Exploring Costa Rica: Our Half Day Tour of Bustling San Jose

So there are lots of days out here on the road when we only have a precious few minutes to explore a certain place. And that was definitely the case during our visit to Costa Rica’s bustling capital city, San Jose. In all we spent about two weeks in Costa Rica this time around, filming the first two episodes for season two of the TV show, and it was action-packed from start to finish! But we started the whole adventure in San Jose, where we only had half a day to do, see and taste as much as we could before moving on.

Thankfully our friends at Adventure Life hooked us up with our local guide Fabian, who helped us hit all the highlights of downtown San Jose in the matter of just a few hours. Wish we had more time to spend, of course. But we’re so glad we at least had that half-day, and so, so, so glad we had Fabian to show us around!

Our Half Day in San Jose: What we did:

The morning started off with a walking tour down the main avenue in downtown San Jose: Central Avenue, also known as “The Boulevard.” It’s a vibrant, active ten-block stretch through downtown that includes lots of options for shopping, dining and sightseeing. And it’s a terrific way to get acquainted with the city and its people!

The Boulevard. Central Avenue, San Jose.

Just a block off of Central Avenue, you’ll find Costa Rica’s opulent National Theater, which is also considered the icon of the city of San Jose. It was opened way back in 1897, and still hosts a variety of performances large and small almost every week. You can also join a guided tour of the theater, and the English-speaking guides are professional and informative. Definitely worth a visit!

The National Theater of Costa Rica.

A few blocks east of the National Theater, you’ll find the National Museum of Costa Rica, where you could honestly spend an entire day learning about the fascinating history and culture of this beautiful country. And even if history’s really not your thing, it’s definitely worth stopping by and taking a stroll through the museum’s fantastic butterfly garden, where you can get up close to some of Costa Rica’s most beautiful, colorful species of butterflies. As our guide Fabian said, it’s a beautiful little oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of the city.

Lastly, if you’ve got a few hours to spend in downtown San Jose, it’s definitely worth stopping by and exploring the colorful and vibrant Central Market! The market was established back in 1880, and takes up a full city block toward the western end of Central Avenue. And it’s a crazy maze of more than 200 shops, stands, and cheap little cafes known locally as sodas (try the casado at lunchtime). It’s primarily a locals market, so you’ll be shoulder-to-shoulder with local folks doing their daily shopping – but you’ll still find lots of great Costa Rican stuff to buy for yourself or for friends and family back home. Either way, it’s a great authentic Costa Rican experience!

Entrance to the Central Market in downtown San Jose.

Where We Stayed in San Jose:

We actually arrived in town late the night before, and luckily found a room right downtown (right on Central Avenue in fact) at the very cool Hotel Presidente, which turned out to be the perfect location from which to explore the downtown area. We found it to be modern, comfortable, and within easy walking distance from most all the major sights in el centro.

Our Big Recommendation:

Even if you only have a few hours to spend in San Jose, we’d absolutely recommend finding a local guide to show you around! Fabian was just terrific, and we saw and experienced and learned more about San Jose with him than we ever would have, had we tried to do and see it all on our own. If you’re interested, click here to check out Adventure Life’s half-day guided city tour of San Jose. Good stuff!

Cheers y’all! Pura vida!

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