San Jose, Costa Rica
Attractions in San Jose, Costa Rica: What to do and where to go
San Jose is located in the Valle Central (Central Valley), offering a wide variety of cultural and natural attractions within the city and throughout the surrounding areas. Here, you can experience diverse recreational activities like hiking, horseback rides, biking, museums, historic sites, wildlife exploration, canopy tours, path tours, art galleries, regional cuisine, train rides along the Pacific Coast, and much more.
National Parks, Volcanoes and Nature Reserves.
Turrialba Volcano National Park and Irazu Volcano National Park share the same base and are often identified as twin volcanoes. Turriable volcano stands at about 10,900 feet above sea level, with three well defined craters in addition to several craters disfigured by activity, surrounded by paths and natural lookout points. Irazu Volcano National Park holds the highest and most active volcano in Costa Rica, at over 11,200 feet above sea level. Here, you'll find diverse services, like a park ranger station, trails, restrooms, a cafe, parking and several natural lookouts.
Braulio Carrillo National Park is located in the northeastern part of Valle Central, on the Cordillera Central mountain range, right between the massive Poas and Irazu volcanoes. This park covers over 108,000 acres, making it one of the largest nature reserves in Costa Rica. It has an impressive landscape formed by towering volcanic mountains covered in dense forests and countless rivers that wind along deep canyons. Visitor services include an information desk, a park ranger station, trails, drinking water and natural lookout points.
Poas is an active volcano that stands nearly 9,000 feet above sea level, with two craters at its peak and a rain-formed lagoon. Today, it emits gases and water vapor from the fumaroles found within one of the craters. It has various visitor services, along with a cafe, a souvenir shop and lookouts.
Trail and Canopy Adventures
There are various companies in the area offering hikes along natural trails as well as exciting canopy tours. Just 50 minutes outside of San Jose, you'll find the Caribbean Rainforest Aerial Tram. Set on a private 1,170-acre reserve, here you can explore the different levels of the rainforest on an incredible aerial tram ride, going all the way up to the canopy. This reserve has many trails for walking and experiencing the heart of the rainforest, filled with diverse plant and animal species.
Los Novios Waterfall has inspired a series of legends about the origins of its name, meaning "The Bride and Groom". It comes out of the skirts of Cerro Picacho hill, and can be seen from the highway that runs along Ujarras Valley, and from the Costa Rican Tourism Institute. Set in an untouched mountain area, you'll find Los Jualianes, a waterfall nearly 300 feet tall. Near the village of San Gerardo de Dota is the San Gerardo Waterfall, offering an adventure tour of more than two hours of hiking through the forest to discover diverse plants and wildlife, until you reach the 131-foot waterfall.
Near San Jose, there are several rivers where you can experience exciting rafting tours, including Pacuare River and Reventazon River. Pacuare River begins in the Talamanca mountain range and offers the ideal conditions for a fun rafting adventure. It's filled with strong and light rapids, as well as unique natural landscapes.
The best option for beginners is the Reventazon. Nearly 100 miles long, this river is perfect for rafting, fishing and canoeing. To explore these rivers, the best option is to hire the services of a tour company that includes transportation and equipment rental, as well as qualified staff to guide you along the way.
Two beautiful areas worth visiting are Turrialba and Valle de los Santos. These two rural towns feature incredible scenery and a look back at old Costa Rica, featuring homes made of "bahareque" (construction made by weaving regional cane or bamboo), along with immense coffee plantations, sugar mills and dairy farms.
Valle de Orosi (also known as Valle del Reventazon) is a valley that features an exciting and stunning scenic tour of several lookout points, allowing you to experience two different areas of the valley. Here, you can also visit the towns of Orosi and Ujarras, two of the first Spanish settlements during the Conquista. In these towns, you can explore the renowned ruins of Ujarras and the church of Orosi. This valley also allows you to experience other activities, like fishing for trout and prawns, boat tours, and bathing in hot springs.
The museums in Costa Rica feature a rich and diverse cultural heritage, displaying invaluable historic and cultural collections from the country's past and present. Here, you can see artifacts made from gold, jade, ceramics and pre-Columbian stone, as well as colonial religious art, contemporary art and natural history. The best cultural and historical museums in San Jose include: Museo Nacional (National Museum), Museo de Arte y Diseno Contemporaneo (Museum of Art and Contemporary Design), Museo del Nino (Children's Museum), Museo de Arte Costarricense (Museum of Costa Rican Art), Museo del Oro (Gold Museum), Museo de Cultura Popular (Popular Culture Museum), Juan Santamaria Museum, Orosi Museum, Museo Entomologico (Entomology Museum) and Museo de Jade (Jade Museum).
Train Ride along the Pacific Coast
From San Jose, you can take a fascinating train tour along the Pacific, known as the "Tico Train Tour". It leaves every Saturday and Sunday at 6:00 a.m., arriving at Puerto Caldera en Limon at about 10:00 a.m. On this colorful tour, you'll experience stunning landscapes while trying tempting cuisine sold on the train.
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