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San Jose Costa Rica Attractions

San Jose Costa Rica attractions range from museums and galleries to parks, markets, Spanish language courses and tours of the surrounding Central Valley. For the most part, the main attractions can be seen within a day or two. By then most tourists are ready to move on.

The capital's downtown is not overly large so most sights and tourist attractions can be visited by foot provided you have a good map. This method is certainly preferable when the streets are congested with traffic.

For those without much time to see San Jose Costa Rica, tours are available to make sure you see the important sights.

National Theater - One of many San Jose Costa Rica Attractions The Swiss Travel Service (☏ 506/221-0944) has a three hour tour available with bilingual guide for about $28. Other tour companies include Calypso Tours (☏ 506/256-2727) and Ecole Travel (☏ 506/223-2240).

If culture and history are your thing, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum (Museo del Oro Pre-Columbiano), Fidel Tristan Jade Museum (Museo de Jade), and National Theater (Teatro Nacional) are essential San Jose Costa Rica attractions. More active pursuits are listed near the bottom of this page.

  • Pre-Columbian Gold Museum: Run by the Banco Central located on Calle 5 in a basement under the Plaza de La Cultura, this museum features over 2000 gold artifacts from coins to statuettes to jewelry. You can buy a self-guided audio tour for a few dollars or get a free guided tour by bilingual museum staff on Tuesday and Thursday at 2pm or on the weekends at 11am and 2pm. Hours are 10am-4:30pm Tues-Sun and on holidays. Entrance is $5. ☏ 506/243-4202

  • Fidel Tristan Jade Museum: Costa Rica's most famous museum is located on the 11th floor of the Instituto Nacional de Seguro building, offering a fantastic panorama of San Jose. Here you will find the world's largest collection of American jade with hundreds of pieces on display, many of which are back-lit to show off the beautiful translucent quality and colors of the jade. The collection is complemented by numerous archaeological exhibits of gold, ceramics, and stone organized by culture and region. Located at Calle 9 & Avenida 7, hours are 8:30am-3pm Mon-Fri. Entrance is $2. ☏ 506/223-5800

  • National Theater: Arguably San Jose's most beautiful and dramatic building, the National Theater was constructed in 1897 in response to Costa Rican's who demanded more venues for arts and culture. The exterior features a Renaissance inspired façade with numerous sculptures paying homage to the arts and Costa Rica's history. Marble, gold, murals, chandeliers and frescoes adorn the building's interior. Tours are available for $3. Located at Calles 3 & 5 between avs Central & 2 the theater is open from Mon-Fri 9am-4pm, Sat 9am-12pm & 1-5pm. ☏ 506/221-1329

Some other notable San Jose Costa Rica attractions are the Parque Nacional and the Central Market. The Parque Nacional is one of San Jose's nicer parks and is set on a hill between Calles 15/19 and Avenidas 1/3.

A statue referred to as the Monumento Nacional is at the center of the park and depicts the nations of Central America driving off the gringo invader William Walker who, acting as a military rogue, intended to enslave Central Americans and force them to build a canal across Nicaragua. Leave the park before nightfall to be on the safe side.

The Central Market (Mercado Central) is San Jose's liveliest market where people come to buy and sell anything imaginable. From seafood to jewelry, clothes, spices, saddles, flowers and more can all be found here in a swirling, frenetic environment. Have fun, but keep an eye on your wallet because pickpockets love crowds.

As I mentioned before, the capital city usually does not hold a tourist's interests for very long. However if by chance you're spending a longer period of time there here is a list of other San Jose Costa Rica attractions to fill your time.

  • National Museum (Museo Nacional de Costa Rica): Here you'll find a broad survery of Costa Rican history. Hours: 8:30am-4pm Tues-Sun. $0.50 ☏ 506/257-1433

  • Parque La Sabana: A huge park replete with lagoon and sports facilities, it is also next to the country's main soccer stadium where Division 1 international games are played.

  • Spirogyra Butterfly Garden: A small butterfly garden that lets you get up close and personal with over 30 species flitting about, not to mention a bunch of hummingbirds. Hours 8am-5pm daily. $6 entrance. ☏ 506/222-2937

San Jose Costa Rica Attractions for the Active

The sights mentioned above are just those within San Jose Costa Rica. Attractions abound just outside the city limits. Go bungee jumping of the Rio Colorado bridge with Tropical Bungee ☏ 506/248-2212, first jump $65/second $30.

If you're looking to cool off, head northwest past Alajuela to the Ojo de Agua, a water resort that is a local favorite for Ticos. Here you'll find multiple swimming pools and an artificial boating lake. Entrance is $2, ☏ 506/441-2808. Hours are 8am-5pm.

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