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San José Vacation Packages

Offering dozens of museums, parks, theaters, and all-inclusive resorts, San José is a place where history and tradition mesh with the new and trendy.

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Dive Into San José

The houses and buildings built from older European inspiration house modern attractions like restaurants, theaters and museums. In fact, Costa Rica’s claim to fame, the National Theater, is a prime example of this city’s unique mixed culture. Not that you have to love the theater to enjoy San José. Numerous one-day tours will take you out around San José and its surrounding areas for a variety of outdoor adventures and activities. For a mix of the old and new, head to San José.

San José Overview

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    Mapping Out Costa Rica

    Eco-friendly explorers enjoy the Arenal Volcano/Monteverde area for its hiking tours, thermally heated rivers and amazing forest views. On the other hand, beach lovers are at home in the Guanacaste Beach region, which offers gorgeous turquoise water and powdery white sand for an experience in paradise. The Gulf of Nicoya region is made up of fun-loving beach towns with surfers and adventure seekers breaking waves, exploring the forest and partying on the beach. San José, the capital city of Costa Rica, is home to the country's cultural dedications, offering authentic shops and the coolest of the country's youth.

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    Mirador Ram Luna

    If you need the best view of the city's twinkling lights, you've got to spend an evening at the Mirador Ram Luna restaurant. More than just a place to have dinner, this restaurant is the spot for an unforgettable date night. Just remember to get reservations because it's a popular place.

     

    Its location high up in the mountains lets you grab a great view of the city. Late in the evening, there's a cultural show that you can watch while enjoying a Costa Rican or international meal. Make sure to stick around after the performance for the fireworks show you can enjoy from the terrace.

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    All That Glitters Really is Gold

    The National Theater is the crown jewel of San José and is a must see for a taste of Costa Rican history. It opened in 1897, after seven years of construction, and is on the cultural plaza of the city.

     

    Ticket prices are reasonable, so you can easily pay to see a play, ballet or orchestra performance to experience the monument in its full glory, but if you’re on a budget, many go just to admire the building's architecture. The ornate building features a marble lobby, gold and bronze trims and a huge, open theater in classic 19th century style.

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    Roller Derby in San José

    Sports fans, this is for you. Except this game’s a little cheekier. Tattoos, roller skates and lots and lots of glitter make up the three roller derby teams in Costa Rica right now. Two of the teams, Panties Dinamita (Dynamite Panties) and Gatas Callejeras (Alley Cats) represent San José. These teams are the first of their kind in Costa Rica and are spurring up talk about the exciting and rough sport. Fun and quirky things like this are what make San José such an interesting city. Fill up on the culture while you're there!

  • Shop Local

    There’s plenty for shopaholics to sink their teeth into in San José. It's the largest and most populated city in the whole country, so make sure you get your fill of local culture!

     

    Start with Tienda Eñe (that’s pronounced EN-yeh. You’re welcome.) It’s a little boutique off 7th Avenue and 13th Street that sells locally designed clothing and other goods. The trendy, red neon “Ñ” in the window will let you know you’ve made it to the right place.

     

    If you make your way to 7th Street, you’ll find Kiosko SJO, another boutique that sells local art, furniture and clothing. If you really want to shop for authenticity, browse the artisan market for handmade crafts and art pieces to take back home with you. 

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    Day Trips to Alajuela and Poas Volcano

    If you’re craving an adventure out into nature, a day trip to the Costa Rican province Alajuela is right for you. The best part about it is that you'll only have to head just a tiny bit north of city life in San José to make it out to the countryside. 

     

    Alajuela is home to the massive and active Poas Volcano, where visitors can journey up to view the craters for an exciting experience. If you're lucky enough to see it in action, you'll be amazed at its explosions reaching up to 800 feet in the air. There are also butterfly garden tours, strawberry plantations to visit and coffee fields to gaze at. It's the perfect day away from San José!

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    San José City Quick Facts

    Language: Spanish

     

    Currency: The Colon, U.S. dollars and major credit cards are widely accepted.

     

    Electricity: The outlets are 110 V, with standard U.S. two-prong plugs.

     

    Passport/Immigration: All U.S. citizens must have a valid passport when traveling to and from San José. 

     

    Drinking Water: The water is potable, but bottled water is recommended in areas surrounding the coast.

