Where To Stay In San Jose Costa Rica
With so many hotel options, it can be hard to know exactly where to stay in San Jose, Costa Rica. The first decision you need to make is whether you want to stay in hustle and bustle of the city, or on the outskirts in a more tranquil environment.
On my last visit to San Jose, I actually booked a hotel in an area called La Guácima. Located near the airport, this small city area is only 25 minutes and around $7 USD by Uber from the downtown area. But instead of a concrete jungle, you can stay among the gorgeous forest you came to Costa Rica to enjoy.
Youre also closer to places such as Poas Volcano as well as coffee plantations and some wildlife rescue centers. Overall, its a great area to stay.
During my stay in La Guácima, I booked the Guácima Escondida Hotel Boutique. Nestled on a large property far away from the roads, it really was the most ideal place to stay in the city. The hotel included a delicious breakfast, a gorgeous pool, and very friendly staff. It was very tranquil with only a few rooms available on the property. Guacima Escondida Hotel Boutique is also great value and youll get a lot more for your money than you will at larger hotel chains.
We absolutely loved our stay at Guacima Escondida Hotel Boutique. You can book your stay direct or on Booking.com.
With that said, I understand many want to stay in the downtown area of San Jose So, below are my recommended hotels in San Jose city center!
When To Visit Costa Rica With Kids
Costa Rica basically has two seasons: dry season and wet season. The dry season, which lasts from December through April, is the most popular time to visit Costa Rica. During the dry season, you will likely experience way less pop up rain storms and way more sunshine.
The wet season, which lasts from May through November, is still a great time to visit Costa Rica, but be prepared for afternoon rain that typically comes down heavy but only lasts a short time. The other downfall of visiting Costa Rica during the wet season is that it may be cloudy, even if it is not raining.
See Volcanoes Up Close
With over 60 volcanoes sprinkled across Costa Rica, it would hard not to see one. There are many even just outside the capital city of San Jose.
If you want to be a bit more adventurous, head up to La Fortuna and go hiking on the Arenal Volcano. From the entrance of Arenal 1968 Volcano View and Lava Trails, you can walk on old lava flows and get great views of the volcano .
If you want to stick around San Jose area, you might want to check out Volcano Irazu. Only an hour and half drive out of town, you can drive nearly all the way to the top, but thats probably why it gets so crowed. Our friend, Michelle, does a great job describing her time visiting Volcano Irazu.
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Relax At La Paz Waterfall Gardens
This waterfall garden looks like a place that was specifically built for families. With five different waterfalls as well as animal exhibits and short trails, this rainforest area is a perfect way for your kids to get close to wildlife while enjoying this stunning rainforest. And if you are in the garden area, you might be able to see and hold a toucan or two.
Enjoy The Scenery At Mistico Hanging Bridges Park
An amazing adventure awaits your family at Mistico Hanging Bridges Park!Located between a lowland, a forest, and a highland, this La Fortuna park combines several different ecosystems to create beautiful biodiversity. Be sure to snap a photo of the signature hanging bridge overlooking a scenic lake, providing visitors with spectacular views of the surrounding area! Aside from the famous hanging bridge, the park also boasts some of the best things to do in Costa Rica with kids. Take kids on a bird-watching tour or a hike through the forest with a knowledgeable wildlife specialist. Daredevil children may even enjoy a guided hike toward the Arenal Volcano, one of the most famous landmarks in the country. Though a guide is recommended, its also doable to try it self-guided, if youre looking to save some money. Just remember to enjoy the area with your family!
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Hike Arenal Volcano National Park
And speaking of volcanoes, another must see in Costa Rica is Arenal Volcano National Park.
Arenal Volcano National Park is the best place for those who want to see a cone shaped volcano. The volcano erupted back in 1968 but nowadays, visitors can hike through the remaining lava beds for beautiful views of the volcano and Lake Arenal.
This is a great national park for first timers since its easy to get to and the trails arent too tough or long. If you walk the Coladas trail, you will reach a viewpoint to see Lake Arenal and the volcano. Visiting Arenal Volcano is a must when in La Fortuna!
Enjoy The Hot Springs In Arenal
La Fortuna has some of the best hot springs in the country with the Tabacon river supplying natural hot water to the springs. Some hotels have their own private hot springs or you can go to free access part of the river where the locals go.
Tabacon, Baldi, Ecotermales and the Springs are some of the most popular hot springs in Arenal.
If youre visiting La Fortuna, going to the hot springs is a must! You can read more about the best hot springs in Arenal in this post.
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Hot Springs In Costa Rica
There are close to two hundred volcanic formations throughout the country, so as a result, there are quite a few hot springs in Costa Rica. Many can be found near Arenal volcano.
Adventurous families can find natural hot springs that are off the beaten path, just ask the locals for their recommendations. For those who prefer a sure thing, head to one of the thermal resorts. The Springs Resort, Tabacón, Ecotermales Hot Springs, and Baldi Hot Springs are all family friendly.
