IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

San Jose, Costa Rica

Orientation and Getting Around
Chief Sights and Attractions
Introduction to Lodgings
The Top Hotels
Quality Hotels
Budget Hotels

The Central American nation of Costa Rica (of which San Jose is the capital) is very different from its Latin American neighbors. An island of stability in a sea of frequent turmoil, it is known for its good government, absence of armed forces, and high literacy (93%), among other good things. Most gringos (mainly North Americans), who are treated very well here, look upon it as a place to enjoy Latin culture without the tears. Although San Jose is just under a million persons in size, its downtown area is eminently walkable, and the entire city is easily negotiated.

Because the city is 3,600 feet above sea level, the weather is moderate almost year around, and that condition (added to many other advantages) has caused a great many Americans to retire here. English is widely spoken, though it is always agreeable to learn enough of the local language to get around when off the beaten track. There are a great number of opportunities for low-cost golfing nearby, or journeying down to the coast for beach and watersports activities.

Orientation and Getting Around

The city is laid out on a grid, with avenues running east and west, calles (streets) north and south. The midpoint of all this is where Avenida Central meets Calle Central. Then it gets complicated—the odd-numbered avenidas are to the north of Avenida Central, the even-numbered ones south of it. The streets (calles) to the west of Calle Central are even-numbered, the ones to the east are odd-numbered. Some planner apparently thought he was making things easy, but without a map, the numbering system is hard to remember for a short-term visitor.

Since San Jose is relatively a small capital, walking is the best way to get around. Buses are available, but not all that frequent; so taxis, relatively inexpensive, may be the answer unless you have a rental car.

Chief Sights and AttractionsThough many tourists use San Jose simply as a jumping-off point to the mountains and beaches or else concentrate on the many low-cost language schools here that teach Spanish, a small number are interested in the city itself, and regard the following visits as indispensable: the National Theater, as much a focal point of civic pride as a cultural venue; the Museo de Oro (Gold Museum), seven days a week, 9:30a.m. to 4:30p.m.; the Museo del Jade (Jade Museum), Monday through Friday, 8:30a.m. to 3:30p.m.; the Museo de Arte Costarricense (Costa Rican Art Museum), Tuesday through Sunday, 10 to 4; and the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, Tuesday through Sunday, 8:30a.m. to 4p.m.

Rates are rather moderate in all price ranges, but bear in mind that you'll need to pay a tax of 16.39% on the final bill. As always, we have grouped your lodgings into the following categories: Top Hotels, Quality, Moderately Priced, Upper Budget, and Lower Budget.

The Top Hotels

Real Inter-Continental, P.O. Box 11856-1000, Escazu, San Jose, on the Prospero Fernandez Highway, phone 800/327-0200 or 506/289-7000, fax 506/289-8980,
, e-mail: . Rates year-round for standard room, single or double, $165; club rooms and suites are higher. Extra person $45.
The best hotel in town, the Camino Real is located in the exclusive residential area of Escazu, a suburb located halfway between downtown and the airport. The five-story building is elegant and sprawling, with 260 beautifully decorated rooms and suites, all affording a view of the valley or mountains and the hotel's own extensive gardens. Each unit has a big cable TV, with voice mail, high-speed internet, and other modern amenities among the usual ones found in top quality establishments. Public facilities include a business center, two restaurants, pool, lighted tennis courts, fitness center, and casino.


Holiday Inn Aurola, P.O. Box 7802 or 5 Avenida & 5 Calle, San Jose 1000, in the heart of downtown. Phone 800 HOLIDAY or 506/222-2424, fax 506/225-1171,
, e-mail: . Rates for both single and double standard rooms are $125 to $150.
The Aurola is an attractive, glass-sheeted high-rise of some 17 floors and 188 rooms. Each unit is fairly spacious and in addition to the usual first-class amenities, has color cable TV and individually controlled air-conditioning. Public facilities include two restaurants (one on the top floor), underground parking, gift shops, swimming pool, and a gymnasium.

Hotel Herradura Resort & Conference Center, Cariari City, on the outskirts of San Jose, phone 506/239-0033, fax 506/293-3713,
. Rates for standard single April through October are $120, double $130; November through March, a single is $130, a double $140. Suites start from $205. Extra person in room $15. Two children under 12 stay free when sharing parent's room.
From its attractive position on the grounds of the Cariari Country Club, about a 10 minute drive from either the airport or the town center, the Herradura offers 232 quite elegant, spacious rooms with all the standard first-class features, including (in this instance) satellite TV with U.S. programming. Some rooms have private balconies and patios. Public facilities include three restaurants, two bars, casino, outdoor pool, Jacuzzi and sauna, exercise equipment, an 18-hole golf course, and ten lighted tennis courts. Also: shuttle bus service to San Jose, child care, gift shop and orchid garden.

