6 Best Things to Do in San Jose, Costa Rica

|   Last Updated on March 10, 2023

With buildings that reflect European influence and with happy locals who give you a smile as you walk along, San Jose is the place to be if you want to experience the joy of having the travel of your life.

And if you want to see its best first hand, then you might want to visit its capital city of San Jose.

Situated at the center of the country, just midwest of the Central Valley and contained within San Jose Canton.

The capital city of San Jose impresses visitors with historical landmarks which tell the tale of Costa Rica in the past. The locals, well mannered and friendly, will always be ready to tell you how to enjoy the various activities that the city has to offer.

There will always be museums to visit, diners and restaurants which offer great food if you want to grab a bite, and various place which showcase wonderful scenery to post in your social media account.

Your days as a tourist will never be dull in the city of San Jose, Costa Rica.

Here’s our list of the best things to do:

1. National Theatre of Costa Rica (Teatro Nacional Costa Rica)

View of the National Theatre of Costa Rica.
The National Theatre of Costa Rica. Courtesy of Deposit Photos

If you enjoy quality stage performance and harmonious sound of the orchestra, then visiting the National Theater of Costa Rica will make your vacation your worthwhile.

Opened to the public in 1897, this historic theater has been hosting theater, drama, and orchestra performance since then and is continuing to do so until today. Performances are held several times a week to accommodate viewers.

Still if you don’t enjoy feasting your eyes to such, you should still come over too see the ceilings and interior designs, the like which you have never seen, will surely take your breath away.

2. El Valle del Rio Orosi (Orosi River Valley)

It is also a wonderful experience to visit the outskirts of San Jose.

The rural areas will provide you with the serene beauty of nature and the scenes that it has to offer. One way to do this is to take a look at Orosi River Valley. Have a quick chat with the locals as you tread on the pathways of its colonial village of Orosi.

If you are a coffee lover and wants to know how quality coffee is nurtured first hand ,then you might want to take a look on their coffee plantations.

There are various activities to do here; engage yourself to hiking, ride a bicycle and hunt for the most scenic spots , or you can just walk around town and take a look on the daily lives of the locals.

3. Paseo Colon

Considered as the modern business center of San Jose, you will be very pleased to see how busy Paseo Colon is.

This is the place where you can find and purchase San Jose’s commercial products not available anywhere else.

In here, you can find various hotels, banks, supermarkets. Still , you will be very please to see lots of antique buildings that have survived modernization which you can adore.

These buildings will surely make your jaw drop with their elaborate designs which dates back as far as the renaissance. If you’re looking for an inspiration to build your middle age themed house then you should visit this place.

4. Costa Rican Art Museum

Different cities often have various stories that can only be admired and be cherished if one gets to know their culture. One of the best ways to do this is to take a look at the artwork that various artist who live in such cities have made.

This is ultimately true if you are visiting San Jose, and failure to visit the Costa Rican Art Museum will surely be a mistake that you don’t want to have. Situated at the core of La Sabana Park, a park located at the end of Paseo Colon which offers recreational activities, this museum shows you the transition of one art movement from the past to the present.

Works of various artist inspired by Latin American art are put on display here.

Paintings are very old, some date back as far as 19th century. Also, the museum collects contemporary art from around the world and even showcase its very own sculpture garden.

5. Spirogyra Butterfly Garden

Who said that insects can be used as an attraction? San Jose features Spirogyra Butterfly Garden and you will never know what to expect here. This magical garden is home to more than 20 butterfly species.

They flutter around providing color on each direction that you set your eyes to. Even though their lives are short these butterflies give you the memory that will last for a lifetime.

If you want to know how the staff nurture them, they will be more than happy to accommodate you. The butterfly garden has a learning center where guests can come up close and personal with caterpillars to see how they develop to become such colorful creatures.

A good tourist vacation will not be complete if your appetite misses the unique food that a place has to offer.

Each place has its own taste and San Jose adheres to this.

6. Eat Local Delicacies

Gallo Pinto

A traditional dish made from rice and beans as base, is good for breakfast- a hearty meal which will give you the energy to walk around the city and enjoy its views.

It translates to “Spotted Rooster” this may be because of the appearance of the beans contrasted by the whiteness of rice.

Typically this is served with natilla a costa rican sour cream sauce which is slightly thinner that its american variety, scrambled eggs, a crisply slice of fried white cheese , avocado, corn tortilla and a strong cup of coffee.


This food serves as an evidence of the diversity of Costa Rican culture. Popular in San Jose, this dish comes in different variations and restaurants or local food hubs give you their own presentation of this dish.

Basically, the dish is made with rice, beans and meat. Other versions appear to be made with fish or chicken and served with side orders such as fried plantains, french fries, avocados, tortilla with cheese, eggs corn.

The name of the dish translates to “married man”.or “hunted man”. As a food it plays an important role in the lives of many locals for sometimes they make jokes about it since the name can be related to marriage.


If you are tourist spending your Christmas holidays in San Jose, then consider yourself lucky for you will have the chance to taste its renowned Tamale.

The origin of this food is rather cloudy but the role that it plays in preserving Costa Rican culture is very clear. This is because the method on how it is made is passed down from generation to generation wherein grandparents usually teach their grandchildren how to make this dish.

The process is simple a cornmeal dough is prepared and is then used to wrap cooked seasoned meat or any other filling using banana leaves providing it with a warm aroma.


View of the traditional Costa Rican chifrijo.
The traditional Costa Rican chifrijo. Courtesy of Deposit Photos

The Chifrijo will always find you in most bars and restaurants that you go to in the city of San Jose. This is because it is a very popular dish among the Costa Rican population.

Made by Miguel Corder due to his desire for something new, he combined rice, beans, chicharones (fried pork skin/rinds), and chimichurri (a tomato based salad made with lime juice). The result is a dish that forever will become part of Costa Rican culture.

It is advised that you eat this dish along with your friends while sipping a few bottles of beer talking about that fun that you’ve had in San Jose.


As a tourist in a strange place two things are very important to put in mind if you do not know what to do.

You should first ask yourself what to eat and which places you want to visit. Not knowing where to visit as a tourist is dangerous because it will spoil the purpose of your travel. After all what’s the point in going to a foreign land if you just sit all day at the hotel?

Always know where you want to go and get those feet working. Take some pictures here and there then share it on your social media account. Talk with the local and make some new friends. They will provide you with an idea on what you shouldn’t miss and make your time as a tourist worthwhile.

After a long day of exploring, grab a bite but always remember to try the local food for it will give your taste buds the unique experience that it deserves.

Also as a tourist you must remember this. You must always be safe and secure for nothings feels better than sharing that wonderful experience you’ve hand with your friends and family at home.

Last Updated on March 10, 2023


  • Rovology is leveraging advice from Vagabonds, Tourists, Digital Nomads, Wayfarers and Travel Writers to give our readers a guide on the best things to do no matter where they go.