Spend A Weekend In The City Square
Almost every city and small town in Costa Rica has a parque central, or city square, flanked by a prominent Catholic church. Youll see some great architecture, and on weekends most city squares are transformed into a family friendly playground. Our little ones alternated between playing on the bouncy castle, watching the clowns, and chasing pigeons around the square in Parque Central in Heredia.
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Best Things To Do In Costa Rica With Kids
With such a stellar array of experiences and close encounters in Costa Rica wildlife, waves, ziplines and volcanoes the biggest challenge might be choosing where to go. Fortunately, each region has its attractions, and kids of all ages will find epic adventure awaiting them. We’ve come up with a list of recommendations sure to wow both kids and parents alike. Discounts for kids under 12 are available at many attractions and on public transport always ask if you’re not sure.
Looking For More Things To Do In Costa Rica
Contact one of our expert travel coordinators, and we can work on a custom vacation packages to fit your interests, needs, and budget. Weve set up hot air ballooning, helicopter tours, trekking adventures, custom group trips for high school and college students, birding expeditions and more. We are your Costa Rica adventure experts and we recommend only the best Costa Rica tours. What are you waiting for? Were here to help you plan your next adventure in tropical paradise!
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Visit A Butterfly Garden
Visiting a butterfly garden is one of the more iconic activities you can do all over Costa Rica, and there are a ton of different places to visit all around the country.
Tours through the gardens usually start with an informative video explaining the life of butterflies as well as some interesting facts about them. Youre guaranteed to learn something new!
Afterward, wander through an enclosure filled with butterflies and take a closer look. Your guide will teach you more and point out the different species. Its a really cool expereince!
In San Jose, I went to a place called , located on the outskirts of the city. However, you dont need to travel that far with a couple of gardens closer to San Jose, such as and Spirogyra Butterfly Garden.
You can simply take an Uber to the garden of your choice or join an organized tour. This specific tour visits a coffee plantation as well as a butterfly garden which is perfect if you plan on doing both!
Relax On Your Own Private Beach
While the Nicoya Peninsulas beaches are beautiful, they are typically more crowded. If youre searching for a sandy strip to enjoy all by yourself, head to the Caribbean coast near Manzanillo where you can relax on beautiful beaches in solitude.
Other places with less crowded beaches are:
Manzanillo: south of Puerto Viejo, we wandered around all day and found countless little coves and beaches to relax on.
Playa Uva: near Puerto Viejo is quiet beach with few vendors to disturb you. You wont be the only one, but the beach is so large, youll have no problem finding solitude.
Playa Dominical: near Uvita, this beach is a great place to watch surfers as you sunbathe. The restaurants in this little town are pretty good too.
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Extreme Zipline And Tarzan Swing
If ziplining alone isn’t enough of an adventure for you, what about adding a Tarzan swing? This tour begins with a short walk through the forest. With 12 different platforms and seven cables, adrenaline will be in no short supply.
At the end of this tour, you’ll encounter the Tarzan Swing. This 150-meter free-fall is not for the faint of heart.
Learn About Indigenous Culture
Learning about the culture of the country we are visiting is one of our favorite things to do on our travels.
At first glance, Costa Rica feels like some of its culture has been lost with the Westernization mass tourism has brought to this country. But with Bribri indigenous groups, there are opportunities to learn about the different peoples that make up this beautiful country.
One of the highlights of our trip to Costa Rica was learning about the culture of the Bribri, an indigenous group that is from the Caribbean Coast. We visited a traditional village, learned how they make chocolate and spoke with a shaman.
Do it yourself: If this sounds like something you want to do during your trip to Costa Rica, read up on our cultural experience.
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White Water Rafting In Costa Rica
The white water rafting options in Costa Rica are plentiful, so know what class of rapids you will encounter before signing up for a guided tour. Some Costa Rica white water tours offer kayaks and rafts. I recommend rafts for families with an experienced guide.
Rivers come in all sizes, so consider Penas Blancas and Rio Balsa if you have younger children. The Pacuare and Sarapiquí rivers are class III-IV rapids, so consider this experience with older kids who can paddle and stay in the raft. We loved the Sarapiquí river, but it was certainly rough in spots!
Go Tubing Down The Rio Celeste In Tenorio
In the north of Costa Rica, away from the more well-trodden tourist track, is small Tenorio National Park. The Celeste River cuts through the area, the colour of the water a strangely brilliant turquoise. Here, equip yourself with a large inflatable tube and spend a fantastically fun couple of hours floating down the river. At times you get caught up in the rapids and shoot down at speed, at other times the adrenalin recedes and you float slowly through a beautiful verdant landscape with creepers trailing along the edge of the river. We also know a wonderfully family friendly lodge here, making this a wonderful addition to any trip to Costa Rica with kids.
