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Many people are underwhelmed by San José as a whole. Few visitors to Costa Rica make San José a priority, with good reason. As capital cities go, its sites of appeal can be counted on one hand. Sure, there are plenty of bars and discos. And first-rate restaurants span the globe. But that's hardly a reason to visit. Most visitors use it as a base for hub-and-spoke exploration of the country. The city's strong suit — and here it excels — is its triptych of pre-Columbian museums: the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, the Jade Museum, and the National Museum. The art scene here is profound, and you can't go wrong if you're seeking quality art at the ...

Many people are underwhelmed by San José as a whole. Few visitors to Costa Rica make San José a priority, with good reason. As capital cities go, its sites of appeal can be counted on one hand. Sure, there are plenty of bars and discos. And first-rate restaurants span the globe. But that's hardly a reason to visit. Most visitors use it as a base for hub-and-spoke exploration of the country. The city's strong suit — and here it excels — is its triptych of pre-Columbian museums: the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, the Jade Museum, and the National Museum. The art scene here is profound, and you can't go wrong if you're seeking quality art at the city's many galleries. Otherwise, the shopping is mainly limited to quality, but prosaic, souvenirs. Architecturally, the only truly world-class structure is the neoclassical National Theater, which draws locals in their finest togs for concerts and an experience every tourist should have. And the Barrio Amón district has some fine Victorian houses. Fortunately, all the main sites are within a concentrated zone downtown. Once you've explored the downtown, move on.

Christopher Baker
About the Expert

Christopher P. Baker has authored guidebooks to Costa Rica, California, and various Caribbean islands for Frommer's, Lonely Planet, and National Geographic, among others.

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Christopher Baker for Triporati

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Now Happening in San José, Costa Rica

Facts at a Glance

  • Location: San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and the nation's largest city. Located in the Central Valley, it is the seat of national government, the focal point of political and economic activity, and the major transportation hub.
  • Language: Spanish, English
  • Currency: Costa Rican Colon
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    December-April dry season; Christmas and Easter