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By the way, we would recommend you to combine your visit to San José with other popular and interesting places of Costa Rica, for example: Manuel Antonio, Tortuguero, La Fortuna, Alajuela, Santa Teresa, Monteverde, San José, Jacó, Tamarindo, Puntarenas, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, etc.
How to Book a Hotel in San José
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Hotels of San José
A hotel in San José is an establishment that provides lodging paid on a short-term basis. Facilities provided may range from a basic bed and storage for clothing, to luxury features like en-suite bathrooms. Larger in San José hotels may provide additional guest facilities such as a swimming pool, business centre, childcare, conference facilities and social function services. Hotel rooms in San José are usually numbered (or named in some smaller hotels and B&Bs) to allow guests to identify their room. Some San José hotels offer meals as part of a room and board arrangement. Hotel operations vary in size, function, and cost. Most San José hotels and major hospitality companies that operate hotels in San José have set widely accepted industry standards to classify hotel types. General categories include the following:
Upscale luxury hotels in San José
An upscale full service hotel facility in San José that offers luxury amenities, full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and the highest level of personalized and professional service. Luxury San José hotels are normally classified with at least a Four Diamond or Five Diamond status or a Four or Five Star rating depending on classification standards.
Full service hotels in San José
Full service San José hotels often contain upscale full-service facilities with a large volume of full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and a variety of on-site amenities such as swimming pools, a health club, children's activities, ballrooms, on-site conference facilities, etc.
Historic inns and boutique hotels in San José
Boutique hotels of San José are smaller independent non-branded hotels that often contain upscale facilities of varying size in unique or intimate settings with full service accommodations. San José boutique hotels are generally 100 rooms or less. Some historic inns and boutique hotels in San José may be classified as luxury hotels.
Focused or select service hotels in San José
Small to medium-sized hotel establishments that offer a limited amount of on-site amenities that only cater and market to a specific demographic of San José travelers, such as the single business traveler. Most San José focused or select service hotels may still offer full service accommodations but may lack leisure amenities such as an on-site restaurant or a swimming pool.
Economy and limited service hotels in San José
Small to medium-sized San José hotel establishments that offer a very limited amount of on-site amenities and often only offer basic accommodations with little to no services, these facilities normally only cater and market to a specific demographic of travelers, such as the budget-minded San José traveler seeking a "no frills" accommodation. Limited service San José hotels often lack an on-site restaurant but in return may offer a limited complimentary food and beverage amenity such as on-site continental breakfast service.
Guest houses and B&Bs in San José
A bed and breakfast in San José is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and inclusive breakfast. Usually, San José bed and breakfasts are private homes or family homes offering accommodations. The typical San José B&B has between 4 and 11 rooms, with 6 being the average. Generally, guests are accommodated in private bedrooms with private bathrooms, or in a suite of rooms including an en suite bathroom. Some homes have private bedrooms with a bathroom which is shared with other guests. Breakfast is served in the bedroom, a dining room, or the host's kitchen. Often the owners of guest house themselves prepare the breakfast and clean the rooms.
Hostels in San José
San José hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge, and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available. Hostels are often cheaper for both the operator and occupants; many San José hostels have long-term residents whom they employ as desk agents or housekeeping staff in exchange for experience or discounted accommodation.
Apartment hotels, extended stay hotels in San José
Extended stay hotels are small to medium-sized San José hotels that offer longer term full service accommodations compared to a traditional hotel. Extended stay hotels may offer non-traditional pricing methods such as a weekly rate that cater towards travelers in need of short-term accommodations for an extended period of time. Similar to limited and select service hotels, on-site amenities are normally limited and most extended stay hotels in San José lack an on-site restaurant.
Timeshare and destination clubs in San José
San José timeshare and destination clubs are a form of property ownership also referred to as a vacation ownership involving the purchase and ownership of an individual unit of accommodation for seasonal usage during a specified period of time. Timeshare resorts in San José often offer amenities similar that of a Full service hotel with on-site restaurant(s), swimming pools, recreation grounds, and other leisure-oriented amenities. Destination clubs of San José on the other hand may offer more exclusive private accommodations such as private houses in a neighborhood-style setting.
