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Día del Boyero

Perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Costa Rican culture is the carreta (ox cart), used for ploughing, transportation, and in this case, parades. The hand-hewn wooden carts with their oversized wheels are traditionally painted with colourful mandalas and other elaborate patterns. Every second Sunday in March, scores ox carts, some of them painted to perfection and others purely utilitarian, make their annual agrarian pilgrimage to the city of Escazú.

Date: 10 March 2019 - 10 March 2019
Venue: Escazú, 7km (4mi) from San José.
Cost:

Free


Día de la Independencia

The entire isthmus celebrates Central American Independence on September 15, declared in 1821 by the Colonial capital in Antigua, Guatemala. The sleepy, agricultural backwater of Cartago, then the Costa Rican capital, didn’t get the news until a month later. Regardless, San José celebrates independence in style, beginning with the arrival of Freedom Torch on the evening of 14 September, and continuing with parades, live music, and lots of fireworks for the next 24 hours.

Date: 15 September 2019 - 15 September 2019

Las Fiestas de Zapote

This pleasant working-class neighbourhood puts on the capital’s favourite urban fiestas, most famous for their endless topes (horse parades), which bring out the finest steeds in the Central Valley. Las Fiestas are also known for Costa Rican-style “bull fights,” where bulls aren’t killed, but rather allowed to run with locals brave enough to try to touch the beast – sometimes getting hurt in the process. Zapote also brings in top international performers, many from Mexico.

Date: 25 December 2019 - 05 January 2020
Venue: Zapote.
Cost:

Free.


Featured Hotels

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Hotel Grano de Oro

The luxurious grand dame of San José’s hotel scene is named for the “Grain of Gold,” an old Tico (Costa Rican) nickname for coffee. Though this world-class boutique hotel offers every modern comfort, the style is that of Costa Rica’s caffeinated heyday, the boom years between the 19th and 20th centuries. The Victorian exterior’s soaring lobby, with a renowned restaurant, serves 34 excellent rooms, each beautifully designed and decorated.

Hotel Posada del Museo

Rising from the hustle and bustle of San José’s political district, this rambling, antique-filled 1928 mansion is a treasure. Accommodations are simple but well decorated, and more expensive rooms are considerably larger, with better views. The polished tropical hardwood construction lends a warm glow to the hotel, but also squeaks a bit at night. Attached Café de la Posada is outstanding, the perfect place for quiche, coffee, and the best people-watching in town.

Hostel Pangea

This popular hostel in the fashionable Barrio Amón district has long been a top stop on the Gringo Trail. Amenities include a swimming pool, rooftop bar, breakfast, internet access, private rooms, and shuttles to well maintained partner hostels all over the country. It’s a great place to meet other travellers and plan your further adventures, and is surrounded by several other cheap San José hotels if it doesn’t suit you.

Marriott San José

Though more international luxury hotels in San José are opening, this venerable five-star resort, wrapped in lush gardens and coffee plantations just 7km (four miles) from the city centre is still one of the best. The flawless Spanish colonial theme includes wonderful antique furnishings and a tiny, Mission-style Catholic chapel onsite. Guests enjoy modern amenities, however, such as several pools, fine dining restaurants, flawless rooms, spa treatments, and more.

Xandari Resort & Spa

Overlooking the international airport from the jungled slopes of Poás Volcano is remarkable Xandari Resort. Created by an artist and architect the spacious modern award-winning suites are an exercise in stylish luxury. Elaborately landscaped sculpture-strewn gardens surround the swimming pools but give way to wilder rainforest with trails past several waterfalls. Enjoy the view over the sparkling Central Valley night from your private patio or at the good restaurant worth a visit even if you can’t stay.

Hotel 1492

This 10-room gem among boutique hotels is about ten minutes east of downtown, on a pleasant residential side street. The original home was handcrafted over four decades by its artistic original owner, Amalia Jimenez Volio. Her eye-catching Portuguese tiles, original mosaics, murals, and sculptures decorate the living areas and soothing interior gardens, a nice compliment to the hotel's rather retro furnishings. Amenities include Wi-Fi.