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Things to do in San José, Costa Rica

Costa Rica's capital rewards explorers with lively markets, must-see museums, and unforgettable volcanos close by.

Our most recommended things to do in San José, Costa Rica

San Jose Bites and Sights Walking Tour

1. San Jose Bites and Sights Walking Tour

Get up close and personal with Costa Rican life, through local food, history, and even the herbal remedies of folk medicine. Enjoy a hands-on lesson on exotic plants, fruits, and vegetables, and enjoy several local food samples on this guided tour. Stroll through the streets with a local as they show you the ins-and-outs of daily life. Start with a morning pick-me-up coffee in a café located in the Central Market. Then, take a stroll through the vibrant market, tasting local fresh fruits. Next, sample empanadas and continue along local roads towards the Borbon Market. Seeing diverse sites the Cathedral, National Theater, and the beautiful parks will help you get to know the country and its rich history. Finally, visit a special coffee store where you will find coffee and chocolates produced by women. Learn to prepare coffee, enjoy a tamal, and make plantain empanadas before concluding your tour.

San José: Arenal Volcano, Hot Springs, & Zip Lining w/ Meals

2. San José: Arenal Volcano, Hot Springs, & Zip Lining w/ Meals

Tour the best locations in Costa Rica and learn about local life and culture from those who live there. Visit a coffee plantation, zip line, and soak in the hot springs at the base of the Adrenal Volcano. Take the scenic route to the Arenal Volcano and visit a coffee plantation along the way. Gain an insight into the world of Costa Rican coffee and taste one of the best coffees in the world. Arrive at the "La Paz" and "San Fernando" waterfalls and admire the exotic tropical birds of Costa Rica, including many species of hummingbirds and rare emerald toucanets. Take in the views at the San Fernando Waterfall observation point before heading to the "Iguana Bridge", where you will have the chance to spot iguanas, sloths, monkeys, and toucans. Stop for an authentic Costa Rican lunch in a restaurant located in "La Fortuna." Then, prepare for a zip-lining adventure in the local rainforest jungles with 9 canopy cables and a 50 meter (150 feet) rappel on the Arenal River. Learn about the culture while listening to a "Maleku" Indigenous tribe presentation from locals. Relax for a couple of hours in the Paradise Hot Springs at the base of Arenal Volcano, surrounded by tropical gardens followed by dinner.

San Jose: Walking Nature Tour with Sloths, Birds, and Trees

3. San Jose: Walking Nature Tour with Sloths, Birds, and Trees

Departing from the nearby meeting point, visit the University of Costa Rica campus, home to some of the largest patches of forest in San Jose. Guided by young biologists, discover the nature hiding in the middle of Costa Rica's largest city. Experience wildlife you wouldn't have imagined existed minutes away from downtown.   On the first stop, you’ll look for resident and migratory birds, lots of incredible insects and amazing flowers. Then, see the largest indigenous stone sphere in San Jose, thought to derive from the extinct Diquis culture. Lastly, visit the main campus to seek out the friendly sloths climbing freely. The goal of this tour is to change the way tourism is done in Costa Rica, while supporting young scientists, researchers, and local entrepreneurs.

From San Jose: 3-Day Tortuguero National Park Excursion

4. From San Jose: 3-Day Tortuguero National Park Excursion

Explore the protected Tortuguero National Park in the Limón Province, reachable only by airplane or boat. Take in the wealth of biodiversity in its eleven different habitats, including rainforest, mangrove forests, swamps, beaches, and lagoons. Trip itinerary: Day 1: After an early morning hotel pickup, admire the biodiversity of a primary forest through the window as you drive past Braulio Carrillo National Park. Sample a delicious Costa Rican breakfast during the drive. Mid-morning, board a comfortable boat and travel along the Tortuguero Canals. Be enchanted by the surrounding paradise and its varied flora and fauna. Then, enjoy a refreshing cocktail and a delicious lunch at the hotel. After lunch, tour the canals and take incredible photos for the rest of the afternoon. Arrive at Pachira Lodge (or similar) for a delightful dinner and a restful night's sleep. Day 2: Discover the flavors of Costa Rica with breakfast at the Lodge. Then, hike along the Lodge's private trail and work up an appetite for lunch. After lunch at the Lodge, visit the Sea Turtle Museum, the beach, and the picturesque village of Tortuguero. In the evening, enjoy dinner at the Lodge again. Day 3: After breakfast at the Lodge, head back to San José, stopping for lunch at El Ceibo in Guápiles on the way. Arrive back in San José in the afternoon.

