Almost everyone who travels to Costa Rica makes a stop in San Jose. The biggest international airport in the country is in San Jose, so chances are you are going to spend a day or two here before moving on to see the rest of Costa Rica. San Jose is not Costa Rica’s top destination, but it is still worth a visit. I recommend spending a day here when you land before moving on to see the rest of the country. It’s pretty easy to see the best sites in a day, but you won’t want to skip it altogether and miss these awesome spots. Read on to discover how to see San Jose in a day.
Get breakfast at a local soda and explore Paseo Colon
Soda’s in Costa Rica are small hole-in-the-wall shops where you can get great food for super cheap. Head to Paseo Colon after 8 am to experience local cuisine at its best. If you keep walking down Paseo Colon you reach a pedestrian-only walkway. Keep on this road and you’ll see what looks like a warehouse on many of the corners. They are unlabeled and look half closed, but if you venture inside you’ll find tons of stands where you can eat your fill for a few dollars. After filling your stomach, walk up and down Paseo Colon to get a feel for San Jose. There will be plenty of shops you can pop your head into and, if you’re lucky, the street will come alive with performances by talented street performers.
See Costa Rican art for free at the Museum of Costa Rican Art
If you walk straight along Paseo Colon towards La Sabana Park, the pedestrian walkway will end and you’ll be back beside the hectic Costa Rican traffic again. Keep walking until you reach the end of the street. Look up and you will be standing in front of the Museum of Costa Rican Art (Museo de Arte Costarricense). This fantastic museum is completely free and full of Costa Rican art from all ages. Take some time to wander inside and out, but whatever you do, make sure you go upstairs and see the gold room. It’s easy to miss, but is easily one of the highlights of this museum.
Recover from jetlag as La Sabana Park
Just next door to the Museo de Arte Costarricense is La Sabana Park, the largest park in San Jose. While you will always find locals enjoying the park, it really comes to life on the weekends. From sports games to picnics to paddle boating, there is always tons of activity going on at La Sabana Park. You can either join in on the fun or simply relax under a shady tree. Whatever you do, I recommend stopping by a market on your way (there are countless markets along Paseo Colon) and grabbing some fresh fruit, because fruit in Costa Rica is incredibly fresh and juicy. If you time it right, you can get lunch at the park. During lunchtime there are tons of stalls and carts selling delicious (and cheap) street food.
Finish the day with dinner at La Bodeguita del Medio
While it might seem odd to go to a Cuban restaurant in Costa Rica, you will be hard pressed to find a meal better than what is served at La Bodeguita del Medio (aka La B del M). La B del M is famous for their fresh Cuban-style mojitos, but everything they do, they do right. The restaurant often features live music and the atmosphere offers a great introduction to Costa Rica. After a meal at La B del M, you will sleep well in your hotel, knowing that your first day in Costa Rica was a success.
Set the mood for your Costa Rican adventure
The success (or failure) of a first day can set the mood for the rest of the trip. Make the most of your first day in San Jose, Costa Rica by following the above itinerary. You’ll get to see all of San Jose’s top highlights and get a good feel for the city before moving on to enjoy all the other incredible adventures Costa Rica has to offer.
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