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San Jose, Costa Rica

Costa Rica Regions / Central Pacific / Caribbean Coast / North Pacific / Northern / South Pacific

San Jose is the capital of the Republic of Costa Rica; it is the head of the province. The city is the political and economic center of the country. It crowds together more than half of the commerce and the services. It receives his name in honor to Jose of Nazareth, presumed father of Jesus of Nazareth.

San Jose Costa RicaThe central corner of San Jose was founded the 7th of December in 1848. The population arises around 1737-1738.It has been Costa Rica's capital three times: in 1822, from 1823 to 1834 and from 1838 to the present time.It is a city with a very interesting mixture of history and modernity; although the center of the zone is almost vacated it becomes a crossing site during the day for more than a million people, which generates a road chaos and an increase of the contamination levels.

Even though of its problems, according to studies made in the scope of all Latin America, San Jose continues being one of the safest and less violent cities of the entire region. In 2006 San José was designated Capital of the Latin American Culture.

The territory that San José occupies is formed by a level of land with slight undulations, very fertile, surrounded by mountains, and covered by streams that cross to the west. The city is located in the Central Valley with an altitude of 1170 msnm (meters on the sea level).

The temperatures are between 18°C to 22 °C. The rainy season, like the rest of the country, goes from May to November, and the accumulated precipitations during the year go up to 2000 mm.

San Jose has a surface of 44.6 km ². It limits in the north with the province of Heredia (specifically with the canton of Belen, Heredia and Santo Domingo), as well with Tibás and Goicoechea; in the east with San Pedro and Curridabat and in the south with Desamparados, Alajuelita and Escazú.

According to the census made in 1815, San Jose had about 11,500 neighbors.
For this time the division of Costa Rica with Spain (1821) made San Jose surpassed the population and resources of Cartago, capital since century XVI. This development was very fast because of the sprouting of the coffee plantations in the decades of 1820 and 1830.

Through century XIX the signs of the urban planning were pronounced.


It is known as Chepe by all the Costa Ricans. San José today is the center of all productions, all the principal banks and the greatest Companies. High office towers, shopping malls and fast food service make all Ticos have a fast daily life.

Traffic Jam is always between 6-8 am and from 5-7pm. Inside the downtown roads each day a number plate prohibition is made for making the transit flow. Roads are divided into streets and avenues, from east to west. Avenues are numbered with odd numbers and avenues with even numbers. Josefinos (San Jose people) are not used to give address using streets and avenues. Until last years the Government was trying to label every road, this is the reason that Costa Ricans don’t know the road number they live on.

Some important districts of San Jose are: Barrio Amon, Barrio Mexico, Desamparados, Escazu, Los Yoses, Moravia, Rhomoser, San Bosco, San Pedro and Tibas.

  • Barrio Amon: In the northeast of downtown. It offers the oldest building in San Jose. It is nice to have a walking tour.
  • Barrio Mexico: This is a working area, many tools Fabrics locate here. It has an important Church, at night it is very lonely and dangerous. It’s at the north part.
  • Desamparados: It is in the South area of the country. A working class characterizes this town. Has impressive churches and an important museum.
  • Escazu: Located in the southwest of the country. This is the richest part of the country, lots of shopping, restaurants, upscale residents. It is separate from the capital.
  • Los Yoses: At the east of the country. Very near from downtown. It has many hotels and fashionable green areas.
  • Moravia: Totally away from the capital. It is a quiet and nice residential. This place hasmany souvenirs shops and art stores.
  • Rhomoser: In the west part of the country. Nice and clean place. Fine mansions and high quality restaurants. Most of the international embassies are located here.
  • San Bosco: It is also known as Paseo Colon. Here is the head office of many car rentals and of many airlines. This area has many selected hotels and restaurants.
  • San Pedro: Three kilometers east from downtown. The presence of the University of Costa Rica makes this town full of young students. Lots of night clubs are all around.
  • Tibas: In the north of the country. It is officially called San Juan de Tibas. It is a small district. Has many residential and condominiums.


A cultural and positive environment will describe perfectly Costa Rica. Lots of activities and entertainment will make you enjoy and learn about this Latin country.

