San Jose, Costa Rica Travel - Guides
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|San Josť Introduction|
With the increasing number of direct flights into Liberia, San Josť is no longer the de facto transportation hub for all tourists coming to Costa Rica, but most do still fly in and out of the country's capital. For years, my stock advice to tourists in terms of San Josť has been to get in and out as quickly as possible. For most, this remains good council. But San Josť is the country's only major metropolitan city, with varied and active restaurant and nightlife scenes, several museums and galleries worth visiting, and a steady stream of theater, concerts, and other cultural events that you won't find elsewhere in the country.
At first blush, San Josť seems little more than a chaotic jumble of cars, buses, buildings, and people. The central downtown section of San Josť exists in a near-constant state of gridlock. Antiquated buses spewing diesel fumes and a lack of emission controls have created a brown cloud over the city's sky. Sidewalks are poorly maintained and claustrophobic, and street crime is a problem. Most visitors quickly seek the sanctuary of their hotel room and the first chance to escape the city.
Still, things have been improving in recent years. Mayor Johnny Araya has led ambitious and controversial campaigns to rid the narrow sidewalks of impromptu and illegal vendors, to reduce the clutter of billboards and overhead signs, and to bury a good share of the city's electrical and phone cables.
This section helps you plan whatever time you intend for the capital and ease your way through the pitfalls inherent in such a rough-and-tumble little city.
It's in the Beans -- San Josť was built on the profits of the coffee-export business. Between the airport and downtown, you'll pass working coffee farms. Glance up from almost any street in the city and on the surrounding volcanic mountains you'll see a patchwork quilt of farm fields, most of which are planted with the grano de oro (golden bean), as it's known here. San Josť was a forgotten backwater of the Spanish empire until the first shipments of the local beans made their way to sleepy souls in Europe late in the 19th century. Soon San Josť was riding high. Coffee planters, newly rich and craving culture, imposed a tax on themselves to build the Teatro Nacional (National Theater), San Josť's most beautiful building. Coffee profits also built the city a university. Today you can wake up and smell the coffee roasting as you wander the streets near the Central Market (Mercado Central), and in any cafe or restaurant you can get a hot cup of sweet, milky cafe con leche to taste the bean that built San Josť.
Part of the reason the coffee grows so well is the climate. The Central Valley, in which the city sits, has what's often been described as a perfect climate. At 1,125m (3,690 ft.) above sea level, San Josť enjoys springlike temperatures year-round. The pleasant climate, along with the beautiful views of lush green mountainsides, makes San Josť a memorable city to visit. All you have to do is glance up at those mountains to know that this is one of the most beautifully situated capitals in Central America. And if a glance isn't enough for you, you'll find that it's extremely easy to get out into the countryside. Within an hour or two, you can climb a volcano, go white-water rafting, hike through a cloud forest, and stroll through a butterfly garden -- among many other activities.
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