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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > Costa Rica > San Jose

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Things to do in San Jose

Climb a bubbling volcano crater

San José is cradled in the skirts of several major volcanoes, two of them extremely active and preserved as popular national parks. Poás Volcano has paved trails and is wholly impressive. Early morning hikers will be rewarded with the fantastic cloud-forest walks and epic viewpoints over the huge, bubbling crater.

Make for Central Valley for a moonlit horseback tour

Costa Rica remains an agricultural nation and the rural mountain towns that pepper the Central Valley are perfect for equestrian adventures. Horseback tour operators vary widely, so buyer beware. The likes of Finca Caballo (+506 7010 1771; www.fincacaballoloco.com) provide experienced, English-speaking guides who understand that foreigners may lack grace in the saddle. 

Ride the wild waters in a raft

Adventurous travellers will be well aware of Costa Rica's rain forested central highlands. Marbled with wild rivers, Río Reventazón has a reputation as one of the country's toughest to tackle in a white-water raft, while Río Pacuare is considered Central America's most beautiful river. Exploradores Outdoors (tel: +506 2222 6262; www.exploradoresoutdoors.com) offers day and overnight trips.

Roar through the rainforest on a zip line

Sliding through the forest canopy, suspended above the jungle on a strong, steel "zip-line," is the classic Costa Rica experience. There are some 100 zip-line canopy tours in the country but with sky trams, guided hikes and a butterfly garden, Rainforest Adventures (tel: +506 225 759 61; www.rainforestadventure.com) eco attraction is the stand out.

Take the toll road to the Pacific coast

Believe it or not, it's only an hour from the Central Highlands to the Pacific, thanks to the toll road connecting San José and Jacó. If a charmingly grungy surf town isn't to your tastes, then head north for your pick of palm-fringed paradise around the breathtaking Nicoya Peninsula.

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.