Things to Do in San José: Explore the Best Attractions

San José
Zdeněk Macháček, Unsplash
November 8
Written by Carlos Rivera

Discover the top things to do in San José and explore the best attractions this vibrant city has to offer. Plan your perfect trip with our comprehensive guide to San José.

Welcome to the vibrant heart of Costa Rica - San José. Rich in history, culture, and life, this bustling city never fails to stun first-time visitors and returning travelers alike. How about a tiny but compelling fact? Did you know that San José is considered the Silicon Valley of Latin America? There's no end of engaging things to do in San José and the magic, various from day to night, is something really exciting to see.

If you are eager to discover what to see in San José, you've landed at the right place. Our comprehensive San José guide will let you dive into some of the city's most fascinating sights, whether you're a nature lover, a history buff, a foodie, or a casual wanderer. This capital city has some of the most intriguing places to visit in San José, and each one is sure to leave an indelible impression.

So buckle up and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the beautiful gambol of colours and experiences that is San José.

1. National Theater of San José

Historical Monuments and Architecture
silhouette of three performers on stage
National Theater of San José / Kyle Head, Unsplash

The National Theater of San José is a historical and cultural treasure that you cannot miss during your visit to the city. Built in 1897, this impressive theater is one of Costa Rica's most iconic buildings.

Located in the heart of San José, the National Theater has witnessed countless ballet, opera, and theater performances over the years. Its Neoclassical architecture and ornamental details make it a true architectural gem.

While exploring the National Theater, you'll be amazed by its luxurious lobby, its auditorium with a capacity for over 1,000 people, and its magnificent hand-painted stage curtain depicting historical scenes of Costa Rica.

2. Pre-Columbian Gold Museum

Museums and Art Galleries
closeup photo of brown leaf near brown wooden frame
Pre-Columbian Gold Museum / Peter Olexa, Unsplash

The Pre-Columbian Gold Museum is a must-visit for history and culture enthusiasts in San José. Located in the heart of the city, this museum houses an incredible collection of gold objects dating back to Costa Rica's ancient pre-Hispanic civilizations.

At this museum, visitors have the opportunity to admire the skill and craftsmanship of Costa Rica's indigenous cultures. The exhibited pieces reflect the daily life, spirituality, and traditions of the past.

Immerse yourself in the history of Costa Rica through this fascinating collection of pre-Columbian art. Discover the cultural richness of the region and marvel at the jewelry and ornaments crafted in gold by ancient civilizations.

3. San Jose Central Market

Food and Markets

The San Jose Central Market is a must-visit for those exploring the capital of Costa Rica. This historic market, founded in 1880, will immerse you in local culture and allow you to experience the daily life of Costa Ricans.

Inside the market, you will find a wide variety of stalls where you can purchase fresh products such as fruits, vegetables, and seafood. You can also taste typical Costa Rican dishes at the numerous restaurants and sodas (local eateries) located within the market.

In addition to being a shopping and culinary destination, the Central Market is a visual spectacle. Its colorful stalls, traditional architecture, and bustling atmosphere make it a unique experience that you should not miss during your visit to San Jose.

4. Irazú Volcano National Park

Natural Spaces and Parks
a man sitting on a cement block next to a little boy
Irazú Volcano National Park / Juliana Barquero, Unsplash

Things to do in San José- One of the most impressive attractions is Irazú Volcano National Park. This park is home to one of Costa Rica's highest volcanoes and offers incredible panoramic views of the volcanic landscape. As you climb to the top, you'll be able to behold the majesty of the crater and enjoy a 360-degree view of the surroundings.

Irazú Volcano National Park is also a place of great geological importance. You'll be able to observe the different layers of lava and the changing colors of the crater, ranging from green to intense red. Additionally, you can walk along the trails and explore the park's flora and fauna, including birds, monkeys, and endemic species.

Don't miss the opportunity to visit this unique place in San José. Irazú Volcano National Park will amaze you with its natural beauty and fascinating geological history.

5. Lankester Botanical Garden

Natural Spaces and Parks
pink and white flower painting
Lankester Botanical Garden / Simone Dalmeri, Unsplash

The Lankester Botanical Garden is a must-visit attraction in San Jose, Costa Rica. This beautiful garden is known for being one of the country's main references in tropical flora. Founded in 1973, the garden is named after the renowned botanist Charles H. Lankester, who was a pioneer in the study and conservation of biodiversity in Costa Rica.

Spanning over 27 acres, Lankester Botanical Garden is home to a wide variety of plants, including orchids, bromeliads, heliconias, and many more. Well-maintained trails allow you to explore this natural paradise at your own pace.

In addition to its impressive plant collection, the garden also serves as a refuge for birds and other wildlife. During your visit, you can admire beautiful tropical birds in their natural habitat and enjoy the tranquility offered by this oasis of nature in the midst of the city.

6. Costa Rican Cuisine in San José

Food and Markets

Discover Costa Rican cuisine in San Jose, a culinary experience you cannot miss. Costa Rica is famous for its traditional food full of authentic flavors and fresh local ingredients. From gallo pinto, an iconic dish of rice and beans, to casado, a combination of rice, beans, meat, plantains, and salad, the flavors of Costa Rican cuisine will delight you.

In addition to the main dishes, you must not miss the opportunity to try the delicious Costa Rican sauces and dressings, such as Lizano sauce, which adds a unique flavor to any dish. You will also find a wide variety of exotic tropical fruits that will refresh you on hot days.

Explore the local markets, where you can find fresh and traditional ingredients to prepare your own Costa Rican recipes. Immerse yourself in the gastronomic culture of Costa Rica and discover the authentic flavors of San Jose!