In the centre of Costa Rica, at an altitude of 4,000 ft, San JosÚ is both the country's largest city and its capital since 1823, almost a century after it was tardily founded. Long boulevards or, on the contrary, narrow gaudy lanes, many grey, modern buildings, a few skyscrapers, shantytowns, these are the first images that this lively and cosmopolitan city has to offer in the heart of the Central Valley. You will need to look well to discover some of the charms of San JosÚ. The national theatre and its Renaissance-style fašade is the pride of all Costa Ricans and the city's major meeting point. On the other side of plaza de la Cultura, a visit should certainly be paid to the Gold Museum, one of the four museums in the world where visitors can admire the beauty and sophistication of the pre-Columbian culture. Nearby, you should make your way through the crowd of Avenidad Central, a large pedestrian street lined with numerous boutiques, to finally get to the maze of Mercado Central (the central market). The Jade Museum, the richest museum in all of the Americas, is one of the city's gems, thanks to its beauty, quality and great number of exhibited pieces. As for The National Museum, it presents Costa Rican culture and history. The districts of Otoya and Amon give you the opportunity to take very pleasant strolls and explore the Spanish, Caribbean, Art-Deco, Neo-Classical and Moresque-style residences.
Stroll on Avenidad Central; visit the Jade Museum, the Gold Museum, the National Museum; go antiquing in Mercado Central or go and watch a show at the National Theatre...
The Plaza de la Cultura, Plaza de la Democracia, the National Theatre, the Cathedral, the Church of the Lady of Mercy, the central post office and Morazan Park, etc. Then, go to the district of Amon to admire the Moresque house, the Alliance franšaise, the yellow house, the Chambord, Monsignor Rodriguez's house, etc.
San JosÚ is a singular universe in the heart of a country riddled with volcanoes and lush forests. The atmosphere of this city is like no other in the country.
Walking about at night in San JosÚ. If you are going from one place to another, it is always better to catch a taxi (recommended by your hotel) so that you will not have to walk across dangerous districts or streets.
Be very careful with your personal belongings as pickpockets are very active, especially at markets and bus terminals (eg: the one known as 'Coca Cola').
Costa Rican cuisine is rather mediocre and does not really have any distinct national dishes. Most of the dishes are based on beef, pork or chicken, which are inevitably served with rice and black beans (sauces and various vegetables can add a bit of variety). The grilled fish is excellent and corn is used for the making of a great variety of tortillas. The authentic Costa Rican breakfast is generous and usually consists of 'gallo pinto', a plate of rice and fried beans served with cream and 'natillas', corn pancakes. Dishes from the Atlantic side of the country are strongly influenced by Caribbean cuisine, though this is less true of those from the Pacific coast. Everywhere, fruits are in abundance: watermelons, pineapples, passion fruits, bananas, mangoes, melons, caramboles, guavas, etc. Consumed in large quantities, the coffee is world renowned. As for the rum, it is of an excellent quality. You can also eat here, without breaking the bank, in the 'sodas' - traditional little diners that serve a set menu. If you want to drink something refreshing, ask for a Ca´pitica, a light cocktail prepared with lime and sugar cane liqueur (Guaro).
Souvenirs, as souvenir shops are abound in the capital city, however, that doesn't always mean that the objects are of good quality and they have become very expensive since tourism boomed in the city. Costa Rican handicraft is quite varied (if you search well!): : pre-Columbian replicas in gold or silver, small decorative pieces made of wood, wicker baskets from Guanacaste, leather items, without forgetting the traditional small painted wooden carts or 'carretas', typical of Sarchi, the manufacturer of this authentic souvenir. You will also find a great number of t-shirts boasting the country's eco-friendly philosophy. Get supplies of rum in (the better brands being Centenario, Abuelo and Cacique) as well as coffee which is internationally reputed.