A Day in (or near) San José, Costa Rica

Many travelers that visit Costa Rica find that they have a day or a half day to spend either in San José, or nearby when flying into or out of the country’s main international airport. We have some suggestions for activities and tours to make the most of how to spend your time.

Teatro Nacional

On the south side of the Plaza de la Cultura is where you find the Teatro Nacional in downtown San José. It is one of San Jos’s most well known public buildings. Built in 1897, it features a neoclassical facade with statues of Beethoven and Calder’n de la Barca who was a 17th century Spanish dramatist. When you enter you encounter a beautiful marble lobby and auditorium. These are lined with paintings that depict various aspects of life in the 1800s. The most famous is Alegor’a al café y el banano. This is a large canvas that illustrates coffee and banana harvests. The painting was created in Italy and shipped to Costa Rica. There are performances year round at reasonable prices and you can go to their web site to learn more at www.teatronacional.go.cr

Poás Volcano

Very close to San José – 50 km or 25 miles – you can visit a live volcano. Poás Volcano sits on 14,000 acres include various habitats and life zones creating the Poás Volcano National Park (Parque Nacional Volcan Poás). The volcano reaches 8,885 ft (2,708 m) and is one of Costa Rica’s largest, most active volcanoes. Walk about 15 minutes from the visitor’s center you reach the main crater which has a spectacular view. Go early morning when chances of seeing the cater are better. Later in the day it can cloud over.

The crater is almost a mile in diameter and a stunningly blue sulfuric pool still bubbles and emits smoke into the air. The last major eruption was way back in 1910 but today visitors can still see geysers bubbling down below.

La Paz Waterfall and Gardens

This tour can be combined with Poás Volcano as they are in the same area. La Paz is a private park encompassing 70 acres and surrounded by primary rainforest. It has a rescue wildlife reserve, five waterfalls, hiking trails, an aviary with 40 species of birds, insect exhibit, butterfly observatory, two-toed sloths, Capuchin (white-faced) monkeys, black-handed spider monkeys, hummingbird garden with 26 documented species, a serpentarium (snake exhibit), jaguar, pumas, ocelots, jaguarundi, margays, ranarium (frog exhibit), orchid, heliconia and bromeliad exhibit.’www.waterfallgardens.com

Café Britt

Costa Rica is almost as famous for its coffee as for its natural beauty. About 25 minutes from San José you can visit café Britt, one of the largest, local coffee companies. café Britt offers a half-day tour which includes a walk through the coffee plantation and finishes with tastings. On the Classic Coffee Tour experts guide you through the lifecycle of creating gourmet coffee. You start in the nursery and follow the process of growing the beans. Discover how beans are selected for coffee. Learn why Costa Rica’s climate and diverse landscapes provide perfect growing conditions for coffee beans. Then you enter the roaster where you learn about different roasting techniques that each affect both the beans and the coffee brew. www.cafebritt.com

Cartago and the Orosí Valley

About 15 miles east of San José is Cartago, Costa Rica’s first capital. It is one of the oldest and largest towns in Costa Rica. It was home to the first Spanish settlement founded in 1563 by Juan Vasquez de Coronado. It continued to be the capital city of Costa Rica until 1823 when it was moved to San José.

Ruins dating back to the 16th century can be seen in the city’s central park. Also the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los ‘ngeles is an enormous Byzantine church home to Black Madonna (La Negrita), which is Costa Rica’s patron saint. Every August pilgrims from across Central America visit this site to pay homage and receive La Negrita’s healing powers.

After passing through Cartago you can continue on to the Orosí Valley which offers a scenic drive by lush rolling hills, coffee plantations and typical Costa Rican small town life.

Contact Us for details about local tour operators.

Poas Volcano near San Jose, Costa Rica
Poás Volcano Photo by: Alejandro Leiton