The Best Things to Do in San Jose, Costa Rica

Things to Do in San Jose, Costa Rica

Costa Rica's capital, San Jose, often gets overlooked by travelers. They come to Costa Rica for beaches, rainforests, national parks, and outdoor adventures. They're not really interested in spending time in a city or its suburbs. 
But San Jose and the Central Valley are more than just waypoints between the Juan Santamaria International Airport and the beach or Arenal Volcano
This area is a hotbed of active volcanoes in its own right, plus coffee plantations, mountains, small towns, and - of course - the cultural activities that come with city life.
Let's take a look at why it's worth spending a few days in San Jose and the Central Valley.


It's easy to check out volcanoes when staying in San Jose or around the Central Valley. 
Poas, Irazu, Barva, and Turrialba volcanoes are all nearby and offer great hiking opportunities. Poas in particular is great for learning about volcanoes as you can drive up close to the crater and enjoy a fantastic visitor center. 
It's even possible to visit Arenal Volcano on a day trip from San Jose although we'd always recommend staying there for a few days instead.


If the scent of freshly ground coffee is enough to make you swoon, then Costa Rica is the right country for you and the Central Valley the right place in the right country. 
The higher elevations, volcanic soil, and cooler temperatures of the Central Valley are perfect for coffee cultivation and you'll find some of the best java in the world produced here.
Follow the bean on its journey from seedling to plant to harvest to roasting, and sample some of Costa Rica's finest brews. 
Don't forget to bring plenty of coffee back home with you as gifts - your friends and neighbors will love you forever!

Cultural activities

It would be a shame to stay in San Jose or the Central Valley and not take part in anything cultural or anything that offers a spotlight on how regular Costa Ricans live. After all, this area is where most of the people are, so it's worth taking a look.
Enjoy a performance at San Jose's gorgeous National Theater or check out some of the best restaurants in the country. Contact us for recommendations - most of us live close to San Jose ourselves. 
Explore Sabana Park, the green lung of the city and home to both the art museum and national stadium. Experience bustling markets full of exotic fruits for sale.
You can do all these things on your own, of course, but we recommend our guided city tours to get a better perspective of things. You'll come out the other side with such better knowledge of the country you're traveling in, which will stay with you through the rest of your vacation.


You might be close to - or in the heart of - the city but Costa Rica is Costa Rica and that means wildlife.
Check out the La Paz Waterfall Gardens with its amazing Peace Lodge hotel and stunning waterfall trails. There's a sanctuary for rescued animals here, where jaguars, toucans, and monkeys live. 

FAQs about things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica


Is San Jose worth visiting?

Yes, San Jose is definitely worth visiting, although most tourists skip it. There are some incredible museums, great restaurants, and fantastic nightlife if that is what you want. The city is great to walk around and there are plenty of interesting landmarks. 

What are some places people can visit in San Jose?

Explore downtown San Jose with the National Theater, Gold Museum, Central Market, and interesting architecture. You'll enjoy churches and parks, too. There are also shopping centers, movie theaters, great restaurants and much more!

How can I spend a day in San Jose, Costa Rica?

A great way to spend a day in San Jose is to take a walking tour with a guide who will bring the city to life for you with various anecdotes about their hometown. After that you can enjoy great food in any one of many incredible places to eat. 
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