Latin America

The Inside Guide to San José, Costa Rica

From Monteverde's cloud forests to majestic volcanoes and national parks, Costa Rica is renowned for its lush natural landscapes and biodiversity. However, no trip to this exquisite Central American country would be complete without experiencing its capital, San José.

Share article:

Considered one of Latin America’s most cosmopolitan cities, San José in Costa Rica boasts a diverse population of around 1.2 million people. A myriad of cultural influences are reflected across the city’s institutions, cuisine, and architectural styles. This makes San José the perfect place to delve into the modern urban landscape and local history of Costa Rica.

San José was named the capital of Costa Rica in 1832 and most of its buildings were built within the last one hundred years, making it a young and relatively modern city. The capital experienced rapid growth during the twentieth century, largely fuelled by its booming coffee industry and an influx of immigrants from across the continent.

Where to Go & What to See

La Plaza de la Cultura is the beating heart of San José. This bustling central square is a great spot for people-watching and soaking up the capital’s lively spirit. From here, you can wander along Avenida Central—San José’s main shopping avenue—to the Central Market, a time-honoured space alive with local food vendors and live entertainment.

Step back in time in the historic neighbourhood of Barrio Amón, home to 19th-century cafetalero (coffee grower) mansions. This part of the city captivates visitors with its diverse architecture, combining Art Deco, colonial and neo-Victorian styles.

Barrio Escalante is the city’s gastronomic hub, home to an esteemed collection of restaurants, cafes, bakeries and bars. Embellished with large murals, this trendy area just east of downtown was recently named one of the Coolest Neighbourhoods in the World by Time Out Magazine.

San José and the Central Valley of Costa Rica enjoy some of the most pleasant weather in the world, with temperatures ranging from 25 to 29 degrees Celsius. As the city’s largest green space, La Sabana Park hums with locals and visitors all year round, providing an ideal sunbathing spot and breath of fresh air in San José’s dense urban landscape.

End your day with a classical concert at Teatro Nacional. Adorned with a neoclassical façade and opulent interior, this magnificent building is the perfect venue for San José’s most breathtaking theatrical performances.

Close to Nature

Nestled in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, San José is surrounded by scenic mountains and untouched wildlife, making it the perfect base for those looking to combine a fast-paced city break with more peaceful nature excursions.

Journey to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, where you can trek through beautiful rainforests and explore a variety of waterfalls—or, spot colourful quetzals in Los Quetzales National Park alongside various other bird and animal species.

Delve into Costa Rica’s momentous coffee industry by touring nearby coffee plantations and farms. The Poas, Irazu, Barva and Turrialba volcanos are also all within two hours of San José, providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience for travellers.

The Ultimate Travel Destination

Costa Rica has established itself as a leading destination for ecotourism and adventure travel. Last year, 2.47 million tourists arrived in the country by air—a record high—demonstrating a significant increase in tourist numbers. North Americans led the charge, representing 1.7 million of all travellers. The country also saw a rise in visitors from several European markets, including France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Growing tourism in Costa Rica is delivering a welcome boost to the national economy. In 2022, the sector contributed $7.8 billion in GDP and created more than 150,000 new jobs. What’s more, continuous investment in the country’s infrastructure is making Costa Rica an increasingly attractive place to visit, live and invest.

Research shows that today’s travellers are placing increasing value on authentic local experiences and nature-based adventures. For this, San José is ideal. The city combines vibrant cultural institutions, beautiful architecture, and diverse cuisine, making it an outstanding destination for visitors. Not only this, but it is surrounded by some of the most breathtaking and biodiverse landscapes in the world. This makes the city a hotspot for tourists as well as those in the market for a vacation home.

Just 20km west of downtown, Juan Santamaría International Airport is easily accessible for those travelling to and from San José. The airport offers a wide range of domestic and international flights and transported 4.5 million passengers in 2022.

With a steady stream of visitors, Costa Rica’s cultural capital is a compelling option for property investors. The city is seeing a growing demand for housing and tourist accommodation, yet prices remain very affordable compared to other markets. Barrio Escalante, in particular, is becoming increasingly popular yet lacks sufficient housing and hotels. This means that, for those looking to invest in short-term lets in an emerging pocket of Latin America, Barrio Escalante is a strong option.

Whether you’re looking to buy a second home, expand your investment portfolio, or simply plan your next trip, San José should be at the top of your list.


Contact us today to discover properties in Costa Rica and around the world.

San José costa rica