Costa Rica's capital San José is a lively metropolis, which radiates South American attitude to life in its purest form. The well-preserved architectural monuments in Spanish colonial style are as worth seeing as the city's numerous interesting museums. In the surroundings, extensive national parks and picturesque nature reserves invite you to exciting day trips.
Explore the beauty of the tropical rainforest with its rare animal and plant species or climb one of the highest volcanoes in the country. San José has a pleasant warm climate all year round. However, the best time to explore the landscape is the dry season from December to April. Less
Costa Rica's oldest National Park
5 waterfalls surrounded by dense rainforest
5 different ecosystems in one park
The historic market halls of the Mercado Central in the heart of San José were built in 1880. Since 1995 they have been part of Costa Rica's cultural heritage. Here you can find exotic fruits, fragrant baked goods and typical delicacies, traditional handicrafts and original souvenirs. An extra portion of local colour and a first-hand impression of the vibrant South American mentality is included free of charge with your purchase. The market halls are also the ideal place to taste genuine Costa Rican street food. For example, try a glass of horchata during your San José holiday, Costa Rica's answer to the milkshake: almond milk pureed with sugar, cinnamon and crushed peanuts.
In the city centre, opposite the Parque Central, the imposing Catedral Metropolitana rises. The previous building of this catholic church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1802. In 1871, the present cathedral was built according to the designs of the architect Eusebio Rodríguez. The façade combines in a unique way stylistic elements of the baroque and neoclassicism with typical elements of the Greek epoch. Among the most remarkable treasures inside the Catedral Metropolitana are the detailed stained glass windows and the elaborately designed tiled floor. If you attend a church service, you will gain an unforgettable impression of the deeply rooted religious world of the locals.
The Irazú Volcano National Park extends about 30 miles from San José. It was founded in 1955 and is therefore Costa Rica's oldest national park. The fire mountain that gives the park its name is one of the highest and at the same time most unpredictable volcanoes in Costa Rica. During its frequent eruptions in the past it has created a unique landscape, which the famous astronaut Neil Armstrong compared very aptly with the surface of the moon. If you want to travel to the Irazú in comfort and at a reasonable price, you can take a public bus every day at eight o'clock in the morning in front of the National Theater in San José, which will take you up to the volcano.
The La Paz Waterfall Gardens are rightly one of the most popular excursion destinations in the surroundings of San José. Along the well-maintained hiking routes, five picturesque waterfalls await you, which gush out from a height of five to 121 feet. The surrounding rainforests are home to a variety of exotic animals: from colourful butterflies and droll spider monkeys to rare cats of prey such as the puma and jaguar. A rewarding experience for animal lovers is a visit to the bird park. Here, parrots, toucans and other exotic birds, which have been freed from cages or confiscated by customs, find a new home in near-natural free-flight aviaries.
Covering more than 50,000 hectares, Chirripo National Park is known for its wild beauty and its five different ecosystems. Popular with hikers, mountaineers and campers, it offers ideal conditions for all kinds of demanding outdoor sports. But even if you just want to admire the exhilarating beauty of the Costa Rican rainforest during your San Jose vacation, you will get your money's worth on the well-signposted hiking trails. With the 12,500 feet high Cerro Chirripo, which gave the park its name, this national park is home to Costa Rica's highest mountain. If the weather conditions are right, you can see the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean from its summit at the same time. Less