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San José Province, Costa Rica

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San Jose City

San José, the capital city of Costa Rica, is located in the Central Valley. It is an eclectic mix of historical and modern architectural buildings and landmarks filled with Costa Rican traditions. This contrast between the old world and the new world, the amicable residents, the fact that is is a central hub in terms of transport to the many touristic areas around the country is what really makes the city such an amusing and popular destination.

The city is one of the youngest capital cities in Latin America and is the center of all political and economic activities in Costa Rica. To that end, is often referred to as the cradle of commerce, art and architecture for the country.
San José’s weather is described by many as enjoyable, with a dry (December to April) and a rainy season (May to November). 
There are numerous museums, theaters and historical buildings, and activities as listed:

  • Museo Oro Precolombino (The Gold Museum): the collection consists of 1600 pieces of Pre-Columbian gold work dating as far back as 500 AD to 1500 AD. The exhibit provides information on how these pieces were made in terms of tools and skill requires, as well as their social, cultural and religious significance. The Numismatic Museum and The Temporary Exhibition Galleries are also found within the Museo Oro Precolombino. There is also a nice museum shop and a tourist office at the entrance. The museum is Located under Plaza de la Cultura. Tel. 2243-4202, Fax. 2243-4220, [email protected] Regular hours M - Sun 9:15AM-5:00PM, Summer hours M - F 9:15AM-6:00PM, Sat – Sun 9:15AM-5:00PM (17 of January to 25 of March) The entrance fee is approximately $10 for foreigners (or $3.00 with a student ID card).
  • Museo de Jade (The Jade Museum): Avenida 5-7, Calle 11-13, INS, now on the 1st floor. Tel 2287-6034. M-F 8:30AM-3:30PM. Sat 9:00AM-1:00PM Closed Sun. Entrance fee $7 for Foreigner. Children 11 and under are free.
  • Museo de los Niños (The Children's Museum): antigua penetenciaría (the old prison). Tel 2258-4929. T-F 8:00AM-4:30PM, Sat-Sun 10AM-5PM. Entrance fee is $2 for adults and $1.20 for students and children 17 and under.
  • Museo Nacional (National Museum): The museum includes a large butterfly garden and a collection of large stone spheres from the Diquis Valley near the Pacific Ocean. The museum building is an old fort last used during the 1948 revolution.  Calle 17 Avenida 2. Tel 2257-1433. Tu-Sat 8:30AM-4:30PM. Sun 9:30-4:30. Entrance fee $4 Adults, $2 students and children 11 and under.
  • Museo de Arte Costarricense (Costa Rican Arts Museum): This used to be San José 's main airport terminal back when La Sabana was the airport. Located on the east end of Sabana Park. Tel 2222-7155. Tu-F 9:00AM-5:00PM, Sat-Sun 10:00AM-4:00PM. Entrance fee $5 (students $3). Free children and senior. And for all ages on Sun.
  • Museo de Insectos (Insect Museum at the Universidad de Costa Rica): A very elegant collection of exotic bugs. Inexpensive, and the times vary, so you will need to contact them.
    http://www.miucr.ucr.ac.cr/ Entrance Fee is 1000 colones/$2 for foreigners, 500 colones/$1 for Adults/Residents, 200 colones/.40 cents for children under 11.
  • Museo de arte y diseño contemporáneo (Arts and Contemporary Design Museum):  Definitely the main institution in Costa Rica dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary art. Centro Nacional de la Cultura, Antigua Fábrica Nacional de Licores. Avenida 3, calle 15/17. San José, Costa Rica. Tel: (506) 2257 7202 / 2257 9370 Fax: (506) 2257 8702. $3 Foreigners, 700 colones/ 1.80 Adults/Residents, children Under 11 are free.

