Hello Costa Rica!
San Jose, Costa Rica
Hello Costa Rica! We’ve touched down in the land named “Rich Coast” by the Spanish, who thought that this area was loaded with gold. Unfortunately for them, they were wrong, but what this country lacks in gold it more than makes up for in beautiful scenery and unbelievable wildlife. If you’re looking to burn a few weeks in a tropical country, this has to be your first choice. This place is AMAZING!
We flew from Cancun, Mexico to San Jose, Costa Rica because it was relatively inexpensive (as a Canadian most flights seem cheap to us, so take this with a grain of salt), and it worked well with our plans to continue to Panama and then Columbia. We flew with a Central American airline, which was fine. The flight was on time and the plane was modern, so that’s about all you can ask for.
Our first move in Costa Rica was to take a shuttle into the city of San Jose (about 45 min), which we caught outside the airport. We negotiated with a random guy, which might not be the best option but it worked-out well for us and was cheaper than a taxi. That being said, a taxi into San Jose won’t break the bank either, so I would probably recommend the taxi option to people, but a little adventure is always a good thing, right?
We got into San Jose after dark. Arriving at night I find that I almost never get positive vibes from a place, so I try to reserve initial judgement for daylight hours. Our accommodation was in central San Jose, at 7th avenue and 1st street North, near the bus depot. Although it was in a good location for walking, it was in a less than desirable area of town. I’m sure it was perfectly safe, but it felt grimy. Being that everything we read prior to coming to Costa Rica said the San Jose wasn’t worth the time, I was beginning to think we had made a mistake coming here, until we walked into the core of the city between 4th avenue North to 4th avenue South, and 12th street East to 12th street West. It was payday and the streets were flowing! Long lineups at every bank and people bustling up and down the streets on dates, shopping, and eating.
A side note: if you can swing it so that you can be in a metropolitan area on a Friday and/or Saturday, you will get a much better feeling of the cities vibe.
We did a walkabout to familiarize ourselves with the central area of town, and absorb some of the energy of the area. San Jose has lots of good restaurants and markets. It’s a city caught in a rift between the common Central American market and the modern shopping experience - lots of brand name stores which are recognizable to us, and also a large central market selling things in traditional market fashion. It’s an easy place to walk around. To us, it felt dynamic after being in smaller towns for most of our travels so far. If you’re planning a two week vaca in Costa Rica, I would recommend spending a day or two in San Jose. There are a few good museums, the central market is worth a visit, and it is an interesting contrast to the “Tico” lifestyle, which you’ll observe along the coastline. That being said, San Jose does feel somewhat rough in spots, and requires that you are vigilant of your surroundings when you get the periphery of the central area, where poverty becomes much more apparent.
San Jose seems to be struggling with a high population of people who have drug and alcohol problems, relative to other areas of Central America. It is interesting to observe this in the richest country in Central America. It makes me wonder if this is an issue here because people have more disposable income? At any rate, spending time in San Jose means that you’re going to have to deal with tweakers begging for money... Not unlike in any major city in Canada. Up to this point in our travel in Central America, rampant drug and alcohol abuse has been very minimal, so San Jose and Costa Rica in generally is not a good proxy for the rest of Central America. Something which sets Costa Rica apart from the Rest of Central America, except for Panama, is that there are loads of Americans. Mostly everyone we meet is American, which makes getting around really easy as almost everyone speaks English.
We spent one full day and and evening in San Jose, which seemed like the perfect amount of time to me. We saw the National Museum of Costa Rica, walked around the city’s core, checked out the central market, saw the weekend farmers market, and ate delicious food. We had our fill of the city and decided to head North, to La Fortuna, to see some volcanoes and hot springs.
Things To Do in San Jose:
- Check out some of the museums
- Walk around the core
- Checkout the farmers market on Saturdays
- Walk through the beautiful city parks
- Checkout the central market and grab a meal with the locals
- Tryout some of the great eats