Motels in San José
A San José motel is a small-sized low-rise lodging establishment similar to that of a limited service hotel, but with direct access to individual rooms from the car park. Common during the 1950s and 1960s, motels were often located adjacent to a major road, where they were built on inexpensive land at the edge of towns or along stretches of highways. They are still useful in less populated areas of San José for driving travelers, but the more populated an area becomes the more hotels fill the need. Many of San José motels which remain in operation have joined national franchise chains, rebranding themselves as hotels, inns or lodges.
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Travelling and vacation in San José
City and municipality
Images, from top down, left to right: San José skyline, Chinatown, Central Avenue, Herdocia Building, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, the Juan Mora Fernández statue, the Garabito, inside view of the National Theatre of Costa Rica, the Costa Rican Center of Science and Culture.
Coat of arms
Motto: Ad Meliora(Latin)
"Towards better things"
San José and surrounding area
Location of San José within Costa Rica
Coordinates: / 9.933; -84.083 / 9.933; -84.083
Capital as of
16 May 1823
Johnny Araya Monge (PASJ
• City and municipality
44.62 km (17.23 sq mi)
2,044 km (789 sq mi)
1,172 m (3,845 ft)
• City and municipality
6,455.71/km (16,720.2/sq mi)
1,543,000 (March 2,013)
• Metro density
1,056.2/km (2,736/sq mi)
Central Standard Time (UTC-6)
0.756 – high
Stone sphere created by the Diquis culture in the courtyard of the National Museum of Costa Rica. The sphere is the icon of the country's cultural identity.
San José from the International Space Station
San José (literally meaning "Saint Joseph", pronounced [saŋ xoˈse]) is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. Located in the Central Valley, in the western province of the country, San José is the seat of national government, the focal point of political and economic activity, and the major transportation hub of this Central American nation. The population of San José Canton was 288,054 in 2011, and San José’s municipal land area measures 44.2 square kilometers (17.2 square miles), and an estimated 333,980 residents in 2015. The metropolitan area stretches beyond the canton limits and has an estimated population of over 2 million in 2017. The city is named in honor of Joseph of Nazareth.
Though few people live in the city center, it is the most important working area of the country, which brings in more than a million people daily. Despite its problems, according to studies in Latin America, San José is still one of the safest and least violent cities in the region. In 2006, the city was appointed Ibero-American Capital of Culture.
San José is the sixth-most important destination in Latin America, according to The MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index 2012. San José ranked 15th in the world’s fastest-growing destination cities by visitor cross-border spending.
San José, Costa Rica: History
See also: Timeline of San José, Costa Rica
The population grew during the eighteenth-century colonial planning, which was different from the traditional foundation plans of Spanish cities in the continent.
Founded in 1738 by order of Cabildo de León, its objective was to concentrate the scattered inhabitants of the Aserrí Valley. To do so, the construction of a chapel near the area known as La Boca del Monte was ordered; this was completed two years later. That year St. Joseph was chosen as parish patron, hence its current name. The chapel, which was very modest, was erected with help from the church of Cartago.
San José had water problems, and that was one of the main reasons that the population grew slowly. However, the water supply was assured by ditches, and the fertility of the surrounding fields along with the installation of the Tobacco Factory of Costa Rica, which would aid urban concentration.
As San José, unlike what happened to Cartago, was not founded with a formal act of foundation, it was not considered as a city or town, and consequently the city lacked a city government. It was not until the enactment of the Constitution of Cádiz in 1812 when San José had its first city government. In 1813, the Spanish parliament gave the town the title of city, which was then lost in 1814 when Ferdinand VII of Spain annulled the proceedings by the courts. The municipal government was restored in 1820 with the title of city population.
San José is one of the youngest capital cities in Latin America by year of conception, though it was not named capital until 1823. The first modern urban neighborhood carries the name of his founder, the French coffee entrepreneur Monsieur Amon, and was created in the late 19th century, in line with Belle Époque contemporary architecture. The Barrio Amon, as well as the National Theatre remain symbols of Costa Rican coffee golden age.
Today San José is a modern city with bustling commerce and brisk expressions of art and architecture. Spurred by the country's improved tourism industry, it is a significant destination and stopover for foreign visitors.
