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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 15 attractions in San Jose

Arenal Volcano National Park

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, especially popular among those seeking hiking trails, swimming holes, hot springs, bird- and wildlife-watching, and sweeping views of the tropical rain forest.More

Braulio Carrillo National Park

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

Poas Volcano National Park

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

Morazan Park

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

Gold Museum

Housed in a historic building and managed by the Central Bank of Costa Rica, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum holds one of the largest collections of gold artifacts in Latin America. In total, the museum holds more than 1,600 pre-Columbian items, including Costa Rica’s very first coin, handmade ceramics, jewelry, and religious icons dating from 500 AD to 1500 AD.More

National Theater (Teatro Nacional)

Modelled after the Paris Opera House, the National Theater in San José’s Catedral district is a neo-classical masterpiece representing Costa Rica’s greatest era of extravagance and sophistication. The historic building has been the epicenter of the city’s fine arts scene including opera, symphony, and other performing arts since its inaugural performance by Fausto de Gounod in 1897.More

San Jose Central Market (Mercado Central)

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

Sarapiqui Canopy

Costa Rica is famous for its amazing biodiversity, and Sarapiqui is a place where you can experience the thrill of the rain forest firsthand. Whether that’s ziplining through the trees at high speed, rafting along the river, or wildlife-spotting, the area is packed with natural wonders.More

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park

Offering scenic views of Volcan Arenal and Lake Arenal, the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges are a series of tall suspension bridges that form meandering trails through the rain forest, providing access to remote areas filled with natural beauty. The bridges immerse you deep into the heart of the forest, close to the extraordinary biodiversity of the jungle.More


The quaint town of Sarchí is famous throughout Costa Rica for its handicrafts. From the brightly painted oxcarts that were once used in the coffee industry to decorated bowls, handmade jewelry, leather goods, and furniture, visitors looking for memorable souvenirs should plan to visit the town, only an hour’s drive from San José.More

Orosi River Valley (El Valle del Rio Orosi)

Orosi River Valley is a tranquil, secluded area filled with rural charm and scenic landscapes, not far from the hustle and bustle of San José. With the silhouette of the volcanoes as a backdrop, the mountainous area has green forested hills covered by coffee plantations, natural hot springs, andxa0 colorful colonial towns in the middle of the lush vegetation.More

National Museum (Museo Nacional)

Housed in the barracks of the Bellavista Fortress, the National Museum (Museo Nacional), displays indigenous and pre-Columbian artifacts, religious artwork, and geological and archaeological pieces linked to Costa Rica’s rich and colorful history since 1950. Separate rooms explore ancient cultures dating back some 12,000 years, as well as collections of ornate jewelry, medallions, and gold statues.More

Costa Rican Art Museum (Museo de Arte Costarricense)

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

Jade Museum (Museo del Jade)

The Jade Museum (Museo del Jade) proves that Costa Rica is as rich in history and cultural offerings as it is 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 BC to 800 AD—including pre-Columbian jade, wood, and ceramics.More

La Sabana Park

With its 175 acres of green space and network of forested walking trails, La Sabana Park is San José’s version of New York’s Central Park. The large open lawns are perfect for Frisbee, soccer, or tossing a ball, and the walking trails and running tracks are where to work up a sweat. This site once housed the city’s airport until the 1940s, and today the former terminal building houses the Costa Rican Art Museum. Also within the leafy park is the country’s national stadium, where concerts and national soccer matches are held for up to 40,000 people. On most days, however, the park plays hosts to groups of locals all feeding the geese by the pond, or families simply enjoying a picnic beneath the shade of a tree. It’s a calming place to escape the crowds and the urban city bustle, and a comfortable perch for people watching and mingling with San José locals.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

Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

Recent reviews from experiences in San Jose

Well worth it!
Michael_D, Mar 2023
Bites and Sights: Walking Food Tour in San Jose
They take you to some great locations I would not have known to visit and you eat amazing food throughout the tour.
Book this tour!
Alexia_E, Jan 2023
Bites and Sights: Walking Food Tour in San Jose
Such a great experience to see San Jose from a local perspective!
AmazIng tour
Asia_W, Dec 2022
Explore San Jose By Night: Food and Culture Tour with Local Dinner
Manuel was very knowledgeable of the many attractions and overall country.
Geetanjali_C, Dec 2022
Day trip from San Jose to Wildlife Refuge La Paz Waterfall Gardens
the falls and the weather was beautiful.
Traveling with grandson...
Melodie_P, Mar 2023
Half-Day San Jose Evening Bus Tour with Dinner and Pickup
Our tours guide excellent and explained everything both in English and Spanish.
A Pura Vida experience
Michael_D, Mar 2023
Day trip from San Jose to Wildlife Refuge La Paz Waterfall Gardens
After lunch it was a beautiful walk through the rainforest down to the waterfall and I didn’t realize that La Paz is actually several waterfalls not just the main one and they are all beautiful.
San Jose tour
Vicki_S, Dec 2022
Bites and Sights: Walking Food Tour in San Jose
Wonderful experience to see busy San Jose markets and the wonderful treats for sale.
Volcano and Baldi Hot Springs
Luis_A, Feb 2023
Arenal Volcano & Baldi Hot Springs From San José
It was an extremely long day but it was the most affordable and easiest way for me to experience Arenal and the Hot Springs.
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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.

People Also Ask

What is San Jose famous for?

The capital of Costa Rica is renowned as the gateway to the Arenal Volcano and Monteverde Cloud Forest, two of the country’s most impressive natural wonders. Along with its cloud forests and zipline canopy tours, Costa Rica is also famous for its chocolate, coffee, and adorable sloths.

How can I spend a day in San Jose?

One day is enough time to take in the highlights of San Jose, including the National Theater, the National Museum, and the National Park. Visit the Jade and Gold museums, shop for traditional handicrafts at the Central Market, then head to the San Pedro neighborhood to experience the buzzing nightlife.

What activities are popular in San Jose?

Once you’ve explored San Jose’s excellent museums, head out of the city to tour a coffee plantation, take a canopy tour in the Arenal Volcano National Park, or go ziplining in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. ATV tours through the rainforest and white-water rafting excursions are also popular choices.

What is there to do nearby San Jose?

Popular day trips from San Jose include ziplining in the Monteverde Cloud Forest and a canopy tour of the Arenal Volcano National Park. You can also enjoy wildlife watching and swimming at the beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park, hike in the Poas Volcano National Park, or tour a coffee plantation.

What should I not miss in San Jose?

San Jose has some of the best museums in Costa Rica, including the National Museum, Jade Museum, and Gold Museum. A visit to the Central Market is a must to experience local life and sample Costa Rican cuisine, and don’t miss a day trip to Monteverde Cloud Forest and Arenal Volcano.

Is San Jose expensive?

Yes, San Jose can be expensive compared to other Central and South American destinations. Expect to pay about US$30 a night for mid-range accommodation and $US25 a day for food. Taxis and private tours can also be pricey, so opt for shared tours and local transport if you’re on a budget.


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