  • Museums: These art museums will make you travel into the history of our country. This tours are to learn and experimenting the past of Costa Rica
    1. National Museum: Walk through history. It was built in 1870.
    2. Gold Museum: Below Plaza de la Cultura in San Jose. Gold devices display.
    3. Jade Museum: Pre-Columbian period. It has many stones, shells and important art pieces.
    4. Rafael Angle Calderon Museum: Families history, war documents.
    5. Peace Museum: Peace documents and peace prospects.
    6. Contemporary Art and Design Museum: Explanation of the Latin American art.
    7. Ibero-American Culture Museum: Two theatres, three art galleries and a library.
    8. Forms, Space and Sounds Museum: Dedicated specially for plastic arts, architecture and sounds.
    9. Criminology Museum: This museum is to prevent the crime with a good education.

  • Theaters: San Jose has very professional theatres artists. Theaters are small and sell out fast. Performances often start at 7-8 and last one hour and a half. Most of them are in Spanish.
    1. National Theatre: This is the number one theatre. Is a mixture between elegance, history and art.
    2. Melico Salazar Popular Theatre: Different performances every day.
    3. Little Theatre Group: English language theatre group.
    4. Carpa Theatre: In and out door theatre.
    5. La Aduana Theatre: Especially for performances of the national Company.
    6. The Angel Theatre: A comedy place.
    7. Fanal Theater: Variety of performance. It is also a museum and children’s theatre.
    8. La Mascara Theatre: Dance and alternative theatre.
    9. Laurence Oliver Theatre: Small theatre, coffee shop and gallery.
    10. Vargas Calvo Theatre: The best in circled performances.
    11. Eugene O’ Neil Theatre: Located in San Pedro. It is especially for dance shows.
    12. Lucho Barahona Theatre: Costa Rican famous artist present their acts here.
    13. Moliere Theater: Comedy theatre.
  • Parks: These are some of the most important parks in the country. In every town or providence a church and a park will always describe and tell you that you are in a new town. In Costa Rica parks are usually for sitting down and watch people walking. Most of them have an important monument.
    1. Central Park: in San José’s main plaza. It has a fountain, a bronze statue and a sculpture. Many political activities are made here.
    2. Morazan Park: This park is a quadrant. It surrounds the Music temple. All the park is surrounded with gardens.
    3. Spain Park: Lots of birds and trees. The fresh air and a comfortable bank will make you love this place.
    4. La Sabana Park: It was the ancient airport. Now days it is a place for making sports and recreation. Also a big lake full up with fishes permits you fish.


Spanish is the native language. Half of the population talk in English, particularly in tourist areas people talk two or more languages. Art Galleries: International and national artists make beautiful sculptures, ceramics and paintings which are presented in this art places. The main galleries are in Heredia, Rhomoser and Escazu.
Religion: Costa Ricans go to church all weekends, Saturdays or Sunday. It is a religious custom that preserves. Also there are many masses in the week at different hours. Every town has a catholic church in front of a park and in a side of a public school.


Medical service is always free if you have international insurance otherwise you can pay for a private doctor. Public service is always very slow so if it is an emergency a private doctor will be better.


Around the capital you will hardly find laundries. Many hotels and hostels offer this service.


There are thousands of banks. The best solution for changing money is to use the hotel cashiers. In the hotel and in the bank they have similar exchange rates. Every bank has different exchange rates. You will always need you ID. A better way for obtaining cash is to use the automatic machines. They work for Visa and some of them for Master Card, in the front of the instrument a clear sticker will indicate you which credit cards work. You can sent or receive money by wire transfer in or out the country.

Dollars are accepted almost everywhere. In international restaurants or in stores prices come in colones and in dollars. Although they may give you a poor exchange.

Most shops and restaurants accept credit cards.

Telephone, Fax and Internet: All around the country you will find a public phone. There are two ways of using it, with coins or with cards. This cards can be obtain in hotels, in pulperias (little stores), in supermarkets or even in pharmacies. From all of these phones you can make international calls. In the hotels you can call too but it will be expensive.

All hotels have internet service; it will cost you around $2 per hour. Another cheapest option is to visit an Internet Café. They are all around too and they will charge you $1 hour. Normally in the internet cafes you can send or receive faxes.

If you have an emergency just dial 9-1-1.

Foods and drinks

Costa Rica's people eat 5 times in a day.

