My friend, Shelley, and I went on a 12-day trip around Costa Rica in September 2017. I flew into San Jose from Chicago, but since we were forewarned that there wasn’t too much to do in the capital city, we only allotted a half-day, though I did stay for two nights due to my flight times.
We did a self-guided tour of downtown San Jose since our time was limited, but San Jose Free Walking Tours looks great! It’s 3 hours & shows all of the sites of the city. There is a lot of shopping in the downtown area, oddly revolving around surf and shoes. We met a Canadian couple in another city who recommended the Tour of the National Theater.
This all-vegetarian restaurant offers plenty of natural and organic foods. We had delicious freshly-pressed juices with our pizza and quesadillas. Arbol de Seda (Silk Tree in English) is located in Barrio Escalante and was only a few minutes walk from our first hostel, The Garden CR (see below).
As we would soon come to find out, Costa Rica is all about natural and organic foods (heaven on Earth, did you say!?). Shelley checked out this restaurant also located in Barrio Escalante before I arrived in San Jose. Here’s her take: she ordered a delicious, light quinoa salad with cheese and walnuts. The restaurant has a nice range of Wild Brews kombucha served in wine glasses. The service was friendly, and when she was there, they had live jazz. Bonus: they have a courtyard out back!
We stayed at this hostel on our first night in Costa Rica. We traveled in September, which is typically rainy season meaning less tourists. The hosts are really nice and super helpful. Breakfast is not included for free, despite what hostels.com stated at the time of our booking. They do offer breakfast for a small price, though be sure to email in advance that you’d like breakfast since they have a fairly early cutoff time. The neighborhood is pretty quiet, but within a 10-minute walk away, there are a couple of streets with multiple restaurants and bars. It’s also only a 30-minute walk to downtown where all of the major sites are located. It’s about a 30-minute drive from the San Jose airport.
Room: 6-bed female dorm, shared bathroom
Located in the suburb of Alajuela, this is set up very much like an AirBnb where there’s an owner/host and she greets you in her dining room. It’s close to a shopping mall with tons of restaurants, though I’m doubtful there’s much sightseeing in the area to be had should you get here early. I chose this area because it’s only a 10-minute drive to the airport and I had a really early morning flight. The guest house is a little bit difficult to find since most taxi drivers won’t know the area unless they’re from Alajuela, but the host was very accommodating and even gave my taxi driver directions over the phone.
Room: private room with en-suite bathroom
We stayed in Barrio Escalante which was about a 30-minute walk from downtown. We also walked around our neighborhood for meals.
From the airport, I took an Interbus for $15, but it was totally unnecessary since there is free WiFi at the San Jose airport and Uber would’ve been quicker and half the price.
There are a couple of bus stations/depots located throughout the city and public buses around Costa Rica are pretty inexpensive, easy, and uses coach-like buses (no bathrooms on board, but they do make a pit stop).
Day 1 – Fly to San Jose
Day 2 – San Jose, Travel to Monteverde
Day 3 – Monteverde
Day 4 – Travel to La Fortuna
Day 5 – La Fortuna
Day 6 – Travel to Tortuguero
Day 7 – Tortuguero
Day 8 – Travel to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Day 9 – Puerto Viejo
Day 10 – Puerto Viejo
Day 11 – Travel to San Jose
Day 12 – Fly home