San José exerts a strong influence because of its proximity to other cities (Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago) and the country's demographic assemblage in the Central Valley.
San José, Costa Rica: Education
Costa Rica has developed high literacy rates and education levels. Most of the nation's people are literate, know the basics of arithmetic, and many have high-school level diplomas. The country as a whole has the best education levels of all the Central American nations, and one of the best in Latin America. This is especially true for this city, San José, which is the nation's educational hub, being home to many institutions; including public and around 51 private universities.
University of Santo Tomas, the first university of Costa Rica was established here in 1843. That institution maintained close ties with the Roman Catholic Church and was closed in 1888 by the progressive and anti-clerical government of President Bernardo Soto Alfaro as part of a campaign to modernize public education. The schools of law, agronomy, fine arts, and pharmacy continued to operate independently, but Costa Rica had no university proper until 1940, when those four schools were re-united to establish the modern University of Costa Rica (UCR), during the reformist administration of President Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia.
The city's public education system is composed of pre-schools, elementary and high schools (from grades 7 to 11), which are located in all of the city's districts and are under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Education. Nevertheless, private institutions do exist within the city. These educational institutions range from pre-schools to universities. Most tend to be bilingual, teaching subjects in either French or English and Spanish, among other languages, apart from just teaching a certain language.
San José, Costa Rica: Security
San José is one of Latin America's safest cities. As of 19 June 2012, both the city and nation reduced their crime indices considerably. Nationwide, crime was reduced from 12.5 to 9.5 incidents per 100,000 inhabitants.
In 2012, new police equipment was issued by the government, and the security budget was increased. President Laura Chinchilla's government has donated vehicles and other equipment to the police department on at least two occasions.
The city's greater metropolitan area (in Los Yoses, San Pedro) also serves as the headquarters of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
San José, Costa Rica: Districts
San José is divided into 11 districts (distritos): Catedral, Carmen, Hatillo, Hospital, Uruca, Mata Redonda, Merced, Pavas, San Francisco de Dos Ríos, San Sebastián, Zapote. The districts are divided up into a number of neighborhoods (local name: "barrios").
San José, Costa Rica: Transportation
San José has several internal transportation networks that connect the city districts and metropolitan area; as well as national transportation networks that connect the city to other parts of Costa Rica.
San José is currently undergoing modernization in transportation. The current mayor, Johnny Araya, has announced the establishment of an urban tramway system that will, in its first phase, cover the central core of the city going from west to east. This entire plan was announced and publicly presented on February 2011 by the city mayor and Costa Rican President, Laura Chinchilla.
On 27 September 2012, San José disclosed plans to install its first street signs, about 22,000 signs and plaques. It is estimated that the lack of proper street names for directions causes the loss of $720 million a year by the Inter-American Development Bank in 2008, due to undelivered, returned or re-sent mail.
San José, Costa Rica: Buses
Private bus companies connect different areas of the city with each other and the suburbs. Services to other parts of the country are provided by other private companies which have stations or stops spread all over the city centre. There are also bus services between Juan Santamaría International Airport and downtown San José.
San José, Costa Rica: Train
The Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles, or the state owned railway institute, is in charge of all of Costa Rica's railways. In 2004, this institution began work on the establishment of an inter-urban railway network. This network would connect Tibás, Heredia, San Antonio de Belén, Pavas, San Pedro de Montes de Oca, Sabanilla and Curridabat, among other locations.
There are current plans to expand this inter-urban railway system into Cartago, Alajuela, and the Juan Santamaría International Airport.
Trains run to Heredia from Estación Atlantico and San Antonio de Belen and from Estación Pacifico.
San José, Costa Rica: Taxis
San José public taxi services complement the urban transportation network. Taxis are characterized by their red color and belong to registered cooperatives. There are other taxi services which do not belong to the registered system, there are also taxis from the airport that are usually orange.
The car-sharing company Uber has entered Costa Rica, but the government has stated that is not allowed to operate because it is in violation of public transport laws. Despite repeated clashes with the government and strikes from taxi drivers due to unfair competition claims, the company has continued to operate in the country.
