Costa Rica’s bustling modern capital is rarely a highlight of any first-time visit to the country, with the majority of travellers opting to bypass it entirely and head straight for the wealth of jungles and beaches the country has to offer. And while San Jose does indeed lack the cobbled streets and colonial centres of other Latin American capitals, there are some pleasant green spaces and scattered historic buildings to be found here for those determined to look beyond the surface. The Teatro Nacional, for example, is a wonderfully ornate theatre inspired in the 19th century by the Paris Opera, and gives you a hint of the cultural aspirations of the city during the era of the wealth coffee barons. Culture vultures will also find San Jose home to two highly-acclaimed museums – the Museo de Oro Precolombino is renowned for its vast displays of pre-Columbian gold, whilst the Museo del Jade is houses the largest collection of jade in the Americas.
With so many natural attractions to discover in the rest of the country, it is still somewhat inevitable that spending just one night in San Jose will usually be sufficient for the majority of travellers. Basing yourself in one of the city centre hotels is usually the most practical and affordable way to begin your tour of the country. A great alternative for those with a little more time and money can be to head to one of the charming coffee plantation hotels in the surrounding Central Valley. Spending a couple of nights in one of these rural retreats is the perfect way to recover from a long flight, enjoy a leisurely coffee tour and ground yourself before beginning your touring in earnest.