San Jose, Costa Rica is one of those cities where most travelers want to get out of just as quickly as they arrived. When you think of Costa Rica, images such as monkeys swinging off of lush vegetation and rustic deserted beaches with perfect swells for surfing may come to mind. Unless you have a direct flight to the Pacific coast into Liberia Internation Airport, wanderlust travelers must first make their way through the hectic capital of Costa Rica.
San Jose isn’t on my top major city list, but there are some diamonds in the rough. First of all, if you are into cosmetic surgery abroad, this is a known destination for plastic surgery complete with many options for recovery in secluded havens surrounded by nature.
Men who are into the nightlife scene and the vast variety of legal prostitutes find themselves in heaven at The Del Rey Hotel and Casino; it’s one of the largest brothels in Central America. Beautiful women from South and Central America travel to work at this popular pickup spot. I ventured out undercover a few years back as a working girl in The Del Rey Hotel. I got the inside scoop from the men who were in search of their evening delight and interviewed working girls on their view of the industry.
You can find my write up at https://www.amazon.ca/San-Jose-Nights-Emily-Turner-ebook/dp/B006ZOPA8W
If you have some extra time during a layover or a few days stuck in the city, you can easily squeeze in some hiking and nature at Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo. It is just thirty minutes outside of the city. It is open from 8-4 daily with a $10 entrance fee.
If you don’t have a rental there are easy options for a quick day trip. Public Bus: Any bus going to Guapiles, Siquirres, or Puerto Viejo will pass the Zurqui Ranger Station where travelers can pay their entrance fee and proceed to the hiking trails. Buses depart from the Gran Caribe Terminal at Calle Central and Avenidas 15/17 in San Jose. At the end of the day, just flag down a bus for the return journey. Terminal del Caribe Tel. 2222-0610
Taxi: Travelers can make arrangements with a taxi driver for round trip transportation to the park for around $50-$60 from San Jose.
Accommodations are easy to find, but I have two hidden great spots. If you have an early flight or connection and just need a place to crash near the airport, I stayed at a hostel which was walking distance to the airport. It had hot water and was safe. The owner is super cool and picked us up. http://www.hotelelcacique.com
If you want to stay in the downtown area of San Jose, I love this next spot. The neighborhood leaves something to be desired, but the lodging itself is great for the price. Hotel Aranjuez. http://www.hotelaranjuez.com It is what I would call a small boutique hotel/ bed and breakfast. You have the option of a shared bathroom for a lower price or rooms with a private bath. A single room with a shared bath is only $32 a person, and it comes with a killer buffet breakfast, a safe in the room, and computer access with wifi.
The shared bathrooms are super clean, and I never have problems when I need to use them. The gastronomic breakfast entices me to ensure I have a layover in San Jose. Click on this link for pictures. http://www.hotelaranjuez.com/DesayunoBufetGaleria
One of the great things about traveling through Costa Rica is the fact that the public transportation system is on point. The buses travel frequently and are reasonably priced. If you want to take the off beaten path and throw caution to the wind with a rental vehicle, I strongly recommend only considering an SUV. The roads can surprise you. One moment you are cruising down paved highway bliss, and the next moment you are dodging oncoming trucks, cattle, and flying over potholes through the dusty roads.
I’ve experience hell when first handily dealing with the rental car companies down in Costa Rica. The are beyond sketchy. We tried renting a car in the Nicoya from Hertz and the rate was over $90 for the day and it didn’t include insurance…which you totally need down there. We tried adding full coverage and they said they didn’t offer it there. I once rented a car from a company and paid for full insurance. I was glad I did, because I got in a costly accident. The owner of the rental company which was a sub owner of a major company (it’s tricky) tried hustling me. He had my bank account frozen and was trying to charge me for a whole month’s rental for the SUV; the time it would take to repair it he said. I was about to give up rentals in Costa Rica all together and stick with riding horses until I found the best rental car proprietor ever! I have been renting from Peter for over 7 years. His vehicles are maintained to the best care, and he is an honest and loyal expat. He will meet you in the San Jose area for your pick up and even drop you off at the airport. His prices are the best in the country; believe me I’ve shopped around, and it’s no bull shit. They come with full insurance, unlimited miles, and can handle the rough terrain. We’ve even had minor issues with scratches, or a random run in with a palm tree and he didn’t overcharge us for repairs, he is hands down the best rental company. If he wasn’t renting anymore, I would just take the bus. His prices vary according to how long you rent and what season, but you can call or email him through his website. http://www.amigos4x4suvrental.com
If you are stuck at the airport or near the airport, there is a cafe with free Wifi. A quick $7 taxi ride about five minutes away will take you to Hooters. I killed some time there by myself watching sports while munching on snacks and tossing downs a few beers to kill some time.
There is also a shopping plaza with restaurants and a movie theater only a six minute drive from the airport. http://www.cinemarkca.com/es/citymall-alajuela/portada/
If you have a few days in the capital of Costa Rica by choice, or because someone stole your passport; lock those up in your safe travelers, there are a few other options to spend your time enjoying the culture of the city.
- The Jade Museum
- The Zoo
- Explore local markets for great food and authentic items
- Check out the PreColumbian Gold Museum
- Visit Teatro National
While the beach or the mountains may be your main destination, San Jose Costa Rica doesn’t have to be a buzz kill. Enjoy the journey! Pura Vida