Things to do in San Jose


Believe it or not, it’s only an hour from the Central Highlands to the Pacific, thanks to a new toll road connecting San José and Jacó. If that charmingly grungy surf town isn’t to your tastes, head north, south, or to the Nicoya Peninsula, then take your pick in palm-fringed paradise. First, however, check the weather – is it sunnier on the Caribbean side? If so, head east; it’s two hours to gritty Puerto Limón, another two to the white sand beaches and sapphire Caribbean waters of festive Cahuita and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.

Canopy tours

Sliding through the forest canopy, suspended above the jungle on a strong, steel “zip line,” is the classic, screaming Costa Rica experience. There are some 100 zip-line canopy tours in the country. Prices vary – choose between budget cheapies like the tiny Urban Canopy Tour through Parque La Sabana in San José; or full-on ecoattractions like Rainforest Adventures, with sky trams, guided hikes, butterfly gardens and more. Any hotel or tour office will offer a dozens of options.

Urban Canopy Tour
Tel: (506) 2215 2544.

Rainforest Adventures
Tel: (305) 704 3350 (USA).

Horseback tours

Costa Rica remains an agricultural nation, and the rural mountain towns peppering the Central Valley offer all sorts of options for equestrian adventures. Horseback tour operators vary widely, so buyer beware. Big, professional operations marketed in San José through your hotel or tour office may charge more, but probably provide experienced, English- speaking guides who understand that foreigners may lack grace in the saddle. Smaller, family-run operations are often much less expensive, but may have less experienced guides, and smaller, less well-trained horses. Horse treks can often be combined with canopy tours and other day trip activities, so ask around.


Costa Rica’s rainforested central highlands are marbled with wild rivers, and several San José-based outfitters offer white-water rafting as either day trips or scenic overnights. The most popular trips from San José are on the Class III-IV Río Pacuare, considered Central America’s most beautiful river, and the Class IV-V Río Reventazón, the country’s toughest. Tamer rides can be found on the Class II-III Sarapiqui, but there are river trips offered around the country. There are dozens of companies to choose from, including Ríos Tropicales, and Exploradores Outdoors.

Ríos Tropicales
Tel: (506) 2233 6455.

Exploradores Outdoors
Tel: (506) 2222 6262.

Volcano climbing

San José is cradled in the skirts of several major volcanoes, two of them extremely active and preserved as popular national parks. Poas Volcano towers to the west of the city, above the international airport, topped with cloud-forest trails and epic viewpoints over the huge, bubbling craters. East of town is Volcán Irazu, which famously began erupting in 1963 just as John F. Kennedy arrived, prompting locals to joke that even the volcanoes were saluting the popular US president. By 1965, after the city of Cartago had been repeatedly flooded with ash flows, residents were just glad to see the mountain simmer down. Today, you can book day trips to either volcano with a tour, or take public transport.