While it's tempting to make a beeline for Costa Rica's luscious countryside, take some time to get to know San José, Costa Rica's humming capital city. Wander historic neighborhoods such as Barrio Amón, where historic buildings have been converted into contemporary art galleries, and Barrio Escalante, the city's gastronomic epicenter. Stroll with Saturday shoppers at the farmers market, join the Sunday crowds in Parque La Sabana, dance the night away to live music at one of the city's vibrant clubs, or visit the museums of gold, jade, art and natural history, and you'll begin to understand the multidimensional appeal of Costa Rica's largest city and cultural capital.
Start planning your trip
Must-see attractions for your itinerary
On the southern side of the Plaza de la Cultura resides the Teatro Nacional, San José’s most revered building. Constructed in 1897, it features a columned…
This museum houses the world’s largest collection of American jade (pronounced ‘ha-day’ in Spanish), with an ample exhibition space of five floors…
This three-in-one museum houses an extensive collection of Costa Rica's most priceless pieces of pre-Columbian gold and other artifacts, including…
Entered via a beautiful glassed-in atrium housing an exotic butterfly garden, this museum provides a quick survey of Costa Rican history. Exhibits of pre…
Northwest of Plaza España lies this pleasant, historical neighborhood, home to a cluster of 19th-century cafetalero (coffee grower) mansions. Recently…
One of San José’s nicest green spaces, this shady spot lures retirees to read newspapers and young couples to smooch coyly on concrete benches. At its…
Reputedly Central America's largest insect museum, this place has an extensive collection assembled by the Facultad de Agronomía (agronomy faculty) at the…
It may seem ironic to visit a zoo in one of the most biologically rich countries in the world, but this is a popular spot with local families who pour in…
7 best things to do in San José, Costa Rica
Apr 7, 2023 • 6 Min read
San José isn't just the gateway to Costa Rica, it's got a wealth of culture and nightlife options on offer. These are the top things to do in the capital.
How to get around in San José, Costa Rica
Apr 4, 2023 • 6 Min read
The capital of Costa Rica can be confusing and difficult to navigate, but it's always an adventure. Here's how to get around.
The 6 best neighborhoods in San José, Costa Rica
Mar 21, 2023 • 5 Min read
San José has changed a lot since 1821, when it was dubbed the new capital of Costa Rica. Get to know the city with this guide to its neighborhoods.
The 7 best things to do in San José, Costa Rica with kids
Mar 20, 2023 • 4 Min read
The busy streets of San José may seem overwhelming but there are plenty of delights awaiting younger visitors to the Costa Rican capital.
The 8 best free things to do in San José, Costa Rica
Mar 13, 2023 • 6 Min read
Visiting Costa Rica’s capital won't break the bank if you know where to go. We've got the intel on the best free things to do in San José.
Sipping and snacking: San José's hottest new restaurants and bars
Feb 19, 2019 • 2 Min read
From the traditional Costa Rican establishments to the international restaurants with flair, every visit to San José promises the opportunity to indulge…
How to live like a Local in San José
Sep 12, 2018 • 4 Min read
One walk down its quaint streets, one sip of its celebrated coffee and Costa Rica was home for Lonely Planet Local Maria Esther Abissi. Seven years in and…
How to eat like a local at San José's top spots
May 25, 2018 • 4 Min read
When it comes to food, San José has it all. From cozy spots to enjoy its rich coffee culture to upscale restaurants for a fancy dinner, the capital city…
Purchase our award-winning guidebooks
Get to the heart of San José with one of our in-depth, award-winning guidebooks, covering maps, itineraries, and expert guidance.