One of the top things to do in Costa Rica is to visit San Jose, its cosmopolitan capital. Filled with beautiful architecture and delicious food, there are plenty of fun and adventurous things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica. This includes Parque Diversiones, an amusement park that has plenty of adrenaline-pumping rides.
There are quite a few unusual things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica too, like visiting the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and Spirogyra Butterfly Garden. As for free things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica, check out La Sabana Metropolitan Park. It’s home to a swimming pool, sports fields, the National Stadium and the Costa Rican Art Museum. Keep reading to discover more of San Jose’s top attractions.
1. National Theatre of Costa Rica
The National Theatre of Costa Rica is a great source of pride to locals. It’s as beloved as the national football stadium, which is a big deal. The theatre was built in the Renaissance architectural style in the late 19th century. Over the years it has hosted many prestigious events, including ballet, opera and theatrical performances. Located in the city center, you can visit the theater during the day for self-guided and guided tours. Head to the official website for its event calendar.
2. Museo del Jade Marco Fidel Tristán Castro
Founded in 1977 by Fidel Tristán Castro, the Museo del Jade Marco Fidel Tristán Castro (simply called the Jade Museum in English) is an archaeological museum. It aims to preserve Costa Rica’s archaeological heritage. The museum is home to the world’s largest collection of American jade. There are over 7000 pieces on display, including ceramics, translucent jade carvings, ceremonial heads, and an extensive collection of pre-Columbian artifacts. Check it out if you’re looking for indoor things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica.
3. Pre-Columbian Gold Museum
Built under the Plaza de la Cultura, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum is one of the city’s more unusual attractions. It has a vast collection of over 1600 shiny gold artifacts from the pre-Columbian time period (500AD to the 16th century). Some of the most interesting pieces on display include Media Escudo, which is the first coin minted in Costa Rica in 1825. There’s also El Guerrero, a human-sized gold warrior figure fitted with gold ornaments.
4. La Sabana Metropolitan Park
Located in the city’s downtown district, La Sabana Metropolitan Park is the largest and most significant park in the entire country. An estimated 38,000 people visit the park every week. There are many attractions within La Sabana Metropolitan Park, like a target shooting range, a swimming pool, lakes, sport fields and practice areas, and a skating rink. But most importantly, the park is home to the National Stadium and the Costa Rican Art Museum.
5. Plaza de La Cultura
Plaza de la Cultura is a large square in the heart of the city. Underneath the square is where you will find the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, as well as the Numismatic Museum. It joins up with Juan Mora Fernández Square, which is where the National Theatre’s located. One of the top things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica, pop by Plaza de la Cultura to get a glimpse of local life in the city.
6. Parque Diversiones
Parque Diversiones is the city’s large amusement park. It has plenty of rides to suit everyone, from infants to adrenaline junkies. There are also several water-based rides, including Splash Caribe, Reventazón and Pacuare. Ciempies-Oruga is a train that takes you on a tour around the park as well. Besides its abundance of rides, Parque Diversiones is home to several restaurants and fun daily events, like dance performances and mini concerts. It’s one of the city’s most family friendly attractions.
7. Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo
Spread over 44,000 hectares, Braulio Carrillo National Park is one of the country’s most extensive national parks. Encompassing seven diverse ecosystems, it’s located about 12 miles northeast of San Jose. It’s home to high peaks (and two extinct volcanoes), lush forests, and humid Caribbean lowlands. Some of the top things to see within Braulio Carrillo National Park include La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park, Barva Volcano and Bosque de la Hoja, an urban park.
8. Central Market (Mercado Central)
Established in 1880, San Jose’s Central Market is the city’s largest market. It’s a lively place filled with over 200 stalls selling a variety of things. This includes fresh produce, local coffee, traditional snacks, cheap souvenir t-shirts, and handmade arts and crafts. The indoor marketplace has narrow alleys and tens of thousands of visitors daily, which means it can be crowded and maze-like at times. But that’s just a part of the authentic Central Market experience.
9. Barrio Escalante
Barrio Escalante is a neighborhood that was previously known for its large 19th century colonial homes. However, these have now been transformed into some of the city’s best restaurants, bars, bakeries and cafes. There are also many shops selling locally-made products. The gastronomic center is the street, Calle 33. Check out Ravi for vegan and vegetarian food; Costa Rican and French fusion dishes at Kalú; and locally roasted coffee at Franco. You’ll find many locals hanging out in Barrio Escalante on weekend evenings.
10. San Gerardo De Dota
Located southeast of San Jose, San Gerardo De Dota is a small village found in a valley at the bottom of the Talamanca Mountains. Surrounded by forested hills, it’s renowned for its bird watching; drawing avid bird watchers from around the world. Many high altitude bird species call the village home, including the brightly colored quetzal. Other things to do in San Gerardo De Dota include hiking through pristine wilderness, and fly fishing on the Savegre River.
11. Spirogyra Butterfly Garden
Spirogyra Butterfly Garden is a small attraction where you can learn all about the life cycle of butterflies. Start your visit by watching the provided video, then grab a butterfly booklet and head out on your own self-guided tour. Surrounded by over 50 different species of butterflies, it’s a tranquil and relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Head to Spirogyra Butterfly Garden if you’re searching for unusual things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica.
12. Estadio Nacional
Mentioned above, the National Stadium of Costa Rica is beloved by many local residents. The multi-purpose stadium is located within La Sabana Metropolitan Park; less than two miles from the historic city center. Opening in 2011, it was Central America’s first modern sport and events venue, and it can fit over 35,000 fans. The National Stadium hosts big music acts, sports events, and Costa Rican national football team games. Visit the National Stadium website for upcoming events.
13. Casa Amarilla
There are certainly quite a few unusual things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica. Case in point: a visit to Casa Amarilla, which is a colonial-style yellow mansion sitting on Parque Espana’s northeast corner. Today it houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship. But people like to visit the property as out the front there’s a ceiba tree, which John F. Kennedy planted in 1963. Around the corner, there’s also a graffiti-covered section on the Berlin Wall in the back garden.
14. Gran Hotel
Located in the Heart of San Jose, the Gran Hotel is a monument to the Costa Rican architecture of the early 1900’s. Built in 1930, this hotel has been painstakingly restored and updated and features a casino in the lobby and regularly features live marimba music in the patio cafe. With easy walking access to many of downtown San Jose’s attractions, this hotel is a must-see on your tour of San Jose.