  • From 6-8 am: Every one has a cup of hot coffee. It could be with milk and sugar. The breakfast could be toast bread with a couple of eggs and the famous “gallo pinto” (rice with beans) cheese, jam or even bacon. After this, a big plate of fruits is normal and healthy to eat in breakfast time, orange, pineapple, banana, papaya and sometimes grapes.
  • From 9-11 am: A cup of hot coffee.
  • From 12-2 pm: Lunch time. All Costa Ricans will be out of their jobs for eating. Normally the lunch is rice, beans, salad, and a meat. It could also be with a natural drink.
  • From 3-5 pm: A coffee with a piece of bread, it could be sweet or salty.
  • From 7-9pm: Normally a fresh drink with a sandwich or something similar.

Typical Food

In all Costa Rica's restaurants you can taste the typical food. Some cheap restaurants are called Sodas, this are clean, small and normally outside the house, these are normally familiar works. Food customs are very famous too. The most traditional Costa Rica’s culinary food is the “Tamal”. This is made in Christmas days. It is a familiar situation. It is a generic name given in several Latin American countries. This is a plate prepared with mass of maize cooked surrounded with banana leaves. They contain meat, vegetables, chili, fruits, and sauce; in addition can be sweet or salty. Every family has its one recipe that has been change until they think is the best.

In every dish you can put some Tabasco (typical chili bottle) or use the Chilera (a dash of hot chili).
  • Picadillos are very familiar in our country. They are chopped vegetables sometimes with different kinds of meat.
  • Olla de carne is chunks of meat with soup and all the vegetables inside.
  • Sopa negra: black beans soup with a poached egg.
  • Pozol: Soup with pork and corn
  • Sopa de mondongo: the pig’s trips in a soup with rice.
  • Tacos: fried tortillas with chicken or beef.
  • Chicharones: crispy fried pork rinds.
  • Patacones: mashed plantain.
  • Pejibaye: boiled fruit hand out with mayonnaise.

These are the principal typical foods.


In every restaurant the natural drinks (made from fruits) are what people prefer. Fizzy soft drinks are common too. A famous Costa Rican drink are the “batidos”, this are like smoothies, they are a mixture of fruits with water or with milk. Costa Rica is famous for its beers. You can choose on 4 or 5 national beers. I f you want a cocktail or a different drink, there is the typical drink called “guaro”. It comes derived from the sugar cane; normally it is combined with sparkling water, lime and salt. Also the popular “Cuba libre” this is coca cola with Rum, you can also drink vodka or any other liquor, they cost around $3-$5 depending on the place.


All Costa Rica's water is drinkable, although in some places the water has many minerals and this affects people. The best solution is to buy bottles of water, to drink and sometimes to cook. A water bottle goes for $1-$2.


Ticos love to have fun at night especially on Fridays. They love to drink as much as they like to dance. There are two entertainment places in San Jose town, in San Pedro on the east and in Escazu on the west. San Pedro is the university district so all the bars around are very cheap and full of young students. In Escazu you will find a fashionable environment, this bars are expensive but you will find nice looking people and fun up to 4 am.

Some bars have week promotes; this is from Monday throw Friday. It consists on selling drinks 2 x1 or giving a drink for half price. They give special hours for this promotes. Many bars will have dance rooms or they might have also karaoke time.

Casinos: They usually are inside expensive hotels. Casinos are casual sometimes it is asked to wear dress code. Casinos are mostly visited by prostitutes or undesirable people.
Dangers: San Jose is the place were more assaults and crimes occur. Thief’s just by looking at people know which ones are local or tourists. The best thing you can do is to leave on the hotel all personal documents and the money. Another important thing is to wear a money belt with some cents and with a photocopy of your identification. The best thing to do in a physical attack is to give the thief what he wants not fighting at all.

San Jose Costa RicaIf you are wearing a camera o some jewelry you better take it off or hide it because that is what thief’s love. Moving around: There are 3 options
  1. Bus: Private and public buses. Costa Rica has bus service all around the country; it is very cheap to travel all around. Private buses will be expensive but they will stop for you anywhere, high quality buses will pick you up and leave you at the hotel.
  2. Car: There are plenty of options for renting a car. It is an expensive service; you can rent it for a week or for a month. Normally is better to rent 4WD cars because Costa Rica has the poorest streets.
  3. Taxi: Usually they are used for short distances. Always make sure they have the taxi meters on other wise they can charge you more, not using the meter is illegal. Cabs at night are the best solution of prevention. Cabs are red with a yellow triangle sticker on the door. Sometimes taxis wait for people around town parks.
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*Rates are subject to change without previous notice, according to any tax changes or any government regulations.

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