     

    Time Zone: Central Standard Time (UTC/GMT - 6 hours)

     

    Peak Season: Dry Season, December - May

Things to Do in San José

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    Arenal Volcano & Tabacon Hot Springs

    In the province of Alajuela, in Northwestern Costa Rica, you will find the conically-shaped volcano, Arenal. You will be able to observe how the vegetation gradually changes and find many different and colorful species of plants along the way. The rainforests of the country are home to many different species of mammals, reptiles, birds and invertebrates; not to mention the broad variety of plant life and fungi that are characteristic of this ecosystem. A wonderful lunch awaits in a quaint, nearby town, where you will be able to feel the charm and peacefulness of this part of the country. La Fortuna, a small and attractive town is located in the general vicinity of San Carlos. After this amazing experience, you will arrive at the hot springs, which are surrounded by impressive, well-manicured tropical gardens that crisscross the entire property. There, you will able to enjoy the striking view of Arenal Volcano and relax for the rest of the afternoon. On a clear day it is possible to see the volcano from the comfort of the spa. Dinner will be served later on, which will give you the opportunity to enjoy a delicious meal while admiring the gases that constantly come out from the volcanic crater. With newly recharged energies, you will start the return trip to your hotel feeling relaxed and looking forward to coming back to this magical spot.

     

    Included:

    • Transportation to and from the hotel
    • Bilingual guide
    • Entrance fees
    • Lunch & dinner

     

    Don't Forget to Bring:

    • Beach towel
    • Sunblock
    • Sunglasses
    • Camera (waterproof if you've got one!)
    • Comfortable non-slip shoes
    • Binoculars
    • Swimsuit
    • Light jacket

     

    Hours: Daily, with pick up times between 7:30AM and 8:20AM. The tour lasts about 14 hours.

     

    Additional Information: This tour requires a minimum of 2 adults to operate. Special rate available for children 3-10 and infants 0-2 years of age can go free of charge.

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    Catamaran & Tortuga Island

    Sail over blue waters, feel the white sand under your feet, see the beautiful green mountains, taste superb cuisine and treat yourself to being pampered by the most attentive, personalized service. Manta Raya, the catamaran that will take you to this paradisiacal destination, will pass by seven islands in the Gulf of Nicoya. Its port of call is the enchantingly beautiful, palm-studded Tortuga Island, where you can walk the pristine white sand beach, swim in the turquoise waters and survey the marine environment while the crew prepares a sumptuous feast for lunch, which has been featured in Gourmet Magazine. Enjoy your meal in the shade of umbrellas, with tables covered in white linens. 

     

    Included:

    • Transportation to and from the hotel
    • Bilingual guide
    • Cruise ride
    • Breakfast & lunch

     

    Don't forget to bring:

    • Casual clothes
    • Bathing suit or shorts
    • Sunscreen lotion
    • Camera
    • Sunglasses
    • Hat
    • Sandals
    • Towel

     

    Hours: Daily, with pick up times between 6:00AM and 6:45AM.
    The tour lasts about 13 hours.

     

    Additional Information: This tour requires a minimum of 2 adults to operate. Children's rate available for children ages 1-6 years sharing the service with adults. Infants 0 years of age are free of charge. Older than indicated child pay as adults. High heeled or hard soled shoes are not permitted aboard the yacht. You may want to bring cash for alcoholic beverages, optional tours, souvenirs or tips (voluntary).

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    Classic Coffee Britt Tour PM only

    Costa Rica produces some of the best coffees in the world, and this is a tour where the whole family can learn about how this came to happen. Coffee lovers, young and old, as well as children of all ages will enjoy this tour through the history of Costa Rica and one of its most important exports. Coffee production in Costa Rica dates as far back as 1779 and was strongly promoted by the government in the 19th century. You will be received with a delicious coffee drink and have the opportunity to visit a working coffee plantation and the roaster to see how coffee is processed to make it available to you. You will also attend a coffee cupping demonstration, and enjoy a delicious lunch. Since 1991, this award-winning "stage play on a coffee farm" has educated and entertained more than half a million visitors on a colorful, multimedia journey through the world of coffee production. You will be extremely satisfied with all the information shared by your professional tour guides, who are courteous coffee experts trained in world-class customer service, and who, as you will be able to tell, work very hard to exceed your expectations.

     

    Included:

    • Transportation to and from the hotel
    • Bilingual guide
    • Entrance fees
    • Show with lunch

     

    Don't Forget to Bring:

    • Sunblock
    • Insect repellent
    • Camera

     

    Hours: Daily, with pick up times between 1:30PM and 2:45PM. The tour lasts about 4 hours.