From San Jose: Irazu Volcano Crater Hike and Cartago Trip

5. From San Jose: Irazu Volcano Crater Hike and Cartago Trip

Depart from San Jose to discover the highest volcano in Costa Rica. Enjoy a trek through breathtaking scenery to reach the summit of Irazu Volcano and gaze into the emerald lagoon in its crater. Descend from the peak to explore the city of Cartago and enter the Basilica. Get picked up from your accommodations in San Jose and meet your friendly guide and group for the day. Leave the city behind as you travel to the Cartago Province. Arrive at Irazu Volcano and begin the easy hike up to the summit. Pass by all types of vegetation including coffee plantations and ferns as you ascend. Take a deep breath as you make it to the summit and be blown away by spectacular views of the massive crater. Wonder at the green lagoon beneath you and on a clear day enjoy views across the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Climb down the rocky trail to the historic city of Cartago, a former capital of Costa Rica. Enter the famous pilgrim site of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels and wander under the large vaulted ceilings before returning to San Jose.

San Jose: Irazú Volcano, Cartago City & Orosi Valley Tour

6. San Jose: Irazú Volcano, Cartago City & Orosi Valley Tour

Start with a pickup from your hotel and travel by minibus along the Panamerican Highway until you reach the base of the Irazú Volcano. Travel up the winding road through fertile farmlands where many types of fruit and vegetables are cultivated.  Enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding hills and valleys. At the summit of the volcano, on a clear day, marvel at the spectacular view of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Next, descend to the city of Cartago and stop at the Virgin of the Angels Basilica. Discover this local pilgrimage site which has large vaulted ceilings and exquisite examples of stained glass windows.  Continue the tour through the Orosi Valley, an area of magnificent natural beauty. Visit one of the few remaining colonial churches in the region and stop for a tasty typical lunch at one of the local restaurants. Finally, be returned to your hotel to complete the tour.

From San José: Pacuare River White Water Rafting Day Trip

7. From San José: Pacuare River White Water Rafting Day Trip

The white water is equally exciting. It is not an overly challenging river, but it has a lot of rapids, therefore giving you an adventure filled with lots of fun. The 18 mile day run includes a total of 52 rapids. Few rivers in the world can offer you so many. Upon arrival to the river, we will gear you up with a life jacket, helmet, and paddle and then brief you with a full safety orientation talk. Finally, it is time to take off down the rapids! The first 4 miles consist of fun class II-III rapids which is a perfect time to test your new river skills and gain confidence in your team. Here you can find pockets of secondary growth forest that are extremelPacuare is world famous for its sheer beauty. y beautiful. After about 40 minutes we will enter the famous Pacuare River Gorge, which is 5 miles of some of the best white water Costa Rica has to offer. We finish in Siquirres, at our own private Exploration Center where you can take a shower, change and enjoy the gardens and terrace while having a beer or two and reflecting with your new friends about the great adventure you just shared.

From San José: Monteverde Hanging Bridges Day Trip

8. From San José: Monteverde Hanging Bridges Day Trip

Your tour begins in the morning with pickup in the San José area. Then travel towards the northern part of the country on a very scenic drive, with great views of beautiful mountain ranges, local towns and farms, and the Pacific coast. On the way to Monteverde, enjoy multiple stops. Learn about local fruits at the largest fruit stand of the country. Explore a place where several monkeys are normally observed in the wild at a very close range. Photograph amazing landscapes from a lookout point. Once in Monteverde, savor a delicious lunch and then proceed to do the amazing hanging bridges tour in the cloud forest. Hike with your guide for two to three hours, admiring the beauties of this rare ecosystem and searching for the local wildlife, including monkeys, emerald toucans, coatimundis, and the rare resplendent quetzal, the most beautiful bird of Costa Rica. This hike is approximately 3km (1.9 miles) long and is mostly on flat terrain with a few mild climbs.  Late in the afternoon, return to your accommodation in San José or to your accommodation in central Monteverde. 

