For most travelers, the city of San Jose takes the back seat to Costa Rica’s famous nature and wildlife. However, there is something to be said for the country’s capital and its unique treasures. There are plenty of hidden gems in San Jose to be unearthed by anyone looking for a truly local experience. After all, it is home to half of the country’s entire population! After you visit the museums in central San Jose, check out these spots for the real deal.
Music, Dancing, and Entertainment
A few minutes east of main San Jose by taxi, Jazz Café is a popular live music venue in the San Pedro neighborhood. Jazz isn’t the only thing you’ll hear though – on any given night, local musicians treat patrons to reggae, rock, indie, and folk. With a full menu and casual atmosphere, it is easy to devote an entire evening here. It is no secret that Costa Ricans love to dance! Salsa, Merengue, and Cumbia are hugely popular, and you can test your skills at Castro’s. Younger crowds might enjoy clubs like Nova Rio Lounge, near the universities in San Pedro. For a little nostalgic family fun head to Salon de Patines, a large indoor roller-skating rink where the lights and music are just as important as the wheels.
Shopping at Mercado Central
San Jose is one of the most modern cities in Central America, but a visit to the Mercado Central will place you in an old-school maze of wonderful sensory experiences. Vendors sell everything from fruit and spices to toys and souvenirs. Sample some exotic fruits and be sure to grab a bag of that famous Costa Rican coffee to bring home.
When it comes to food in San Jose the only problem you’ll have is choosing. Sodas can be found just about anywhere, ready to serve up large, inexpensive portions of Costa Rican food. If you’ve had your fill of the comida típica, pizza and wine at the casual Il Pomodoro will satisfy your carb cravings. More refined is the cuisine at Hotel Grano de Oro, just a few blocks west of the Paseo Colon. The gourmet take on Costa Rican classics has made the restaurant at Grano de Oro one the best in the city.
Located in central San Jose, POPS is a great place to stop for helado, or ice cream. First opened in 1968, Pops has become a staple for locals and tourists alike. For something a little more delicate, head over to San Pedro for cupcakes at Sweet Sensations. Right next to the Salon de Patines, this quaint British-owned café offers a cozy atmosphere and some downright delicious baked goods.
For more Costa Rica activities, check out our Things to Do in Costa Rica page.