Costa Rica is a beautiful country, filled with diverse areas to visit, but almost all trips start at San Jose. San Jose is the capitol of Costa Rica, and more importantly to tourists, where their international airport is located. Because we didn’t have a ton of time to spend in Costa Rica, we decided to make San Jose our home base for the next 9 days and book day excursions to see the other parts of the country. This ended up working out perfectly for us! It provided a good sampling of the country, and gave us a good idea of which parts we would like to visit again someday. But between our tours, we spent our free time walking around this fascinating city! There was a lot to see and do in San Jose, but a day or two is more than enough to see pretty much everything you would want to see. Here are some highlights of our adventures (Fair warning: this will be a somewhat lengthy post, with lots and lots of pictures)-
We took a red eye flight out of LAX to San Jose… which always seems like a good idea at the time, until you arrive at your destination at 6:00 A.M., exhausted due to the struggles of sleeping on a plane.
Our hotel! Hotel Colonial, in downtown San Jose. The room was nothing to write home about, but the front desk staff was amazing, it was within walking distance of all the cool stuff to see in the city, and felt clean and safe. Plus the price was a total bargain!
Oh, and the hotel also came with free breakfast. Which was delicious even after 9 days of being served the same thing everyday. Seriously… my sister even looked up a recipe to make it back at home after the trip.
After a quick nap, it was time to wander the city! Stop #1: Mercado Central. A man we met on the plane told us about an ice cream shop in this market, so we began the hunt to find it!
Oh my… this market is a labyrinth of souvenir shops, restaurants, grocery stands, and everything other type of shop you can possibly think of. Finding that one particular ice cream shop proved tricksy…
But we found it!!
And it did not disappoint. This shop has been making ice cream by hand since, well, a long time ago, and it is ridiculously tasty!! So if you’re ever in San Jose, make sure to seek out this ice cream place. It is the only one, and it is delicious. Plus the mercado is just worth exploring anyways.
It started raining really hard while we were in there, so we just kept exploring!
I mean, they even sold live chickens…
More culinary tips for San Jose: ask any local, and they will tell you to try chifrijos. Don’t ask me what’s in it, cause I sure couldn’t tell you, but it was good! I hear it is popular to eat paired with a beer.
My personal favorite from Costa Rica: yuca frita! They taste like weird french fries, and these were dripping with garlic butter. Yum!!
Surprisingly enough, we could not find a single Starbucks. Apparently they are not that common in Costa Rica. We asked the front desk at our hotel where to go for delicious coffee beverages, and they directed us to El Tostador. Just a couple blocks from the hotel, but once again, it was pouring rain, so we donned the rain gear and set out for coffee!
We made it just in time- when it isn’t peak tourist season, everything closes super early, like by 7 P.M, 8 at the latest.
More city exploring!
There were So. Many. Pigeons.
I loved all the street art throughout the city!!
Visiting the National Museum, which is housed inside an old fort. Pretty cool.
The museum entrance leads into a butterfly garden… they were so pretty!
Looking for invaders through the old fort watchtower windows
Inside the fort prison cells
Some of my favorites from the museum’s collections:
Haha I can never pass up a fun photo op
The only places open late at night: pastry shops!!
We bought this bountiful feast…
Shopping at another mercado. This one is all souvenir stands, but they have some seriously cool stuff here
We stumbled upon this awesome jewelry shop where this guy hand makes very cool jewelry… we may or may not have spent a small fortune here. But his pieces were just so cool and reasonably priced! It couldn’t be helped.
He even gave us these free rings, and told us anytime we receive unwanted male attention, flip them off and say “Pura Vida”!!
The culinary adventures continued, as we found some Costa Rican style tamales-
Totally not like the tamales we are used to in CA.
And then as I do on all travels, I dragged everyone to the local Hard Rock Cafe!
Another shot glass for my collection, woo!!
Trying the local liquor, guaro… I don’t know how it tastes by itself, but it sure was good in a cocktail!
Trying the local burger… another must-do when at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Whew. Long post! There was just so much to see and eat in San Jose!!