Our top attractions, highlights and insider tips
A thriving capital set among rolling green hills, San José is a day-trippers dream if you’re a fan of natural highlights that include a volcano, waterfall, or national park. But first, begin in the city with a stroll to avenue Paseo Colón and enjoy architectural highlights such as the neoclassical Teatro Nacional. Take in Spanish colonial style buildings before hanging out at La Savana Park to enjoy local live music as you picnic. Then, take a road trip that’ll include tropical vegetation or volcanic lands where scorched trees dot a landscape that surrounds a moonscape volcano named Irazú.
Irazú Volcano National Park
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
Chirripo National Park
A site of Costa Rican heritage, Mercado Central also functions as a thriving downtown market that bubbles with a spirited atmosphere as locals fill bags with fruits, pastries, and crafts. But that’s not all that’s on offer in a space bulging with festive spirit. Fresh fish and meat, as well as delightful thirst quenchers such as horchata, enrich the taste buds as you walk the lanes of this authentic and traditional market.
A striking sight is the towering pillars and ornate domes of Catedral Metropolitana. Further complimenting the architecture is a neoclassical interior of stained-glass windows, tiled flooring, and an arched roof you’ll surely fall in love with. To the north of the nave is a symbol of Christ, a fine reason to take pause in respect and admiration, regardless of faith.
With a lagoon green crater and striking moonscape shape, Irazú Volcano is found within a national park that is now part of a reforestation project set up after devastating eruptions. The flatlands that surround the volcano provide excellent hikes, with paths well-trodden by walking boots. By 4x4 cover land where trees stand scorched from a great eruption among 5,000 acres of protected land.
Take a walk through a rainforest to spot a puma, monkeys, and butterflies as you move towards La Paz Waterfall Gardens. For those looking for serenity overnight, embrace the chirps and calling cries of nature from a peaceful wooden lodge in a setting that puts you right in the heart of nature, by the stunning La Paz River.
At 50 hectares, Chirripó National Park is a sprawling land with plenty to entertain you. A hike up Costa Rica’s highest mountain, Cerro Chirripó makes for a thrilling start to any day here. With five ecosystems that include subalpine wet forest and tropical forest, these jagged, striking lands act as a refuge for jaguars, goldfinches and tapirs. On a clear day, you can see both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean—marvellous.
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