Arrive in San Jose
San Jose Travel Blog› entry 1 of 6 › view all entries
Arrived in San Jose via a direct flight from JetBlue. My taxi was waiting for me - great guy with a nice clean van. Took me direct to La Hotel Amistad for $30; which I paid in USD. (In general, most mainstream places take USD or colones; but it is good to keep both on you at all times.) I was able to get colones or USD at every ATM I came in contact with in Costa Rica - - both in San Jose and abroad. This was REALLY convenient and helped with the whole exchange rate thing. In general, this was my rule-of-thumb with transposing colones into dollars to evaluate the value of something: double it for the dollar rate. meaning 5,000 colonoes is $10. 10,500 colones is $21.00 It is not an exact calculation, but it can get you close enough to make a quick decision on a purchase.
Hotel La Amistad was a very nice, american friendly hotel about a 15 minute walk to downtown. (they advertise it as 5 minutes on their website, but trust me - - all of 15 minutes) San Jose is fine - -nothing great, but nothing terrible. I traveled here solo and felt very safe during the day - - would not be out after sunset though by myself, so take that into consideration. Also - the city is laid out in the most illogical way i have EVER seen. If you are planning on spending ANY time here at all, get a map of the city and study it to get your bearings BEFORE you arrive. The only thing that saved me from being lost was standing in the city and orienting myself to buildings as landmarks. The streets are unmarked 95% of the time - - of course, if you get in a pinch you can always take a taxi to get where you want to go. But as someone who prides themselves on having a good sense of direction, I wasn't about to let San Jose beat me. It took me 15 minutes to get to downtown, an hour or so to see all the highlights - - and 3 hours to find my way back to the hotel again. The good news? I made it back just in time for sunset AND the city didn't beat me. Score 1 for me.
There are a couple of things to see in San Jose - - the theater nationale being the highlight. Avenida Central is a long strip of shopping and restaurants on a street that is pedestrian only, and worth seeing. This was a great place to walk around, people watch, get a sense for the way people live and sample the local cuisine. There are several large parks woven into the city as well as little bits of art sprinkled here and there. I walk fast and am not much of a stop-and-smell the roses type and felt like I got to see the highlights in an hour and a half of so. There was a show at the Theater Nationale the night I was there - and I would have liked to take that in - - but again, didn't feel comfortable going out at night by myself. However, for a couple, adding this to your trip could totally change the game on San Jose for you.
Given the strong suggestion of my gut to not venture out after dark, I ate dinner at the hotel. Food was FANTASTIC, reasonably priced and the bartender was just AWESOME. Met some other guys at the bar that helped to give me the lay of the land. In general, San Jose was pleasant and not a bad introduction to Costa Rica. Got to bed early because Friday was white water day!