San José is a city with many faces – a burgeoning economic and political center with a small-town vibe. There’s an abundance of things to experience, so let our 2 Days in San José Itinerary guide your journey to soak up the best that the city has to offer. San José is ideally located to explore rainforests, volcanic parks, and coffee plantations of Central Valley. And to top it off, it’s less than 3 hours’ drive from both Caribbean and Pacific coastal resorts. Make sure to reserve a couple of days to discover the landmarks and foodie scene of this vibrant city. Awash with intriguing museums, lush parks, fine restaurants, and colorful markets, San José will keep you going…at a relaxed pace, of course.
Start your day as the Ticos do with a cup of fresh, aromatic Costa Rican coffee and a typical breakfast of Gallo pinto – rice, beans, scrambled egg, plantain, and tortillas. After taking in your energy fix, head out to bustling Downtown San José to explore on your own or join an ultimate tour!
Begin your San José tour at the National Theatre of Costa Rica. Constructed in the 1890s and replicating the famous opera houses of Paris, the theatre offers guided Spanish and English tours where you can learn all about great composers, discover ornate architecture and gain an insight into the building’s rich history.
From here it’s a 2-minute walk to Plaza de la Cultura and the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. This fascinating museum showcases a vast collection of gold, stone, and ceramic objects along with an ethnographic collection depicting artwork and creative tools made by indigenous communities of Costa Rica.
A 5-minute walk from the Gold Museum is Central Avenue. This mile-long boulevard is San José’s main shopping street, home to art and craft markets, Democracy Plaza, colorful murals, and historic architecture. Entertainers play music, dance, or mime as you window shop. Be sure to take a break, pull up a seat outside a café, and immerse yourself in the eclectic atmosphere.
Nearby, Central Market awaits – a melting pot of over 200 stalls set amongst narrow alleyways selling unusual trinkets, gadgets, and fresh produce. Established in 1880, this is the largest of several markets in the city and the ideal place to sample local dishes. If it’s souvenirs you seek, pick up a handy ‘chorreador’ coffee maker, plantain press, ancient herbal remedies, or even a pair of hand-stitched cowboy boots. However, the best buy for many tourists is some authentic Costa Rican coffee beans to take home with them.
If lunch hasn’t left you in a food-coma, stroll to La Sabana Park, Costa Rica’s largest urban park with plenty of green space, a tranquil lake, the national sports stadium, and an art museum which stands on the site of a former airport.
No 2 Days in San José Itinerary can forget the city’s culinary scene! San José has abundant international restaurants and bars, which serve everything from fast food to à la carte menus. You can enjoy a romantic gourmet dinner alfresco in a candlelit courtyard, sip cocktails on a rooftop overlooking the illuminated skyline, or don your dancing shoes and sway to tunes played by world-famous DJ’s in the hippest club in Costa Rica – Club Vertigo.
A great place to begin your second day in San José is with a tour of the National Museum of Costa Rica. The museum is located downtown, inside Bellavista Fortress, which was formerly used as barracks for the military during the 1948 civil war. As you walk around the exterior building, you can still see a series of bullet holes punctuating the concrete. This diverse museum allows visitors to delve deep into Costa Rican culture and heritage through a variety of displays spanning Pre-Columbian times up until the present day.
When you’ve spent a couple of hours here, you can either visit the neighboring Jade Museum, which extols the powers of the green crystal. If you’re an art connoisseur, the Museum of Art is a short stroll away.
There are several ways to spend your final afternoon in San José. Walk to the city’s Botanical Gardens to admire the orchids and butterflies as you stroll through verdant landscapes. Alternatively, take a lesser-known tourist path. Al Mercat Restaurant in the city specializes in modern Costa Rican cuisine and organizes food tours and lunch at the family finca just outside San José. Here you can see where herbs and vegetables are grown for the restaurant and sample traditional fusion dishes in the company of welcoming locals. To continue the culinary theme, pop into the Sibú chocolate store – home to Costa Rica’s delectable organic chocolates. Make sure to pay homage to the humble grain by sampling a glass or two of tasty craft beer and taking a tour of the Costa Rica Craft Brewing Company.
On your last evening in San José, begin your evening as the well-heeled Tico’s do with a fancy signature cocktail. There are several trendy establishments to try, and a multitude of traditional bars and cafes which offer stand-up comedy, live jazz, blues, and rock music to dance the night away. You’re sure to leave San José with unforgettable memories after 48 hours on the town.