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  • Writer's pictureGretchen Rhoades

San Jose : Where to stay, what to do, and where to eat.

Updated: Feb 5, 2018

Due to flight schedules, you may end up spending a night in San Jose on your way to or from the Osa.  Or maybe you’re just curious about the capital city and would like to check it out.  Either way, here are some of our suggestions on where to stay, what to do, and where to eat.


An important piece of information to keep in mind is that the main international airport is in Alajuela (not San Jose).  Alajuela is about 20-25 minutes from the center of San Jose.  If you don’t have much time, it’s best to find a place to stay nearby.  Alajuela has a large variety of lodging within 5km of the airport.  There’s everything from Marriott and Hampton Inn to small locally run B&B’s.  Most places offer free shuttles to and from the airport.  If you’re interested in the smaller locally run option, Hotel Los Volcanes ( is located in the heart of downtown Alajuela.  It offers a simple clean room with breakfast and airport shuttle.  For luxury, the Xandari Resort and Spa ( is a top of the line boutique hotel perched on the hillside of Alajuela.

If you have more time, and want to venture into the city of San Jose, try Aronjuez (  This hostel is a located in a fun part of the city near the university.  There are plenty of bars, restaurants, and nightlife within walking distance.  Rooms are either hostel style with shared bathroom or private.  Their complementary breakfast is not to be missed.  For a more upscale experience, check out Hotel Grano de Oro (  The restaurant attached to this hotel is one of the best in the city.


If you find yourself with more than a quick overnight layover in San Jose, you can either check out a local coffee tour, adventure to a nearby volcano, or wander the streets of downtown San Jose.  Cafe Brit is one of the most popular coffee tours.  Transportation to and from your hotel, as well as lunch is included.  Finca Rosa Blanco is a smaller coffee farm that also gives daily tours.  You may have to sort out your own transportation and meals, but the tour itself is more intimate and less commercial.  A half day trip to the Poas Volcano is great way to explore the outskirts of the central valley.  You can either do it on your own or join an organized tour.  Either way, you want to get an early start.  The Volcano is usually socked in with clouds by 9 or 10am.  If you opt for wandering the city, make sure to check out the central market where can find local artisans along with fruit, veggie, and meat vendors.  There is also a Pre-Columbian Gold Museum near the central park that is worth checking out.


San Jose has a plethora of restaurants featuring different cuisines from around the world.  Tin Jo serves great Asian food, Taj Majal has the best Indian food around, and Belle Italia’s fresh pasta is scrumptious.  If you’d rather stick to authentic Costa Rican dishes, try Soda La Tapia in downtown San Jose, or La Casona de Doña Laly in the suburb of Escazu.  Tiquicia is another great spot for Tico cuisine.  It is located on the hillside in Escazu with an amazing view of the city.  If you’re in Alajuela, and would rather not spend the taxi fare into the city, Jalapeños Central or C-Vichito are great options.

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