Costa Rica's


Global Mark : 10.11

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 


 2 2 4 4 4 1 4 3 12.00

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
27 37%(10) 26%(7) 44%(12) 1 to 16 8.22

Description : The unspectacular capital of Costa Rica

Comment : Most people do not like it and it is easy to understand why as there aren't much to see except the traffic and shops. Still, it may be worth a couple of hours for the museum or the immersion among the busy locals

What to do ? Visit the ICT Tourist Office (Av2, Calle 5-7, Mond to Frid 8am to 5pm) for free maps and precise buses schedules / Admire lot's of gold artifacts (Museo de Oro Precolumbiano, Tues-Sat 10am-5pm, $5) / See the largest collection of Jade in America (Museo de Jade, Mond-Frid 8am-3:30pm, $3) / Admire the interior of the Teatro Nacional ($3 but apparently free look from the cafe attached) / Study contempary art (Museo de Arte y Diseno Contemporaneo, Tues-Sund, 10am-5pm, $1) / Learn about many snakes (Serpentario, Mond-Frid 9am-6pm, $3) / In case you aren't fed up with museum, there is also the Museo Nacional with some archaeological findings (Tues-Sund 8:30am-5pm, $1) / Spend some time in a prison cell at Museo Historico Penitenciario / Relax in the leafy campus of the University of Costa Rica in San Pedro district then follow the students into one of the many bars, restaurants or discos / For a more challenging environment, head toward the Mercado Central / Walk the pedestrian streets / Jog around the park in Sabana / Then go the nice Museo de Arte Costarricense (Tues-Sun 10am-5pm, $2) to admire the splendid Salon Dorado / Shop or change money  / Eat or drink / Sleep or dance

What you may not like ? The whole place in itself : busy and polluted / The safety issues : watch for your stuff at any time, in particular in the market area. Wandering alone at night is also not recommended / The numerous bus stations / Showing up on Sat, Sunday or Monday : some museums will be closed

How long ?
A couple of hours would be fair enough. If you have to spend the night in the area, the town of Alajuela, near the airport, ahould be a much nicer alternative (although probably more expensive)

Where to stay ? I spent 30mn in San Jose, between my two buses so I did not visit any place. The cheapest rooms are in the area around the Coca-cola bus station but this area is a bit depressing. Gran Hotel Imperial (2227899), near Mercado Central, C8, Av 0/1 was recommended as the cheapest place to stay : C1300 p.p. It is basic with thin walls but acceptable. Avoid the noisy rooms near the common shower.

Backpacker's Tips :  Tom Crable, USA (August 04)
« A great place to change dollars into colones (and vice versa) is at the SJO airport. Upon arrival you have to go to the departures area. To get there just exit the arrivals area, walk through the hordes of cab drivers and cross the street to an underground garage. Take the escalator upstairs just following the signs to departures. Upon entering, walk to the left and you will find a BCR (Bank of Costa Rica) kiosk just past the area where you pay your departure tax.
When I was there in July 2004, the official exchange rate was 438 colones per dollar. BCR gave me a rate of 434 which was better than anything you could find in town (except for the illegal changers on the street who will try to rip you off). Everywhere in Costa Rica will take dollars but you will generally get a better price if you pay in colones.

Backpacker's Tips : Anthony Asael (March 04)
« BackPacker Costa Rica avenida 6 calle21-23: 9usd for a dorm, but it is safe, nice, free internet, has a small pool and very good backpacker information.» 

Backpacker's Tips : Vincent Garnier, Switzerland (June 02)
« Costa Rica Backpacker's is the best backpacker's hostel to save money , kitchen facilities, free coffee and tea all day ,free internet ,swimming pool and TV room .$7 dorm $18 double. Excellent to meet people as well. Avenida 6 Calle 21 & 23 »

Internet ?
A few places in town at around C300 per hour : the cheapest rates in the country !

Leaving ?
All roads leading to San Jose the choice is wide. Unfortunately, there are no central station : companies leave from a number of places . The best is to get the precise schedules and terminal's location at the tourist office. A few schedules to double check : To Alajuela (Av2, C10-12) every 5mn. C205, 30mn / To Volcan Poas (Av 2, C12-14) at 8:30 (return at 14:30) / To Cahuita & Puerto Viejo (Terminal Caribe at C. Central, Av 13) at 10, 13:30 & 15:30 C1695. 3-4 hours. Also hourly bus to Puerto Limon / To Quepos (Terminal Coca-cola at Av 3, C 16) at 6, 12 & 18. C1375. 3 hours. Also indirect buses at 7, 10, 14 & 16 but 5 hours for the 145km ! / To Puntarenas (C 16, Av 12) every 40mn from 6 to 17. C855. 2.5 hours / To Fortuna Terminal Atlantico Norte at C12 Av 7-9) at 6:15, 8:40, 11:3. 4.5 hours / To Monteverde (same terminal) at 6:30, 14:30. 4.5 hours / Many more destinations available. 

The trip to Cahuita : SSS / Left / C1695 / 4 hours
I was wrong to rush to the ticket office : there were many seats left and really no need to follow one's seat assignment. Most travelers were foreigners. It was a nice enough trip, with some mountains scenery in the first part and the Caribbean Sea (on the left) in the second, shorter part (1 hour for the last 44km). In between, there was a "10mn break" that lasted 30mn, at the entrance of Puerto Limon : many people rushed to Masmanni  to store some pastries (not available later on), then to the free toilets (yes, those do exist !). Instead of waiting for the bus' doors to re-open, you could have a short stroll in the nearby cemetery. Advise someone where you are going to avoid that the bus departs without you however...
If you know where you wish to stay in Cahuita, ask the bus driver to let you off earlier : the black-sand beach area is a couple of km before the normal bus stop in the village. The bus will then continue to Puerto Viejo and Sixaola (border with Panama).

See also the trip from Quepos

Backpacker's Tips : Diego Orteg, USA (April 06): about Paseo Colon
« What to do :There are tons of things to do, you can take a bus for less than 3 dollars go to Jaco and be back at the hostel. What you may not like :The place is extremely cool, needs a little more fun activities.
Where to stay (guesthouses) :Gallo Pinto hostel, , place is clean, nice and friendly
Where to eat (local food) : You can get a great meal for less than 3 dollars, also you can cook at the hostel, there`s a local cheap supermarket a couple of blocks
away. Beer costs less than one buck.
What to see/visit :Museums, volcanoes, beaches, everything at walking distance.
Communication (internet, tel, etc) :The place has only a couple of computers but they work out fine.
To :Gallo Pinto Hostel, Less than one dollar, 45 mins, every half hour from airport. Get on the real early one, you will be able to spend the whole day at the beach without paying extra for rooms
Try to keep a low profile, people are really nice but don`t let them think you are loaded or anything. Try to keep your passport in your underwear(literally) and try to keep a 20 in your pocket. If you see anyone suspicious giveèm the 20 and tell èm your passport was already stolen