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Things to do in San Jose

Itineraries for Your Trip to San Jose

San Jose locals share their perfect days.
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3 Days in San Jose for First Timers

Curated by Jen Rose Smitha writer who covers adventure, remote places, and food.

With three days in San Jose, you can relax into the city’s natural rhythm, which blends the sounds of tropical birdsong, bustling markets, and salsa beats. You’ll have plenty of time to take in the key sights, including Costa Rica’s lush rain forest, volcanic peaks, and coffee farms. Here’s how to spend three days in San Jose.

Day 1

A chorus of tropical birds is the first sign that morning’s arrived in San Jose, and it’s the perfect prelude to a cup of locally grown and roasted coffee. Next, hit the city streets for a day of exploring. Highlights include the lively Central Market, elegant architecture at the Teatro Nacional, and precious treasures in the Precolumbian Gold Museum and Jade Museum; many tours of San Jose combine one or more of these stops with an introduction to city landmarks.

 After pausing for lunch—which could range from street food at the Central Market to a high-end meal at a top restaurant—pick one of the city’s top museums for an in-depth visit. Wrap up the day by sipping craft beers as the sun sets over the city, or if you’re looking for San Jose’s most happening breweries and stylish pubs, join a pub crawl for a shortcut into the local scene.


Day 2

With one day to get out of the city, you can soar above rain forest trees, paddle through white-water rapids, hike Arenal Volcano, or ride a bike through historic Cartago. Because these destinations are anywhere from one to several hours from the city, it’s worth choosing carefully to make the most of your time on the road.

 Whatever you pick, keep an eye out for wildlife as you explore the mountains, forests, or coast, because this biodiversity hot spot is home to everything from slow-moving sloths to speedy hummingbirds. When you get back to your San Jose accommodations, reward yourself with a well-earned treat; favorite desserts in Costa Rica include ultra-moist tres leches (three milks) cake, flan, and a sweetened preparation of squash called miel de chiverre.

Day 3

Now that you’ve explored culture and nature, check out local flavors, whether you’re browsing a neighborhood market or dining with the season’s hottest chef. For a delicious dive into Costa Rica coffee culture, tour a coffee plantation near San Jose to explore how coffee is grown, harvested, and processed right at the source.

 Next, plan a special dinner to celebrate your final day in Costa Rica’s capital, with options that include prebooking a table at a beloved restaurant or an evening of traditional song, dance, and cuisine. To sample a bit of San Jose’s vibrant nightlife before packing your bags, hit the town for a bar or club crawl that’s designed to find the most happening places, where you can tip back shots and meet a friendly mix of travelers and locals.

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