Getting To San Jose
If you’re coming from another country, you’ll be landing at Juan Santamaria International Airport in Alajuela. And once you have disembarked, you have two options:
One is taking the Alajuela buses, which will leave you close to the Merced Church downtown. Or, if you are renting a car, you can take the highway leading to the capital, it’s a short 20-minute drive.
San Jose serves as a transportation hub for the rest of the country. So, when you arrive here from another area on a bus, the place of the city where you get off is relative to the place where you’re coming from as most terminals are spread through the town.
Things to Do in San Jose Costa Rica
San Jose has a vibrant nightlife. It features bars all over downtown and also on the outskirts of the city. Mainly in areas such as Barrio la California and San Pedro, a college town that’s famous for its many clubs and discos (packed all the time).
This indoor market with a labyrinth structure dates back to 1882 and it’s located in the heart of San Jose. It’s the perfect place to buy a souvenir or to sit down and taste the traditional dishes of the country.
This includes a Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) for breakfast. Or a Casado (rice served with plantains and salad on the side and your choice of meat) for lunch. Along with a delicious Agua Dulce (a hot drink made of sugar cane).
Costa Rica National Theater
This is one of the most historic buildings in all of Costa Rica and the renaissance style of its infrastructure tells us about the time when it was built (1891). The theater has an outstanding interior, including its fantastic antique furnishings. You can always spot an interesting staging or a musical show, so it’s recommended to visit the theater’s website for the schedules. It’s open from Monday to Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm.
Costa Rica Jade Museum
Here you’ll find an exhibition of Jade pieces from the pre-Columbian era. The informational placards allow you to know more about the cultural heritage of the country. It’s located inside the INS Building and opens from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm from Monday to Saturday.
Gold Museum (also known as Museos Del Banco Central de Costa Rica)
Here you can find one of the largest collections of pre-Columbian gold in the Americas. There are more than 2,000 objects on display. And the way in which they’re shown allows the visitor to really appreciate the beauty of every single piece. It’s the only underground museum in the country. And it’s located below the famous Plaza de la Cultura. The museum opens from Monday to Sunday from 9:30 am to 5 pm.
Plaza de la Democracia
Here you can kill two birds with one shot in San Jose. You can visit the National Museum and learn about the history of the country and see actual objects from the Costa Rica of old. And you can also buy a souvenir such as a folkloric craft, stuff made in leather and ceramics. This open plaza is located in Barrio La Soledad.
Barrios Otoya and Amon
These historic neighborhoods, located in the northern part of the city have houses that are more than a century old. Many of these houses have now turned into restaurants and small hotels. If you’re planning to stay in the capital for a few days, this is an excellent place to get accommodation and take some pictures.
Escazu, Costa Rica
Escazu, located in the west side area of the province of San Jose, is one of the oldest cities in the capital of Costa Rica. The city owes its name to Itzcatzu, which is an indigenous word that means resting stone.
And it was called that way because this location served as a resting place for Huaca and Huetar Indians who made a stop here on their way from Aserri to the village of Pacaca, located near Ciudad Colon at the time.
This place is known as “the city of the witches” due to a large number of myths and legends in this area. Especially that one of the Zarate Witch, and also because of “La Bruja” a famous story by Carlos Salazar Herrera, one of the country’s best-known writers.
When you go to Escazu, you’ll find out that this is a city with a lot of contrasts. Luxury is synonymous with this prestigious address as it’s filled with chic bars and restaurants, expensive condos, and other high-class housing developments.
But if you go past downtown Escazu and continue to the town of San Antonio, you’ll find a more traditional environment, with modest homes, coffee fields, and of course the well-known oxcarts. Escazu has a population of roughly 15,000, and its economy is based on commerce and services.
Getting To Escazu
In order to make it to Escazu from downtown San Jose, head to Paseo Colon, and from there to La Sabana. Once you’re close to the National Gymnasium, you can either choose to take the highway straight to Escazu, or you can take the old road adjacent to the highway, where you’ll find restaurants and supermarkets.
If you take the highway you’ll be there in 10 minutes. And if you take the latter mentioned route, you’ll make it there in 15 to 20 minutes (depending on how heavy traffic is). If you’re at the Juan Santamaria Airport, take the bus there and get off at Paseo Colon. While there, take the bus to Escazu (blue ones).
Since there are many bus routes within the Escazu area, make sure to read the signs on the front of the bus in order to verify that you’re taking the correct one. Or if you rent a car at the airport, you just need to take the highway to San Jose and follow the directions for Escazu.
Things to Do in Escazu Costa Rica
The nightlife in Escazu is probably the best in San Jose when it comes to refined bars and restaurants. So if you decide to spend a few days in the capital, to check some of these luxury eateries and bars should be a must-do in your schedule.
Multiplaza, one of the largest malls in the country is also located here. So if you need to do some shopping or want to catch the latest flick in movie theaters, this is the perfect place to do both.
For a more Costa Rican experience, on Saturday morning you can visit the farmer’s market at downtown Escazu and buy your fruits and vegetables. While there, you can also enjoy a traditional Tico breakfast: Rice and beans with eggs and fried cheese on the side along with coffee or an “Agua Dulce” (sugar cane hot drink).
Santa Ana, Costa Rica
Located just 20 minutes from downtown San Jose, the city of Santa Ana was founded back in 1658 and used to be a town of ranchers dedicated to cattle breeding and the cultivation of onions.
But now the local economy is mostly centered on real estate, with many luxury residential developments and business centers already established here.
Although Santa Ana is constantly sprawling, the town has managed to retain the traditional feel of a typical Costa Rican town. For a close look at the Santa Ana of old, you can visit the church, the community’s most historic building, built in the late 1800s.
Back in the pre-Columbian era, Santa Ana was inhabited by Huetar Indians. But the subsequent Spanish conquest allowed the establishment of the first official Costa Rican city, known as Garcimuñoz, by Juan de Caballon in 1561.
There are approximately 10,000 inhabitants in the city of Santa Ana and around 37,000 in total in the whole county. The city counts as one of the best municipalities in the country. And that means that taxes collected are turned into better services for those paying them.
Getting To Santa Ana, Costa Rica
To get to Santa Ana from San Jose, you can take one of the many buses (the blue ones) at the Coca Cola Market, near the San Juan de Dios Hospital.= The trip is fast and the fare is cheap.
If you’re driving, make it to Paseo Colon, and from there to the National Gymnasium in La Sabana Park. Then take the Próspero Fernández highway. Just follow the road and you should be in Santa Ana in a few minutes.
Things to Do in Santa Ana Costa Rica
Santa Ana Tope: This is a cowboy-style parade with a lot of horsemen riding the town’s streets. You can expect a lot of people and a lot of partying with loud music all over.
It takes place in July, so if you’re around, it’s worth a try. Multiplaza, one of the largest malls in the country is located just a few minutes away from Santa Ana. It has more than 300 stores and it counts with eating options for all budgets.
From their food court restaurants to more fine dining choices and everything in between. You can also come here to watch a movie at one of their modern cinemas or do your shopping at the supermarket.
The Onion Festival
If you happen to be in Santa Ana during April, you can check out the different activities related to this festival (created to honor the onion plant, the pride of the city). There are concerts, typical food stands and more.
Also, if you’re in town and want to hit some golf balls, here you’ll find one of the few golf courses open to the public in Costa Rica, and the only one in the Central Valley. It’s a championship-caliber 18-hole course that was designed in 1994 by no other than renowned golf architect Tracy May.