San Jose Attractions
Multicolored markets, tucked-away gardens and brazen street vendors paint the city's landscape, while city parks and landscaped plazas decorate San Jose's lively downtown. For more cultural pursuits, a city tour will tell a history of victory and defeat. San Jose's museums and churches promise insight into the country's past and present, from contemporary art and jade jewelry to towering steeples and stained glass. Visit the country's first airport, where art now hangs on the walls, or a bullet-riddled remembrance of Costa Rica's civil war, which today houses the country's greatest historical artifacts.
If you're looking for old-world Costa Rican charm and colonial architecture, then Barrio Amon is the place to be. This was once the neighborhood of choice for the city's elite, but most vestiges of the old life were toppled by severe earthquakes. Today, several mansions built with coffee dollars remain, and promise some of the city's most beautiful colonial architecture.
Crafts & Artisans Market
Located just west of the National Museum, this quaint market offers souvenirs and crafts at prices that can't be beat. Beautiful wood crafts and handmade jewelry are the market's standouts. Always be sure to ask if a product is made in Costa Rica – vendors here are generally honest about their products' origins.
Parque Nacional de Diversiones (The Amusement Park)
Costa Rica’s only amusement park is located in La Uruca, one mile west of the Hospital Mexico. The park itself offers more than 80 rides and attractions, while the self-contained Pueblo Antiguo ("Old Town") offers a look back into traditional Costa Rican life.
Parque Zoologico Simon Bolivar
This park, located two blocks northeast of Avenida 11 and Calle 7, is home to a large variety of native Costa Rican wildlife. In the past, the zoo was plagued by complaints, but recent donations have helped to vastly improve the park's conditions. There are still improvements to be made, so if you're looking for a guilt-free zoo, see Alajuela's Zoo Ave, a wildlife rehabilitation and animal rights center.
Spirogyra Butterfly Garden
This small downtown garden, located just 150 meters south of Guadalupe's El Pueblo Shopping Center, offers 30 species of butterflies and five species of hummingbirds. Included in the garden's entrance fee is a walk along the Relaxation Trail, a rustic path so quiet it’s hard to believe San Jose is right outside the gate. (San Jose. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mon-Sun. $6 adults, $3 children. 2222-2937)