     

    Additional Information:
    This tour requires a minimum of 2 adults to operate. Children's rate available for children ages 6-11 years sharing the service with adults. Infants 0-5 years of age are free of charge. Older than indicated child pay as adults.

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    Irazu Volcano & Sarapiqui River

    Throughout this tour, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the highlights of Costa Rica in one full day. Visit the Ruins of Cartago and learn about the history of this colonial city, which was once the capital city of Costa Rica. From there you will be able to travel to see Irazu Volcano, Costa Rica's highest volcano and one of the highest peaks in the country. The view and the scenery are breathtaking; on a clear day, you can even see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The tour will also take you to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, an area that's covered in beautiful tropical forests, where you will board a boat to discover the natural wealth of the country as you glide along the river. At the end of this river adventure you will arrive at a private farm to enjoy a home-style lunch, hiking and the opportunity to visit a butterfly garden. On the return trip to your hotel, you will be able to admire the exuberant Braulio Carrillo National Park as you pass right through it. 

     

    Included:

    • Transportation to and from the hotel
    • Bilingual guide
    • Entrance fees
    • Boat ride
    • Breakfast & lunch

     

    Don't Forget to Bring:

    • Hiking shoes
    • Raincoat
    • Light jacket
    • Towel
    • Insect repellent
    • Binoculars
    • Camera
    • Change of clothes

     

    Hours: Daily, with pick up times between 6:10AM and 6:45AM. The tour lasts about 12 hours.

     

    Additional Information: This tour requires a minimum of 2 adults to operate. Children's rate available for children ages 4-10 years. Infants 0-3 years of age are free of charge. Older than indicated child pay as adults.

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    San José City Tour - PM Only

    San José is a beautiful city full of contrasts. Although small in extension, it offers plenty of museums, parks and interesting areas where you can witness some of the legacy left by early 20th century architecture. During this visit to the country's capital city, you will be able to observe the lifestyle of its people, important commercial and residential areas downtown San José and Rohrmoser, the beautiful La Sabana Metropolitan Park, where people gather to exercise, walk or just relax, surrounded by a beautiful environment full of tall green trees and colorful flowers. Older areas in the main San José downtown will take you back in time and let you glance into the most beautiful French architecture that was used by prominent families in the late 19th and early 20th century to design their homes. You will visit some of San José's most important landmarks like Costa Rica's National Theatre, a real jewel that holds one of the 10 most beautiful ceilings around the world, the National Museum, a battle fort that is now used to showcase some of the most interesting legacies of the Costa Rican history and way of life, while staying true to the time this fort was built on. Taking part of this tour will certainly let you experience at a deeper, more intimate level, the history, the way of life and the values the Costa Rican people hold dear to their hearts.

     

    Included:

    • Transportation to and from the hotel
    • Bilingual guide
    • Entrance fees

     

    Don't Forget to Bring:

    • Comfortable shoes
    • Jacket
    • Camera

     

    Hours: Daily, with pick up times between 12:30PM and 1:30PM. The tour lasts about 4 hours.

     

    Additional Information: This tour requires a minimum of 2 adults to operate. Children's rate available for children ages 3-10 years sharing the service with adults. Infants 0-2 years of age are free of charge. Older than indicated child pay as adults.

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    San Luis Adventure Park: Canopy, Tarzan Swing & Superman Cable

    Set into the beautiful cloud forests of Costa Rica's Central Valley, the San Luis Canopy Tour will take you on an exhilarating and safe adventure through the lush, green forest canopy and across the majestic Rio Cataratitas. Carried securely by a system of ziplines, you will soar weightlessly through the expansive forests, which ground the tour, and find yourself in immersed in the habitats of Costa Rica's distinct cloud forest wildlife. The San Luis Canopy Tour also presents the "Elevator," a thrilling feature that securely lifts visitors high above the forest canopy, granting a paramount view of the surrounding area. Though customer enjoyment is a central objective at the San Luis Canopy Tour, safety has been designated above all as a keystone principle: all personnel and facilities carry up-to-date certifications from the Costa Rican Board of Tourism. This ziplining tour has been selected for being among the most professional, informative and enjoyable in Costa Rica.

