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San Jose tours and excursions

San Jose tours

Central Valley tours

San José is just one of the towns in the cool, green Central Valley, cultural heart of the nation. Each city and village has its own history, culinary specialties (often dairy products or sweets), and traditions. Sarchí is best known for its polished hardwood handicrafts; Orosí for its inexpensive public hot springs and Zarcero for the fanciful topiary arcing across the town square. Several companies offer tours, including Costa Rican Trails.

Tel: +506 2527 6700.
Website: http://www.costaricantrails.com

Art tours

San José is developing a fairly healthy fine arts scene, with brilliant new painters coming from across the country and Central America to work and showcase their work. From the colourful canvasses of the Caribbean Coast to intricately carved Boruca masks, you can find the region’s finest pieces here in San José. Molly Keeler will introduce you to the galleries, artists, and movements shaping the city’s art scene. Make reservations well in advance.

Website: http://www.costaricaarttour.com

San Jose excursions

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

This beautiful, private park protects some 28 hectares (70 acres) of waterfall-strewn rain and cloud forests, clinging to the steep slopes of Poás Volcano. Part of the property has been magnificently developed, with sculpted tropical gardens and five huge waterfalls. Day trips include time on the trails, as well as visits to the butterfly and bird enclosures, and animal rehabilitation centre. If you’re interested in the Central Valley’s agrarian heritage, make sure your tour includes a visit to the model farm. Enchanted? Stay overnight at the luxurious Peace Lodge, offering unique and opulent forest cabins.

Tel: +506 2482 2720.
Website: http://www.waterfallgardens.com

Arenal Volcano National Park

Costa Rica’s iconic attraction is erupting Arenal Volcano, reliably spewing lava since 1968. The glowing lava flows, a major tourist attraction, shifted sides a few years ago – make sure your day trip from San José will take you to the rather distant viewpoint, at night, if it’s clear. Unfortunately, the massive cone is usually blanketed in clouds, so you’ll probably have to settle for an evening at one of the area’s hot springs.

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.