3 days in San Jose

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Trip to the Sarapaqui River

Hello! I’m back and happy to share the highlights of my recent trip to Costa Rica. I’m going to break the trip up into two posts. Today, I’m sharing what I did during my three days in and around San Jose.

San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, is a busy, noisy, interesting city. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but I found a lot of beauty and hidden gems during my explorations.

Day 1-Arrival, concert at El Cuartel

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A busy street scene in Central San Jose

After arriving in San Jose and settling into my Airbnb, I walked around the center of the city for a while. I stopped at a couple of shops and bought some brightly-colored fabric and lace. I ended up at the Mercado Central, which is an enclosed market with all sorts of different food and craft stalls. It was fun to wander around and see everything being sold. I bought a variety of food to go including empanadas, fruit and chicken.

At night, I decided to go to The Public House, which was described as an Irish Pub. Uber now works in San Jose, so I gave it a try and was able to get a car right away. Unfortunately, since there are no real addresses in San Jose, we couldn’t find the pub. I ended up going to El Cuartel de la Boca del Monte, which is a bar, restaurant and music venue in Barrio la California. I stumbled into a band rehearsal for Easy Rider, a classic-rock cover band. I was welcomed warmly and even got a shout out from the band during their concert, which was extra special. I also tried a traditional Costa Rican dish called Chifrijo. It is a mixture of rice, tomatoes, beans and fried pork pieces and it is insanely delicious. I loved this bar so much that I returned on Monday evening for their famous music night.

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A booth at Mercado Central
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Spices at Mercado Central
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Chifrijo at El Cuartel

 

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Tropical flowers

Day 2-River cruise and horseback ride, movie

For Day 2, I booked a river cruise and horseback ride in the jungle. It was an easy, relaxing day. We were transported by boat along the Sarapaqui River, where we saw monkeys, iguanas and crocodiles. We ended up at a lovely house in the jungle where we ate lunch and could choose between horseback riding or zip lining. I chose horseback riding, which was pretty comical as my horse, Paloma, clearly did not want to be doing the tour and keep trying to run me into low-hanging branches. It was still enjoyable, though. After that, we took the boat back to our original location and headed back to San Jose.

There are so many tours you can book out of San Jose including zip lining, hikes through the cloud forest, hot springs, volcano tours and so much more. I had originally booked two tours, the river cruise and a combo tour of the Arenal Hanging Bridges, Volcano and Hot Springs. When the second got cancelled, I decided not to book another tour, which I think made for a more relaxing trip, but I was a little sad not to see the bridges and hot springs. And, while I enjoyed bumming around San Jose on Day 3, I feel like I missed some of the more exciting adventures that Costa Rica has to offer. I guess I will just have to go back 🙂

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Paloma going off trail
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Our boat on the Sarapaqui River
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Cine Magaly in Barrio la California

At night, I went back to Barrio La California and saw Lady Bird at Cine Magaly. It was a beautiful theater and a great movie (conveniently in English with Spanish subtitles). I ended up liking the feel of this neighborhood quite a bit and would recommend a visit to anyone spending time to San Jose.

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Museo del Jade

Day 3-Museo del Jade, walking around and craft shopping

On the third day, I went to the Museo del Jade. It had some interesting exhibits featuring pre-columbian life in Costa Rica. I especially liked the top floor which had shelves and shelves of fantastic pottery. I enjoyed the museum but I’m not sure it is worth the entry fee of $20.

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Pottery at Museo del Jade

After the museum I walked to the Museo National de Costa Rica. It was closed, but it has a beautiful park (Plaza de la Democracia y de la Abolición del Ejército) on one side and on the other side is Calle 17, a pedestrian street with fantastic murals (see the featured photo for this post). From there, I made my way to Chieton Moren, which is a fair-trade craft store I had read about. Each piece in the store is labeled with the name of town and craftsperson who created it. They had a great selection of interesting hand crafts in a range of prices. After shopping, I had a late lunch/early dinner at a small restaurant across the street. Casados are offered by most restaurants and are a typical Costa Rican dish. A casado is a large plate with meat, rice, beans, salad and a vegetable stew (not really sure what this was but it was delicious). At around 3500 colones ($6.00), they are a good and filling budget option.

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Chieton Moren: A great fair-trade craft store
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A delicious casado de pollo
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A fountain near the Teatro National
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Afternoon sunlight over San Jose

After eating, I walked past the Teatro National and through Plaza de la Cultura and made my way back to my apartment. In the evening, I went to Stiefel Pub, which was cute and has a large selection of craft beers. On my way to the pub, I walked past groups of political demonstrators who were voicing their opinions on the hotly contested and polarizing Costa Rican presidential election, which was to be held on April 1. It was fun and interesting to get a glimpse into local politics.

In the evening, I went back to El Caurtel de la Boca del Monte and enjoyed the music and had a shot of chiliguaro, which is a local liquor called guaro mixed with tomato juice, hot sauce and lime.

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Political demonstrators

San Jose may not be the most picturesque city, but I enjoyed it immensely. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and very patient with my very basic Spanish language skills. The food was fresh and delicious and the nightlife was interesting. It is not recommended to walk around alone at night, but I had a very positive experience using Uber to get around. It was cheap and reliable and made me feel safe going out at night alone.

How about you? Have you been to Costa Rica or San Jose? What was your experience?

And stay tuned for my next post on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.

xoxo Anna