Your bucket list destinations for 2023
15th December 2022
Costa Rica’s positioning between the North and South American continents has allowed for the migration of thousands of species, making it one of the most verdant and biologically diverse countries on the planet. The highlights of this wonderful nation, however, extend far beyond the abundant flora and fauna. The nation’s capital, San Jose, is a vibrant and modern city. Its sprawling streets are home to over 2 million people, a third of Costa Rica’s population.
Many visitors to San Jose do not spend a great deal of time there, opting to use it as an overnight pit stop between landing and heading out to explore the tropical corners of the country. Here lies a missed opportunity to experience the rich culture and wonderful creativity of the Costa Rican people, as well as their abundant hospitality. For those wanting to get the most out of San Jose, here is our local guide to its charms and highlights…
Artistic output is one of the truest reflections of a city’s culture, and San Jose is no exception. The capital is home to a thriving artistic scene and its vibrant creativity is proudly displayed. As well as established galleries, the city boasts many smaller independent art venues with exhibitions from international and local artists.
Talentum is an expansive gallery that predominantly displays modern and contemporary art from Costa Rican and Latin American artists. This charming venue has indoor and outdoor areas, and a lovely cafe with a rustic aesthetic.
On the north-west side of the city are the galleries of Teor and Etica. Teor is a small, non-profit gallery that displays the works of artists based within the city. Ética, on the other hand, hosts an eclectic mix of works belonging to curator Virginia Pérez-Ratton.
An interesting example of creativity within the city can be found in the Parque Morazan. Every Thursday, jugglers and street performers will gather to perform among the public. If you have a few hours spare, the park is a wonderful picnic spot with no shortage of entertainment.
Evidence of San Jose’s creativity is also found in its illustrious historical legacy. The city’s Museo del Oro has one of the best surviving collections of pre-Columbian gold work in the world. It offers visitors the opportunity to examine rare and exquisite jewellery that tells the story of Costa’s Rica’s ancient history.
The ancient inhabitants of central America were not only master goldsmiths, but also able and talented lapidarists. The Museo del Jade boasts the largest collection of pre-Columbian jade work in the world, with some pieces dating back to around 500BC.
Food and Drink
Costa Rica's proximity to both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, as well as its huge variety of organic produce, means that it’s home to some of the most delicious cuisine in Latin America. San Jose is the gastronomic hub of the nation, and visitors are certain to fall in love with the variety of flavours on offer here.
An ideal introduction to the flavours of San Jose is Chifrijos, a dish that originates within the city. This is a simple, layered dish combining the best produce found in the region. It consists of rice, black beans, diced tomato, onion and cilantro, topped with fried pork rind and served with tortilla chips. This dish, perhaps more than any other, represents the city of San Jose. It is served, in various forms, by street vendors, high end restaurants, and in the living rooms of family homes.
The best way to taste the fresh produce of the city is to immerse yourself in the street food scene. Kiosks dotted around the city sell delicious and healthy alternatives to your conventional fast-food. A particular highlight are Naturales or Refresco stalls that will make smoothies and juices from locally sourced fruits. Popular flavours include mango, banana and pineapple, but if you're feeling adventurous why not try 'Horcharta'; a hearty and warming drink made from milk, rice and cinnamon.
Another popular street-food is chocolate as you’ve never seen it before! Cacao grows readily across Central America, but there is more to this fruit than its iconic seeds. Once ripe, turning a vibrant yellow colour, the fruits are cut open and served in halves. The flesh around the seeds is suprisingly delicious, with a fragrant and sweet flavour!
Make it happen
San Jose, although often overlooked, is a vibrant and diverse capital city. Stunning gold, priceless art, and wonderful flavours will have you reluctant to leave one of the finest cities in Central America. If you want to make your San Jose dreams into reality, send an enquiry to our local experts or check out our destination pages for more information.