City Guides

Guide to San Jose, Costa Rica

Delphine Zebouloun
January 16, 2024

Art, local music, nightlife, delicious food. This city has it all.

Costa Rica is one of the hottest travel destinations today.

But its capital, San Jose, can be intimidating to most travelers. The city inhabits 2.2 million people - about 50% of the entire country’s population. As soon as you step foot in San Jose, the organized chaos begins.

Don’t be alarmed, though. San Jose is one of the safest metropolitan Latin American cities. 

The city is separated by various neighborhoods - some worth visiting and others not so much. The fastest and easiest way to get around the city is by bus or Uber. 

Pro tip: Make sure you sit in the front with your driver. Uber is at a constant battle with the Taxi industry, and it remains illegal. However, it is very safe and insanely cheap.

Here are the neighborhoods that make the cut:

San Pedro

San Pedro is home to multiple universities including the biggest, the University of Costa Rica, where the hip, youthful vibes are evident. Bring your camera and take a walk through the campus where the streets are lined with graffiti and student street art.

Where there are students, there are adorable cafes with great food. Stop by La Pataconeria for some local plantain goodness. Or enjoy an ice cold coconut water with your veggie burger at Luv Burger

The nightlife in San Pedro is worth checking out. The locals head straight for La California on the weekends, a popular street corner loaded with bars, food, and good live music. 

Barrio Amon 

Barrio Amon is in the heart of San Jose, and a must-stroll if you enjoy architecture. The historic neighborhood is home to many coffee grower mansions from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Many of these buildings have now been turned into, you guessed it, cafes! One of my favorites is Cafe Miel. The menu alone is worth the plane ticket to Costa Rica. 

Queue the drooling. 

Plaza De La Cultura

Downtown San Jose never sleeps. Day or night, this part of town is always busy. The best part? No cars! 

You can walk the long stretch and do your souvenir shopping, grab a bite to eat, and visit several museums and historical buildings. 

One of the most beautiful buildings which also happens to be the cheapest to visit is the Teatro Nacional. For only $10 you can take an hourly tour and experience 19th century life in Spain. If you’re really lucky, you can catch a play. 

If you want a little green escape without leaving the city, check out beautiful La Sabana Metropolitan Park. The park is home to many athletic buildings including El Estadio Nacional. Spend an afternoon playing around on one of the many soccer fields, basketball courts, skating rinks, or even at the shooting range. 

Also located on the grounds of La Sabana is the Costa Rican Art Museum.


San Jose is crowded but not as crowded as the outskirt town of Tibas when there is a soccer match going on. Make your way to Ricardo Saprissa Stadium to see the purple Costa Rican favorites take on any of their rivals. Or if there’s a match at Estadio Nacional, go check out how the country supports their national side. 

This is one cultural experience you cannot miss!

San Jose may look tough on the outside like any big city, but its welcoming residents and traveler-friendly layout will have you feeling ready to conquer all the sights and activities!


Interested in visiting Costa Rica? Join us in Manuel Antonio, in the rainforest, or on our 6 day yoga retreat in the jungle.

Delphine Zebouloun
Delphine is trip leader and travel writer for Under30Experiences. A France native turned California girl, Delphine enjoys frolicking in nature, surfing, and chocolate croissants. Five years ago, she traveled to Costa Rica and fell in love with the country. She has lived there ever since, continually learning, exploring, and giving back to her new home.


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