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San Jose

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San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, is a bustling, modern city. Although officially only 350,000 people live in San Jose, the metropolitan area is home to almost 1.5 million people, a third of the country’s population. The city was founded in 1737, and only became capital of Costa Rica in 1821, after the Spanish abandoned its Central American colonies.

The city grew in the 19th century, and the coffee barons built many fine buildings. However, the city expanded rapidly in the 1960’s, as many Costa Ricans, and citizens of neighbouring countries, moved to San Jose in search of relative prosperity. This resulted in many high rise buildings being erected,and the city sprawled into the surrounding countryside.

San Jose has a lovely location in the central valley, with Irazu and Barva volcanoes to the north and the Talamanca Mountains to the south. It is easy to visit one of the coffee plantations in the surrounding area, or one of the natural attractions, including waterfalls and butterfly houses. A visit to Volcano Poas National Park allows you to peer into an active volcanic crater. You can also arrange white-water rafting from San Jose.

The main attractions in the city itself are close to the centre, with the Plaza de la Cultura being the social hub of the city. The most impressive sight in the city itself is the Teatro Nacional, built in the 1890s, with a beautiful neoclassical façade and a lavish interior. There are regular concert and operaperformances in the theatre. The Jade Museum holds an impressive collection of jade jewellery and carvings. The Museum of Pre-Columbian Gold contains many fine gold items, especially from the Diquis culture from southern Costa Rica.

Read our blog to find out our Top Ten Reasons to visit Costa Rica.