San José, Costa Rica: Airports
The city is serviced by Juan Santamaría International Airport (IATA: SJO, ICAO: MROC), 23 km (14 mi) west of downtown, in the city of Alajuela, which is one of the busiest airports in Central America. In 2010, Juan Santamaría International Airport received 4.3 million passengers, most of them from international flights. In 2011, the airport was named the 3rd Best Airport in Latin America/Caribbean from the Airport Service Quality Awards by Airports Council International
The airport is undergoing a modernization plan, which is expected to be brief. The previous remodeling done to the airport cost around $7 million.
Another important airport in San José is Tobías Bolaños International Airport (IATA: SYQ, ICAO: MRPV). It is located 8 km (5 mi) north-east of the city proper and 11 km (7 mi) south-east of Juan Santamaría International Airport.
San José, Costa Rica: Sports
The city's major football club is Deportivo Saprissa, who won a record 33 league titles. They play their home games at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá, which is located in Tibas. Another top-level club, Universidad, play at the Estadio Ecológio.
San José, Costa Rica: Cuisine
Main article: Costa Rican cuisine
Costa Rican cuisine (comida típica) is generally not spicy. Throughout San José, the most popular food is the national dish of gallo pinto, which is a mixture of fried rice and black beans. Gallo pinto is usually served for breakfast with tortillas and natilla, a thin sour cream. Costa Rican restaurants serving traditional food at an affordable price are called sodas and usually offer casados for lunch and dinner. A casado (which means "married" in Spanish) consists of rice, beans, and meat, and normally comes with cabbage-and-tomato salad, fried plantains, and/or tortillas. San José Central Market, in downtown San José, has numerous stalls and sodas.
San José, Costa Rica: Climate
San José has a tropical wet and dry climate (Köppen climate classification Aw). Precipitation varies widely between the driest month (6.3 mm (0.25 in)) and the wettest month (355.1 mm (13.98 in)), while average temperatures vary little. The hottest month is April with an average temperature of 23.7 °C (74.7 °F), while the coolest month is October with an average temperature of 21.8 °C (71.2 °F).
Climate data for San José, Costa Rica (Juan Santamaría International Airport)
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm)
Average relative humidity (%)
Mean monthly sunshine hours
Source #1: Deutscher Wetterdienst
Source #2: NOAA (sun 1961–1990)
San José, Costa Rica: Major landmarks
San José skyline with mountains in the background
Plaza de la Cultura
National Museum of Costa Rica
San José, Costa Rica: Theaters and auditoriums
San José has many beautiful theaters, many with European-inspired architecture. These buildings serve as the city's main tourist attractions, not only because of the architectural beauty, but because of the numerous cultural, musical, and artistic presentations and activities, which include traditional and modern Costa Rican and San Josefinan culture.
The most well-known are:
The National Theater of Costa Rica (Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica).
The Melico Salazar Theater (Teatro Popular Melico Salazar).
The National Auditorium of The Children's Museum of Costa Rica (Museo de los Niños).
The National Theater of Costa Rica (considered the finest historic building in the capital and known for its exquisite interior which includes its lavish Italian furnishings) and the Melico Salazar Theater present drama, dance performances and concerts throughout the year. Nevertheless, other 'smaller' theaters can be found throughout the city and provide a large array of entertainment.
Teatro Variedades is San José's oldest theater.
San José, Costa Rica: Museums
See also: List of museums in Costa Rica
San José is also host to various museums. These museums allow visitors to view Costa Rican history, scientific discoveries, pre-Columbian era culture and art, as well as modern Costa Rican art. The city is also host to the nation's museum of gold and museum of jade.
Some of the city's main museums are:
The Children's Museum (Museo de los Niños)
The National Museum of Costa Rica (Museo Nacional de Costa Rica)
The Museum of Pre-Columbian Gold (Museo de Oro Precolombino)
The Museum of Costa Rican Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo)
The Museum of Jade (Museo del Jade Marco Fidel Tristán Castro)
San José, Costa Rica: Parks, plazas, and zoos
San José is home to many parks and squares (plazas in Spanish); where one can find gazebos, open green areas, recreational areas, lakes, fountains, statues and sculptures by Costa Rican artists and many different bird, tree and plant species.