Teatro Nacional (National Theater): offers cultural activities featuring acting and dance groups as well as orchestral musical presentations throughout the year. Ticket Office: Tel. 2221-5341 (direct). M-Sat:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Teatro Melico Salazar (Melico Salazar Theater): the theater is one of the most important artistic venues in the country.  Visitors can enjoy top notch shows in different disciplines, including but not limited to music, theater, ballet, and modern dance. Ticket Office: Tel. 2257-6005, Central Office: Tel. 2223-5424/2223-4604, fax. 2223-5387.
Teatro Eugene O’Neill (Eugene O'Neill Theater): this theater performs sponsored works by the America-Costa Rican Cultural Center. Located on Calle 37, Avenida Central. Tel: (506) 2207-7574, 2207 7570.
Aside from the unique historical approach this capital city offers, there are many other tourist attractions to be found in 11 districts that make up San José .  From zoos and botanical gardens to exhilarating theme parks, some of the local attractions are:

  • Parque Zoológico Simón Bolívar (Simon Bolivar Zoo): Named after a popular South American freedom fighter, the zoo officially opened its doors in July of 1921 providing Josefinos (residents of San José) with an attractive weekend alternative.  The park includes a children’s discovery area, a snake and reptile house, a restaurant and a gift shop. Among the zoo’s wildlife species are a lion, jaguars, monkeys, raccoons and crocodiles, as well as an assortment of exotic tropical birds.  It is located in Barrio Amón and it is open all year (except Easter Friday), M-Sun 9:00AM – 4:30 PM. Entrance Fee, Adults 2200 colones/appx.$4.50, Children 3 – 12 years old 1500 colones/$3.00, children under 3 years of age are free, and seniors pay 1500 colones/$3.00.
  • Jardín Botánico Lankaster (Lankester Botanical Gardens):  an interesting adrenaline-free attraction for the travelers. It’s located only minutes away from San José, in the neighboring province of Cartago. This gardens and the many attractions it offers is not far from San José and can be visited on the multiple day tours offered in the city.
  • El Parque de Diversiones de Costa Rica (Costa Rica’s Theme Park): as Costa Rica’s major theme park, El Parque de Diversiones offers numerous attractions for kids, teenagers and adults.

Pueblo Antiguo is the historical attraction of the theme park, with lots of fun, and colors; it has many museums and is modeled after 19th century San José in an effort to recreate the past look and feel.
The park is located in San José, Costa Rica: La Uruca, 2 kms West of the Hospital México. And it is open Friday through Sunday during the low season and all week long during the high season (December, January and February). Tel. 2242-9200, 2242-9240, Fax. 2296-2212. [email protected]   

  • El Pueblo, San José (The Town): shopping center during the day and clubbing district at night! El Pueblo is a mix of more than 50 bars, clubs, restaurants, art galleries and shops. It’s within walking distance of several hotels and resorts in the Calle Blancos area.
  • Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica (Costa Rica National Stadium): is a multi-use stadium in La Sabana that is mostly used for football matches, and by the National Team for practice and play. The Chinese government financed this new stadium that has a capacity for more than 35,000 visitors. The old stadium was demolished in 2008, and construction took place from March 2009 until December 2010, at a cost of more than $110, 000,000.

The stadium which was inaugurated on March 26, 2001, is the third largest stadium behind  Estadio Cuscatlan in El Salvador (53,400) and Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano, Honduras (45,000), albeit it is one of the most modern and technologically advanced structures in all of Central America and the Caribbean. To that end, It has offices for 32 federation sports clubs, two humongous HD television screens, a sports museum, a track and field, an area for tennis, and an area for fencing and chess matches. And unlike its counterparts in El Salvador and Honduras, it has each spectator had their own individual seat.
Restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs
As in any major city, San José has a wide selection of restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs.  Whether you’re looking for a drink and ‘bocas’ (snacks) or fine dining out in the city, San José bars and restaurants can satisfy the different palates and cravings of its varied and diverse visitors.