Hotel Amstel Amon, P.O. Box 4192-1000, San Jose, in the historical quarter. Phone 506/257-0191, fax 506/257-0284. Rates year round for standard single are $110, or double $120, suites are $135 through $145. Extra person $20. Children under 12 are free when sharing with parents. Breakfast is included.

The Amstel Amon is a modern, low-rise building (four stories) in the heart of San Jose’s historical district, the Barrio Amon. There are 60 large rooms and 30 suites, all carpeted and air-conditioned, some for non-smokers, and with cable TV. Public facilities include a restaurant, snack bar, casino (you get some free chips) and bar, souvenir shop, and underground parking.

Hotel Hampton Inn Airport, P.O. Box 962-1000, San Jose, one mile east of international airport. Phone 800/426-7866 or 506/443-0043, fax 506/442-9532,
, e-mail: . Rates are single $95, double $101. Extra bed in room is $7. Rates include continental breakfast and free local phone calls, plus transport to and from the international airport and free in-room TV channels (HBO, etc.) Children under 18 stay free and so do third and fourth adults sharing same room. Senior (over 50) discounts are available two for the price of one in same room.
This hotel is a pleasant and typical member of the well-like Hampton Inn chain, with all the usual furnishings, devices, and amenities of that group, including air-conditioning, noise-abatement windows (because of the airport), and color cable TV. Public facilities include outdoor pool, casino, and bar. Restaurants are within walking distance.

Quality Hotel Centro Colón, P.O. Box 433-1007 or 590 Edificio Centro Colon, San Jose, two blocks east of Sabana Park on 3rd Avenue between 38th & 40th St. Phone 506/257-2580, fax 506/257-2582,
, e-mail: . Rates for a standard room (always including continental breakfast) start at, single or double, $75, triple or quad $95. Suites start from $90. Children under 12 are free.
The Quality Inn is a rather standard Quality Inn, like others you’ve seen, except for its exotic location: between the famous Poas Volcano (only 25 miles in one direction) and the beaches of Costa Rica (only 60 miles in the other direction.) It offers 129 standard-size rooms with adequate comforts and amenities, including air-conditioning and safes. Public facilities include four restaurants and a cocktail lounge. It is also located just one mile from the downtown business district, and right next door to the large Centro Colon shopping and business center with its multiple restaurants, discotheque, banks, embassies, and travel agencies.

Budget Hotels

Best Western San Jose Downtown, P.O. Box 1849-1002 or Avenida 7, Calles 6 y 8, San Jose, in downtown. Phone 506/255-4766, fax 506/255-4613,
. Rates for single are $54.50, double $64.50, triple $74.50. Rates include continental breakfast, all local calls, 24-hour coffee service, free cocktail hour, and hotel to airport transfer.
Each of the 70 air-conditioned rooms here has in-room cable TV, full bathroom, phone, and carpeting. Twenty percent of the rooms are non-smoking. Public facilities include an outdoor pool, self-service restaurant and bar, and private parking.

Golden Tulip Hotel Ambassador, Paseo Colon, 26th & 28th Street, San Jose 10186-1000, about a mile from the city center. Phone 506/221-8155, fax 506/255-3396,
, e-mail: . Year round rates are $40 single, $45 double and include American breakfast. Additional person is $10. No charge for children under 12 who stay with their parents.
Each of the 64 rooms and 10 suites in this six-story building of modest pretensions is air-conditioned, with color cable TV (including CNN), minibar, and room safe. Public facilities include 24-hour room service (not usually found at this price level), restaurant, coffee shop, cocktail lounge, and a cafeteria, as well as garage, beauty shop, and barber.

Hotel San Jose, 1500-1002 San Jose, on 2nd Avenue, 50 yards from the National Museum. Phone 506/256-2191, fax 506/221-6684,
. Rates for year round standard single, one person are $31, two persons $37; single suite $40.85, double suite $47.14. Additional person is $6 and breakfast is included.
In an unusually attractive district of San Jose, the Apartotel has 20 suites with one or two bedrooms, each with private bathroom, living room, fully equipped kitchenette, phone, cable TV, maid service--and access to private parking. The suites are done nicely in modern, first-class motel decor. There is a small lobby, but no restaurant or bar.