San José, Costa Rica: Parks and zoos
The city's primary parks include:
The National Park (Parque Nacional)
Morazán Park (Parque Morazán) - with Neoclassical Temple of Music (Templo de la Música) pavilion
La Sabana Metropolitan Park (Parque Metropolitano La Sabana) - largest park and "the lungs of San José," in Mata Redonda District (west city)
Peace Park (Parque de la Paz)
Okayama Park (Parque Okayama) - Japanese style garden and architectural elements, ornamental ponds, and garden sculptures
Simón Bolívar Zoo - the city's only zoo, with a large variety of native Costa Rican and exotic animals and plant species
San José, Costa Rica: Plazas
Plazas, or town squares, are very prominent across San José's districts.
Culture Square - La Plaza de La Cultura (one example)
San José, Costa Rica: International relations
See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Costa Rica
San José, Costa Rica: Twin towns – sister cities
San José is twinned with:
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Miami-Dade County, Florida (United States)
McAllen, Texas, (United States)
San Jose, California (United States)
Kfar Saba, Israel
Mexico City, Mexico
Ahuachapán, El Salvador
Guatemala City, Guatemala
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
San José, Costa Rica: Notable people
This is an alphabetical list of notable people who were born in or have lived in San José.
Manuel Aguilar Chacón, former head of state of Costa Rica
Randall Arauz, environmentalist
Randall Azofeifa, football player for Herediano
Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia, former president of Costa Rica
Daniel Cambronero, goalkeeper
Joel Campbell, football player for Arsenal F.C.
Laura Chinchilla, former president of Costa Rica
Jens Hoffmann, writer and art curator
Eunice Odio, writer
Virginia Pérez-Ratton, fine artist
Daniel Zovatto, American actor
San José, Costa Rica: References
"Demographia World Urban Areas PDF (March 2013)". Instituto Nacional de Censos de Costa Rica. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
"Índice de Desarrollo Humano Cantonal 2013" (PDF) (in Spanish). 25 June 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
Conrad, Peter (23 November 2012). "Interest activities to do in San Jose, Costa Rica". TravelExcellence.com.
"Costa Rica still one of the safest places in Latin America". The Costa Rica News. 17 June 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
"San Jose Costa Rica is the sixth most important destination in Latin America". The Costa Rica News. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
History of San José, Costa Rica, by Spanish Abroad, Inc.
"San José, city, Costa Rica".
In San José, Costa Rica, effective metropolitan planning and selective infrastructure investment can improve the quality of life for the poor, by Rosendo Pujol, researcher of ProDUS on the World Bank Urban Research Symposium in Brasilia, Brasil, 4–6 April 2005
"Universidades de San José (Privadas y Públicas)". Altillo.com. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
"CHINA DONA 200 PATRULLAS CON GARANTÍA DE REPUESTOS". Prensalibre.cr. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
Cota, Isabella. "San Jose, Costa Rica to install its first street signs". Yahoo News. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
Horario de Tren, www.horariodetren.com. "Urban Train in Costa Rica". Horariodetren.com. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
"ASQ Award for Best Airport in Latin America - Caribbean" Airports Council International. 14 February 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2012
"Costa Rica: Cuisine". Globalgourmet.com. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
"CHAPTER 7: Introduction to the Atmosphere". PhysicalGeography.net. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
"The Climate of Tropical Regions". The British Geographer. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
"Klimatafel von San José (Int. Flugh.) / Costa Rica" (PDF). Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
"Juan Santamaria Climate Normals 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
Baker, C.P. (2005). Costa Rica. Dorling Kindersley Eye Witness Travel Guides. p. 60.
"Sister Cities, Public Relations". Guadalajara municipal government. Archived from the original on 2 March 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
San José, Costa Rica: Bibliography
See also: Bibliography of the history of San José, Costa Rica
San José, Costa Rica: External links
Wikimedia Commons has media related to San José, Costa Rica.
San José, Costa Rica travel guide from Wikivoyage
Municipalidad de San José: office of the Mayor of San José
"San José de Costa Rica". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.
"San José. The capital of Costa Rica". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.