When I first told other travelers about my plan to stay in San Jose for a month, the first response was, ¨Why?¨
Of course, I had several reasons prepared. I wanted to learn Spanish. I wanted to see the architecture. It is Costa Rica´s capital, for goodness sakes! I had heard that it was less touristy. I wanted to see everything that San Jose had to offer. Of course, my biggest reason is that I found a unique opportunity to try something new via workaway. However, when I first signed up, I had no idea how much I would grow to love not only San Jose, but Aldea and the other volunteers as well. Here are some of the many reasons to stay in San Jose.
It is not Touristy
While Costa Rica is filled with tourists, San Jose seems to be a place where tourism takes a back seat to Costa Rican life. Sure, the locals still say, ‘Pura Vida,’ and accept the American dollar, but as a whole, this area gives you a real view into an average Urban Costa Rican’s life. Here, less English is spoken (in my experience), avocados are 4/500 colones rather than 1/3145 colones (4/USD or 1/6 USD) and sodas are located everywhere.
It’s Less Expensive
Right now, I volunteer in exchange for free accommodation in San Jose. However, even if I paid full price, my rent for about a week would not exceed $70 in an 8-bed dorm. Compared to most places in Costa Rica this is very cheap. Additionally, food costs are super low when you visit the local markets. Off Paseo Colon, you can find Mercardo Centrale, bustling with local life. This market oozes local life and culture, and I usually find a week’s worth of food for about $20.00 USD, (or about 10,000 colones). Granted I need to haggle in Spanish, but I need practice with that anyway, so it’s not a bad thing.
Although there are less tourists in this area, the melange of affordable restaurans around is staggering. One of my favorites, The Corner Pizzeria, serves some of the best Italian food I’ve tasted in all of Costa Rica. If you walk Paseo Colon, there are numerous cafes, gelaterias, and bars within a mile. Additionally, many of these restaurants serve local food at local prices, so you can enjoy an authentic Costa Rican dining experience.
There are Direct buses Leaving for all the most Popular Costa Rican Destinations
Most of the bus stations in San Jose are easy to access. Therefore, if you stay in San Jose, you will be able to take buses almost everywhere you want to see. I am approaching my fourth week here in Costa Rica, and I have been to Tamarindo, Puerto Viejo, La Fortuna and am currently writing from Santa Teresa. My most expensive trip included a ferry ride, and cost $15.00 one-way. For a weekend at a beautiful beach, this isn’t a bad price. Because I work and live in San Jose, I am able to leave most of my stuff at my hostel, and take only what I need. Not only is this an effective way to budget; it’s also liberating to carry less obnoxious stuff. No one wants to walk 30 minutes to a hostel with a twenty-five pound bag after a seven hour bus ride!
But if 7 Hours on A Bus Isn’t Your Thing….. Book a Tour, Shuttle or Private Cab
You can book tours to anywhere in Costa Rica from San Jose. This mitigates the need for riding a public bus, and gives you an opportunity to see more of Costa Rica. I’ve seen tours to La Fortuna, Tortegeura, Tamarindo, and Jaco Beach. So far, the tours have been worth the money, because each one has a knowledgeable guide. Additionally, shuttles are also available, and easy to book through your accommodation.
You Gain Valuable Insight to the Socio-economic Issues in Costa Rica
Everyone knows Costa Rica is the most expensive country in Central America. It is filled with retired Americans, tourists, and backpackers. However, there are some real problems in this area. The cost of living is not reflected in the wages. In certain parts of San Jose, you will realize that poverty exists in this beautiful country. And, recognizing that is important too.
It is Filled with Beautiful Architecture and Rich Histories
Home to the Jade Museum, Children’s Museum, and The National Theater, you can easily spend a couple of days exploring this beautiful city. I’ve spent three weeks there, and still have so much more to see! ❤