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San Jose

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San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, 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. 

San Jose Location

San Jose has a lovely location in the central valley of Costa Rica, with Irazu and Barva volcanoes to the north and the Talamanca Mountains to the south. 

San Jose History

San Jose was founded in 1737, and only became the Costa Rica capital 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 1960s, 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 Activities

Whilst San Jose isn’t the main place to see on a holiday to Costa Rica, there are many attractions in the city. The main sights in San Jose 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 opera performances 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. Other things to do in San Jose include visiting contemporary art galleries in Barrio Amón and strolling around Parque la Sabana.

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. Some of the finest coffee in the world is produced in Costa Rica, which you can learn about as you take a tour of the farm, walking through the coffee bushes and visiting the roaster. The La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a private preserve consisting of cloud forest, rainforest and agricultural land in the process of rehabilitation. The gardens' attractions are wide reaching, from the beautiful waterfalls, to the wide variety of birds and the butterfly observatory. Walking along the reserve's nature trails offers a great introduction to the nature of Costa Rica.

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.

All of our holidays to Costa Rica start in San Jose. Click here to find out our Top Ten Reasons to Visit Costa Rica.