From San Jose: Full-Day Costa Rica Birdwatching Tour

9. From San Jose: Full-Day Costa Rica Birdwatching Tour

Spend a full-day in the rainforest, from special trails to the heights of the treetops and extraordinary observation points. This is an excellent option that must be included in your bird group’s itinerary. It is also a must for birders traveling independently but looking for a customized birding day. You will start the day between 06:30 - 07:00 at the park’s entrance and walk through the secondary forest and open areas. Cross a hanging bridge and see many other species that have started their daily activities in search of food. Around 07:30, you will board the Aerial Tram for a journey to an amazing high point up in the treetops to look for birds, and experience the majestic beauty of the expansive rainforest. The Aerial Tram ride is a birdwatcher’s bonanza - a leisurely observation of canopy species is the rule, and you can stop at the Aerial Tram when you want a better look. At the end, at Tower 12, take a hike on a path that will lead you to an overlook station. At this point, take time to relax and enjoy a box breakfast. Have the chance to observe many birds and explore the area and its other inhabitants. Board the tram again to head back to the rainforest, where a healthy lunch awaits. In the afternoon, passengers will continue on a path leading to the Observation Center, a special site for bird watching, surrounded by plants that attract hummingbirds. You can also peer into in the forest’s background, where once in a while some species that are difficult to spot might make appearances.    

Poás Volcano, Coffee Plantation & La Paz Waterfall Gardens

10. Poás Volcano, Coffee Plantation & La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Experience Costa Rica's nature and culture on this full-day tour from San José. Your first destination is the Doka Estate coffee plantation, where you'll learn all about the ancient techniques of producing some of the best coffee in Costa Rica and around the world. Experience the careful process involved in the cultivation, harvesting, and roasting of the Golden Bean before tasting the delectable product. After your coffee tour, continue to Poás Volcano National Park, where there is a noticeable change in temperature and beautiful scenery in a cloud forest. Climb up Poás Volcano, an active stratovolcano that most recently erupted in 2017. The crater of the volcano is over a mile across and 1,050 feet deep, making for breathtaking views. Hike on a trail to the beautiful Botos Lagoon as you learn about the different ecosystems in the park. Then, continue to La Paz Waterfall Gardens and enjoy a buffet lunch of traditional Costa Rican dishes. After lunch, explore the lush tropical rainforest. See the flowing white rivers, spectacular waterfalls, birds, butterflies, monkeys, and hummingbirds before returning to San José.

Available activities

  • Rafting, zip lines, & more
  • Tropical wildlife
  • Volcano adventures
  • Costa Rican national parks
  • Coffee plantations & Latin food
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Frequently asked questions about San José, Costa Rica

What are the best day trips and excursions from San José, Costa Rica?

The best day trips and excursions from San José, Costa Rica are:

La Fortuna

What are the best indoor activities in San José, Costa Rica for rainy days?

Other Sightseeing Options in San José, Costa Rica

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What people are saying about San José, Costa Rica

Overall rating

4.7 / 5

based on 802 reviews

I like this tour because you have a clear view of the sloth and all beautiful animals. You will learn a lot of knowledge regarding those animals as well. I personally find the tour is a bit overpriced compared to the price for other tours, partially due to the transportation. Maybe better to drive by yourself and book a tour directly there.

This was a great tour! Everything was as it said on the website (such as meeting spot, meeting times, where we would go, etc). I loved the mix of seeing historical landmarks and tasting local foods. My favorite thing that I tried was the Sweet Granadilla! I highly recommend this tour.

Great tour! Danny is an excellent guide. Go mid-day and you won't have to get lunch due to the high quantity and quality of tastings.

Rigo was an amazing tour guide! Learned so much from him and he takes the best pictures!

Great guide, great excursion. I can only recommend