Naturally Central America
The city of San Jose is literally in the heart of Costa Rica, that country sitting on the isthmus of Central America. It is the center of government, commerce and transportation, and is easily the busiest city in the whole Central American nation. With a relatively gentle average temperature of 23°C and rain concentrated only between May and November, it is a getaway that’s just right.
The Birth of San Jose
Families began settling in and around the San Jose area as early as 1560. In 1736, the Spanish conquerors ordered all those families into a smaller area somewhere in the middle, building a church dedicated to Saint Joseph as the center. Thus began the new town of San Jose. In 1824, the quickly expanding town was named the capital of the new Costa Rican republic, which had gained independence just three years prior.
Industrialists had much to do with the development of San Jose. Silas Wright Hastings’ Tramway and Hippodrome Company as well as Minor Cooper Keith’s Atlantic railroad helped establish the capital as the nation’s transportation hub.
Seeing San Jose
Regardless of the time of year, there’s usually something to watch, visit or do in the Costa Rican capital. The Melico Salazar Theater and the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica both have activities and presentations for much of the year. Thursday and Friday performances of the National Symphonic Orchestra are also local events between March and November of every year.
There’s much natural beauty to be seen in and around the capital. The Cerro de la Muerte, for example, is a highway stretching almost 50 kilometers that offers a view of almost all the plants and animals of the highlands. It offers a good opportunity to see Costa Rica’s largely endemic wildlife. Some landowners along the highway also offer guided tours of their forested properties for between $5 and $10 a head, giving a closer view of nature.
Food is a big part of Central American culture, and that’s apparent in San Jose as well. El Pueblo offers a diverse mix of food choices in the mornings, as well as a thriving nightlife after dark. Downtown is also a good place to start for the hungry tourist. More adventurous visitors also like to visit Calle de la Amargura near the University of Costa Rica where low-priced (and slightly more exotic) student fare and pickpockets are abundant.
Transportation in and around San Jose is largely private; buses are run by commercial operators, and the local train service is moderately reliable at best. Car rentals and taxis are inexpensive in San Jose, and are the preferred modes of transport for many tourists. It is advised that cab riders know landmarks around their destination beforehand, as local cabbies rarely know street names.
An early start to every day is generally advised to all tourists especially during the rainy season. The morning weather in San Jose is pleasant enough, but afternoons tend to be cloudy or rainy. Many bus lines start operating in the early morning, allowing tourists to enjoy the sights before the weather turns foul.
San Jose offers a view of nature that’s rich and largely unique from the surrounding areas. And because it is been judged as one of the most stable democracies in Central America, it is also one of the best and safest destinations in the region.