     

    Included:

    • Transportation to and from the hotel
    • Bilingual guide
    • Canopy equipment
    • Lunch

     

    Don't Forget to Bring:

    • Hiking shoes
    • Long pants
    • Insect repellent
    • Camera

     

    Hours: Daily, with pick up times between 7:10AM and 8:00AM. The tour lasts about 8 hours.

     

    Additional Information: This tour requires a minimum of 2 adults to operate. Children's rate available for children ages 3-10 years sharing the service with adults. Infants 0-2 years of age are free of charge. Older than indicated child pay as adults.

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    White Water Rafting Pacuare IV

    This trip will offer you the ultimate blend of adventure and excitement. The Pacuare River is world-famous for its pristine beauty and awesome waters. This is a beautiful river gorge; the Pacuare is flanked by steep green walls from which waterfalls cascade at either side as colorful, tropical birds fly overhead. The abundant wildlife includes sloths, toucans, parrots, coatis, butterflies and colorful frogs, among many other species that are reside in the area. The white water rafting will get the adrenaline going. You will get through exhilarating, class III and IV rapids while making the descent to the Caribbean lowlands, making this a memorable river trip! About halfway through your descent, you will stop to rest and enjoy a buffet-style lunch at a peaceful river beach. The tour finishes in Siquirres, at the private Exploration Center, where you can take a shower, change into some fresh clothes, drink a cold beverage, enjoy pictures of your trip and chat with newly-made friends about the great adventure you will have just shared.

     

    Included:

    • Transportation to and from the hotel
    • Bilingual guide
    • Rivier equipment
    • Breakfast & lunch

     

    Don't Forget to Bring:

    • Shorts
    • Swimsuit
    • Water shoes
    • Towel
    • Change of clothes

     

    Hours: Daily, with pick up times between 6:10AM and 7:00AM. The tour lasts about 9 hours.

     

    Additional Information: This tour requires a minimum of 2 adults to operate. Those with limited mobility or other special restrictions are not allowed on this tour. Children 0-12 years of age are not allowed on this tour.

Tips & Transportation

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    Best Souvenir Shop: Sarchi

    If you happen to choose the excursion that takes you to the little town of Sarchi in Alajuela, you'll find plenty of souvenirs to take home with you. The town is known for its intricate arts and crafts and sells beautiful wood carvings.

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    Best Place to See Waterfalls: Los Chorros Waterfall Park

    Los Chorros Waterfall Park is only 25 minutes from the international airport and about 45 minutes from downtown San José. The guard to the entrance doesn't speak English, so bring cash to tip him for watching your car while you're inside exploring all the amazing sights of this beautiful park.

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    Best Sweet Spot: La Sorbetera

    Got a sweet tooth? Stop by La Sorbetera de Lolo Mora for an indulgent dessert that'll cure your cravings in an instant. The humble little counter in the mercado central has been serving only vanilla flavored ice cream in San José for more than a century, but there's nothing boring about La Sorbetera's vanilla. Like Costa Rica, the ice cream flavor is pure and sweet and is sure to keep you coming back for more.

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    Airport

    Juan Santamaria International Airport, SJO was once the busiest airport in Central America. It’s still pretty busy and is the major hub for Costa Rica, serving 4 million passengers a year.

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    Immigration & Customs

    The flight attendant on your flight will likely hand you a customs form that asks you declare what you're bringing into the country. When you first get off the plane, you'll go to immigration first and an officer will check your passport. You can then go to baggage claim and after, the customs section.

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    Getting to Your Hotel

    CheapCaribbean.com has partnered with AMSTAR as our premier transportation company in San José. They'll provide you with safe, comfortable and professional transportation from the airport to your hotel and back. They'll also provide transportation to any excursions booked through our site that you'd like to take while you're in your destination.

     

    Once you arrive at SJO International Airport, you will clear customs and pick up your luggage. Look for the Amstar representative wearing a tropical blue shirt will be waiting for you outside baggage claim and customs holding a sign with your name on it. 

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    Getting Around San José

    The terrain outside of many of the resort areas is hilly and hard to drive on if you’re not used to it. Off site excursions like hiking, horseback riding and ATV tours are available through Vacaciones Barcelo. The company even provides transportation to and from the resort, so you've got a dependable ride to get you where you need to be. 

     

    If you decide to use a taxi to get around the city, check for a triangle symbol on the license plate and side of the car. Many of San José's best attractions are available by walking on foot.