San José Pictures, Costa Rica

San Jose central park, Costa Rica

Plaza de la Central in San José. Photo by Eric Gunther

San José attractions…or not.

the Gold Museum, San José, Costa Rica

The Gold Museum, Museo del Oro Precolombino de San José. Photo by Axxis10

Gold precolombian figures in the Gold Museum, San Jose, Costa Rica

Gold pre-colombian figures in the Gold Museum. Made by the Quimbaya people on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast between 300-700 BC. The musician on the left is hollow gold while the dancer on the right is solid. Photo by Rodtico21.

First, a quick glance at where you probably WON’T want to spend much time, San José, the country’s charmless capital, unless you’re planning to spend your time in the northwest Guanacaste area – in which case you should fly to Liberia’s airport – you will almost certainly need to overnight in San José and pick up domestic transportation in the morning.

Dull but unavoidableSan José is en route to the main airport and within a day trip of Poas and Irazu volcanoes, as well as white water rafting and other activities. It has a couple of OK museums though not of the zoological/botanical sort.

So, welcome to San José where the coffee is great, the climate is good, the cuisine is terrible (unless pizzas, beans or burgers are your staple diet) and indigenous culture is close to nonexistent.

On a more positive note there is a reasonable selection of dining and drinking places, a couple of museums and theatres offer some intellectual stimulus, the ATMs work, the city has a lively night scene and the people are pleasant.

However, if you’ve efficiently pre-booked accommodation in one of the delightful hotels north of San José in the Central Valley then don’t hesitate to head straight there, you won’t be missing much, you’ll be in a much nicer location and you’ll be nearer to the country’s main sights and action core.

San José architecture

San Jose overview, Costa Rica

A Costa Rican architectural guide: If it’s new, build it with the all the style of a Stalinist barracks. If it’s old, paint it technicolour. And don’t forget the wire drapes! But that’s enough about the urbs, let’s head for the hills. Smokin!

South America in general has an attitude problem with construction, not just Costa Rica. Firstly, new buildings are designed by engineers, not architects. Secondly, they are built as large as possible for as little money as possible. Thirdly, the fat cats who finance new projects couldn’t care less about the style, they have several very nice villas of their own thank you very much, mostly in Miami.

That being said, it is still possible to find some spectacularly attractive structures in the country – mainly upmarket, out-of-town tourist hotels but there is an increasing amount of new architecture that’s worth a look.

Museum of jade and pre-Columbian art, San Jose, Costa Rica

Museum of jade and pre-Columbian art. Photo by Haakon S Krohn.

Museo de Jade y Arte Precolmbino is in the center of San José in Costa Rica and dispalys thousands of Indian objects in jade, stone and ceramic dating from 500 BC to 1500 AD as well as the history of the indigenous people of Costa Rica before the conquistadores spoiled the party.

A few other cities…

Heredia city, Costa Rica

Heredia city, photo by Victor Quiros.

Heredia is a lively city just 10 kilometers north of San José and home to one of Costa Rica’s largest universities.

Parque Vargas in Limón, Costa Rica

Parque Vargas in Limón. Photo by Roger.

Puerto Limón is the second-largest city in Costa Rica after San José and notable for the multi-racial composition of the inhabitants, including those of Italian, Jamaican and Chinese heritage. Limón is an important Costa Rican port.

The church of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles in Cartago, a Roman Catholic pilgrimage destination, Costa Rica

The church of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles in Cartago is a globally important Roman Catholic pilgrimage destination, especially on August 2nd. Photo by ArquiWHAT.

Our Lady of the Angels in Cartago is the patron saint of Costa Rica and protector of the Americas, a status confirmed by Pope John Paul II.