Anyone who travels to Costa Rica frequently, will eventually end up staying in San Jose. San Jose is a very central location an often times a crossing point when traveling from coast to coast. There is also a faction of travelers that specifically choose to stay in San Jose to live the party life in the Gringo Gulch. When I was single, I certainly did spend time in San Jose, but after a while, I would get burnt out on drinking, gambling and sex which operates 24×7 in San Jose. I would look for things to do in San Jose Costa Rica that did not involve partying, and really found it to be challenge. However, after living here for 8 years, I think I have discovered just about everything in San Jose.
The locals call San Jose “El Chepe”. I’m not really sure what this means, but if you want to sound local, you can refer to it as El Chepe. Tell your taxista – me lleve al Chepe, and he will probably give you a chuckle.
Here are some things to do in San Jose that don’t involve damaging your liver or spending money on chicas and gambling.
There are some pretty decent gyms in San Jose. They usually offer a daily, weekly or monthly rate which is very reasonably priced. The Multi-Spa is a really good gym and is located with steps of Avenida central on Calle 2 and Avenida 2. There is another gym closer to Avenida Central called Gimnasio Milenium. I haven’t been there but have heard it is pretty decent.
In either gym, you can easily kill two hours on weights, cardio and they usually offer free classes like Spinning and Yoga. Hint – if you want to meet women, both spinning and yoga are excellent! You will find lot’s of attractive ladies from Costa Rica, Colombia and other parts of Latin America. Happy spinning! If you do hookup, please comment on this post.
You can also go for run in many places in San Jose. However, don’t just run on side walks. You will probably have lot’s of obstacles and it might not even be that safe. You probably won’t get mugged, but you definitely can get hit by a car. You should definitely look for Parque España on the east side of Avenida Central. If you want a sure bet, just pay a taxi $5 and head to La Sabana. La Sabana is an awesome place to run, people watch and meet ladies. There are lots of local girls that head to La Sabana on Saturday to workout or do Latin Fit Dance by the basketball courts. Speaking of which, there are tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball fields, a roller blade rink, and about a dozen soccer fields. You can easily spend a half day in La Sabana and get a workout in and also just relax and take photos. You might also want to bring a little cash with you. There are food stalls and freelance foodies all over the place. Look for an older Nicaraguan lady that sells empanadas picantes and coffee. This is a very tasty snack and truly authentic Nicaraguan cooking.
If you want to buy local products at a reasonable price, forget about Avenida Central and head to Mercado Central. Do not bring expensive cameras, jewelry or anything flashy and you should be fine. Dress like the locals and try to blend in. Here you will find tons of souvenirs that are half the price just blocks away. You can also find cigars, herbs, leather, clothing, hand bags, shoes, wood working, pots and pans, glass work and the best thing of all is fresh local fish. There are probably a half dozen fish markets which feature local sea bass, mahi mahi, shrimp and much more at about 50% of the price in local super markets. La Corvina fish market is where my wife and I buy all of our seafood.
If you want to grab lunch, there are many restaurants inside the market that are super cheap and feature awesome Costa Rican cooking. For under $5, you can have awesome dishes including ceviche, olla de carne (beef pot), rice plates, ribs and casadas, If you are hungover, ask for Sopa Mundungo which is a local favorite for curing the hangover.
Alternatively, you can also go to Mall San Pedro shopping. However, the prices here will be very disappointing, especially for clothing and electronics. About the only things affordable in the shopping mall are movies, tattoos and piercings, hair cuts and nails. Men can get a haircut for about $8-10 and women roughly $20-80 for the works.
Last but not least are the cultural attractions of San Jose. They are all very affordable and you can easily kill a day visiting a few of them and discovery something new. The Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and Jade museums are very close to Avenida Central and definitely worth a visit. There is also the Museo Nacional which is a converted Spanish castle just east of El Centro. Just next to Parque España you will also find the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design.
El Teatro Nacional is the most famous theater in Costa Rica. Here you will find many excellent concerts such as a German and Spanish composition of Beethoven and Mendelssohn. You can buy tickets online or at the theater.
There are also many smaller theaters scattered about San Jose. Go buy La Nacion and check out the entertainment section where you will say many different plays and concerts in small venues around the city. The hotel should help with any translation and transportation.
Just east of Parque Morazan, you can find the Centro Cultural. You can stop in there and ask them if there are any festivals scheduled during your visit. Almost every weekend, there is live music, art or something cultural on exhibition in the park. Finally, there is also the Costa Rican North American Centro Cultural branches throughout the San Jose area. Here you will find libraries, art exhibitions and some have small auditoriums for plays and concerts.