa Rica’s greatest artists from the colonial era through today at the Costa Rican Art Museum, including almost the entire body of work from prolific local artist Juan Manuel Sanchez. The museum is housed in the building that once served as the main terminal of San Jose’s original international airport and outside, toward where the tarmac once sat, is a lovely sculpture garden where visitors can walk around an enjoy the tropical weather. The museum often has chamber music concerts playing in the Golden Hall.More

Trip ideas

Rain Forest Canopy Tours from San Jose

Rain Forest Canopy Tours from San Jose

How to Spend 2 Days in San Jose

How to Spend 2 Days in San Jose

How to Spend 3 Days in San Jose

How to Spend 3 Days in San Jose

Top activities in San Jose

Recent reviews from experiences in San Jose

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See the city like a local
Ray_M, May 2021
San José By Night Food Activity- Wines & Gourmet Dinner- Small Group
I had a very small group and we got to see San Jose up close and in amazing detail.
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Great gastronomy and a tour of the heart of San Jose CR like nothing I've ever seen before!
Marc, Jul 2021
San José By Night Food Activity- Wines & Gourmet Dinner- Small Group
You're led through the streets to see the highlights such as churches and parks, all the while mingling with locals hustling and bustling to go from here to there as they wrap up their day and final shopping before heading home; you truly feel like a local.
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Great Guide & Trip
Chris_H, Jul 2021
Arenal Volcano Full-Day Combo Tour with Lunch and Dinner
He was very knowledgeable, friendly and approachable - offering to help in any way he could answering numerous question in English & Spanish with ease.
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Great Volcano Adventure
Mai_M, Jun 2021
Between Volcanoes: Irazu,Turrialba, Aquiares Coffee Estate and Basilica
What a wonderful way to see volcanoes from San Jose!
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Great intro to San Jose
Florence_L, May 2021
Bites and Sights - Walking Food Tour in San Jose Small Group
Continuing onto the Central Market, what a great experience to see where the city gathers to buy fresh produce.
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Experience of a lifetime
Brett_M, May 2021
6 in 1 Tour: Rainforest Adventures Costa Rica
There's no better way to see the jungle than being right up in the trees.
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A fun filled day
natalienwanna, Feb 2021
Costa Rica Full Day Combo Tour - Zip lining, Waterfalls, Volcano & Hot Springs
My favorite activities of this excursion included the zip lining and the hot springs right after.
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Hip San Jose night out
Sarah_B, Feb 2021
San Jose By Night: Food and Culture Small Group Tour
We got to see so many beautiful buildings/architecture, hidden food spots, a really cute part of town..
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education
JP_D, Jan 2021
San Jose Night City Tour
It was a pleasant experience to see the see city.
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Great tour
David_S, Feb 2020
San Jose Walking and Bus City Tour
First time in San Jose, was a great way to see the city Guides were entertaining and very knowledgeable.
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Wonderful tour!
lbulmer, Feb 2020
Explore the Central Market's History and Food with a Local Expert by Carpe Chepe
The tour was much more comprehensive than we expected it to be, as we got to see some of the main buildings in downtown San Jose as well as going through Central Market and sampling some of the food and drinks.
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I had the opportunity to see and...
susan, Sep 2017
San Jose Walking Tour: Food, History and Architecture
I had the opportunity to see and enjoy San Jose with Vinicio.
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Our guide was very knowledgeable, it...
Tracy R, Mar 2018
San Jose By Night: Food and Culture Small Group Tour
Our guide was very knowledgeable, it was a nice way to see San Jose as we only had one night in town.
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This tour was great! I highly...
Pinelele, Aug 2017
San Jose Walking and Bus City Tour
San Jose is a great city and it was nice to see the highlights that I otherwise probably wouldnt have taken the time to see.
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Crocodiles and toucans and big...
Jane B, Aug 2017
Safari on Sarapiqui River From San Jose
The tour would have been better if it had started and ended an hour earlier, so that we were not coming back to San Jose after nightfall.
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This was a great experience to see...
Ruth A, Jan 2017
Irazú Volcano -Half Day Trip
This was a great experience to see the Irazu Volcano.
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WOW!
Aston_L, Dec 2020
Costa Rica Full Day Combo Tour - Zip lining, Waterfalls, Volcano & Hot Springs
Waterfalls were beautiful.
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Pura Vida!
Naym2981, Apr 2020
All-inclusive package 7 nights 8 days in the best destinations in Costa Rica
If you have extra time, I'd recommend staying in Costa Rica a few days after the tour to explore one of the coasts or another city in Costa Rica you'd like to visit.
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A bump in the road, but great customer concern and recovery!
tstark9119, Mar 2020
Arenal Volcano Experience Full-Day Tour from San Jose
At the hot springs, we were not interested in this portion; but took the tour because we were very interested in all the rest.
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AMAZING TOUR !!
RAYMOND, Mar 2020
Arenal Volcano Experience Full-Day Tour from San Jose
The visit to coffee plantation, the 2 waterfalls and arenal volcano was awesome.

All about San Jose

When to visit

Winter is high season in San Jose for good reason: not only is the weather warm and dry, but the event calendar is packed with festivities such as Festejos Populares and the family-friendly Zapote Fair. To score the best discounts on hotels, visit in the rainy season, from May to November, when cooler temperatures and vibrant greenery compensate for afternoon downpours.

Frequently Asked Questions

The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
Q:
What are the top things to do in San Jose?
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What are the top activities in San Jose?
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What are the top things to do near San Jose?
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