San José restaurants and Cafés

  • Ganesha Indian Restaurant, This is an Indian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurant in Heredia, Costa Rica situated approximately 15 minutes drive from the airport. Indian food lovers can get their garam masala fix here. Great Hummus, Baba Ganoush, Seekh Kebab and Chicken Tikka Masala. The lassis are great too. Located in Hotel America, 50 meters south of Central park in Heredia. Tel 8379-7951 or 8880-9238 for reservations and more information.
  • Tin Jo, This is an incredible Asian restaurant featuring Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Indian food. Don't be scared by the looks on the outside, the restaurant is clean, beautifully decorated and offers the best service I experienced in Costa Rica. Paseo de los estudiantes.
  • Machu Picchu Restaurant, One of the best international Peruvian Food & Sea Food restaurants, it’s located at (Paseo Colón) 1st Ave. 125 meters north from Kentucky FC restaurant and also in the San Pedro area. Phone: 506.2222.3679
  • Hotel Vesuvio Restaurant, Barrio Otoya, Tel 2257-5411. Italian food, pastas 1900 Colones, chicken 2000-2500.
  • La Palma, Avenida 9, Barrio Amón. Italian food, recommended by the nearby hotels. no longer in business
  • Hotel Don Carlos, the Precolobian Lounge serves some small dishes that you probably should skip.
  • La Cocina de Leña, Centro Comercial El Pueblo, Tel 2255-1360. Cozy restaurant with good typical food and friendly service. 5500 Colones for a steak. Recommended by many tourist guides but very overpriced and touristy. Closed (as of 04-03-09)
  • Lukas, Centro Comercial El Pueblo. One of two other restaurants at the El Pueblo.
  • Hotel Grano de Oro, Calle 30 Avenida 2/4. Tel 2255-3322. Beautiful but expensive restaurant. The entrees are diverse and creative, do not hesitate to try the soup of the day, even if it sounds less than exciting. Duck is on the menu, and is some of the best to be had anywhere. Numerous seafood dishes are cooked to perfection, as is the beef and pork.
  • Cafetería Parisien Gran Hotel, between Teatro Nacional and Plaza de Cultura. Nice place with elegant settings.
  • Manolo's Churreria, Avenida Central, Calle 0/2. Popular soda. Try the filled churros or chicken tacos.
  • Mercado Central This very old and interesting food market also contains a number of small restaurants and quick-serve counters for the locals. You will find fresh cooked fish and shellfish, corn based dishes, fish soup, ceviche (small bits of raw fish "cooked" in lime juice), helado de sorbetera (artesanal local cinnamon ice-cream) and more. Perhaps not for the faint of heart.
  • Pizzeria Il Pomodoro One of the best known casual restaurants in Costa Rica, Its a big beautiful building located near Parque Kennedy and Banco Nacional in San Pedro. Italian cuisine, very good pizza and pasta, good cheap wine, from second floor great view or the mountains to the west.
  • News Cafe On Avenida Central and Calle 7, in the Hotel Presidente, a few blocks from the Plaza de la Cultura, the National Theatre and the National Museum. The News offers American Style "comfort" food at great quality and good prices.
  • Soda Esnider Walk a few blocks to the east from Plaza de la Cultura over the Central Avenue and get into Galerías Avenida Central. You will find several stores and if you go down the stairs you will come across Soda Esnider. You can have a wonderful “casado” for lunch with a natural drink for as little as 1600 Colones ($3).

San José bars and clubs

  • Bar Poas, Avenida 7, Calle 3 y 5 (Two doors down from the Pangea Hostel, across the street from St. Thomas Hotel in Barrio Amon),  (506) 2223-8677, 1200-0230. Photos of regular customers adorn the wall of this dimly lit but friendly bar and restaurant. A decent menu of Gringo and Tico food is available from noon to 0230. Try the award-winning Chili con Carne. There´s always an interesting group of characters there including proprietor Harry Hart who is always willing to dispense useful advice about San José  and Costa Rica.
  • Chelle’s is a well known bar in the city located in downtown San José, and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • El Cafetal de la Luz Hotel Plaza Amon, Calle 3 Avenida 11, Tel 2257-0191. Cocktails (1700-2900 Colones) served on the balcony. Slow service. This cafe is attached to the Clarion Hotel in Barrio Amon. Namesake of the coffee plantation that existed in this neighborhood when electricity was first introduced.
  • El Pueblo There are little alleyways filled up with many bars and nightclubs.  Every taxi driver in San José knows where El Pueblo is.
  • San Pedro Is home to many bars and clubs around the University area.
  • Barrio California Is the place to be if you're into the bohemian/rock crowd. Some of the bars have local bands playing a few nights a week. Great place to go bar hopping!
  • Jazz Café Located in the heart of San Pedro, it’s the perfect spot for good drinks and great live music.
  • Escazú Area Bars If you want to dress up and party with style, Escazú is the place for you!  Some of the most popular bars in the area are:  Frankie Go, Sambuca, Oblique, Privé, TGIF, Fandango, etc.  Escazú is located 9 kilometers west of the national capital city of San José.
Travel Agencies, after hours & weekends:
(506) 2257-4171

Toll Free:
Costa Rica: (506) 2233-5151
Fax: (506) 2233-5284
E-mail: [email protected]
*Rates are subject to change without previous notice, according to any tax changes or any government regulations.

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