Stubborn Mules Charlotte Hamilton tries out tubing with her dad in Tenorio National Park and loves it!
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Best Places To Visit In Costa Rica
It can be a little tricky figuring out where to go in Costa Rica. Depending on how much time you have in the country, your itinerary will differ.
If you only have a short time, such as a week or two, you should probably pick one coast and explore that area thoroughly. The Caribbean coast and the Pacific coast are similar, with plenty of gorgeous beaches, tropical wildlife, and natural beauty. The Pacific coast, generally speaking, has better surfing and the Caribbean coast has better national parks.
But if you have more than two weeks to spend in Costa Rica, you can venture across the country and see the two different coasts. Your personal preferences will influence your trip around Costa Rica. For example, if you love hiking and wilderness you may choose to spend more time inland exploring the rainforest and the mountains. But if you love water sports and laying on the beach, you may choose to spend more time on the coast.
Here are the best places to visit in Costa Rica. You can fit them into your itinerary however you choose. You may even fall in love with one of these places and spend your whole trip there. But no matter where you go, you’ll definitely experience some natural beauty and discover the warm, Costa Rican culture.
1. The Caribbean Coast
4. The Arenal Volcano Area
5. The Pacific Coast
Raft Down The Pacuare River
Explore Costa Ricas most renowned rafting spot on the Pacuare River. Brave the III/IV rapids, stopping intermittently to take breaks to jump off boulders into the water and swim in pools formed by cascading waterfalls. Plan two days to see the countrys longest river.
The guides of Pacuare Lodge know every twist and turn of this river and its communities. Its no wonder because most of them grew up in the area.
Whether they are cooking traditional meals for you, or taking you on a hike, or inviting you into a remote indigenous village, they are the perfect hosts. This is where youll get away from the touristy crowds and find yourself immersed in the real Costa Rica.
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Drink Chocolate Milk Straight From A Cow
Book-cased in between two active volcanoes, Corso Lecheria, a dairy 45 minutes outside of San Jose in Poasito, Alajuela, is the epitome of organic farming and sustainable living.
Taste a strawberry so fresh that it is suggested you eat it stem-first to thoroughly enjoy the flavor. The cheese, made from the happiest cows Ive encountered, is made on-site and is delicious.
While we had the chance to milk the dairy cows, our guide playfully added chocolate to our cups and for the first time, I drank chocolate milk straight from the cow.
Be sure to sample local, authentic Costa Rican food at the onsite restaurant. The strawberry juice is perfectly sweet and the tortillas are handmade in front of you as you wait for a lunch that is unforgettable.
Go For A Hike In One Of Costa Ricas Famous National Parks
Up to 25% of the land in Costa Rica is a protected which means that youll see a great diversity of wildlife such as monkeys, toucans, and sloths. Visiting a national park is a top thing to do in Costa Rica with kids. Some of the famous landmarks are Monteverde, Rincon, Manuel Antonio. If you are into hiking, Costa Rica has plenty of hiking trails to keep you busy. Enjoy nature and perhaps spot some wildlife while relaxing with your little ones.
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Day Trip To The Monteverde Cloud Forest
I love Monteverde! In fact, I love it so much that I didnt actually visit on a day trip from San Jose, and instead, I spent nearly a week in the region. But I know that many people do not have time to do this, which is why a day trip to Monteverde from San Jose is a great idea!
Sure, it is a bit of a drive, but on an organized tour, you can sleep, relax or just enjoy the views from the comfort of an air-conditioned van.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest is an amazing jungle offering misty views, waterfalls, scenic lookouts, and lots of hanging bridges. Its a whole different world that the city of San Jose or the beachside destinations frequented in Costa Rica. Expect to see lots of wildlife and interesting plants and trees.
Of course, like the Arenal Volcano, you can choose to spend a couple of nights in the area. The nearest town to the Monteverde Cloud Forest is Santa Elena, and believe it or not, there are lots of fun things to do in Monteverde!
Learn About Costa Rican Coffee
Costa Rica grows some of the best coffee in the world and if youre a coffee lover, youll want to take a tour of a coffee plantation to find out why its so darn good.
Its an incredibly educational and enlightening experience as you learn how a cherry gets from the plant into your cup. Plus you get to sample delicious coffee at the end!
Our favorite coffee tour is Doka Coffee Estate but there are many others. Golden Bean in Turrialba, Britt in Heredia, Coopedota in San Gerardo de Dota, Espiritu Santo in Naranjo, El Cafetal in Monteverde and Finca Rosa Blanca in Heredia are all excellent.
You can even visit Hacienda Alsacia, Starbuckss coffee plantation! Since coffee grows best in higher altitudes, the best places for coffee tours are San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia, Grecia, Heredia, Turrialba and Monteverde.
The best time to take a Costa Rica coffee tour is October March as that is the production and harvest season. Coffee tours are a must do in Costa Rica!
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