Costa Rica’s capital is, apart from the often chaotic traffic in the city centre, far away from being a vibrant metropolis.
It is lacking the architectural evidence of a powerful past and the public life in the squares that characterizes many Latin American cities. The urban arbitrariness is also due to the fact that San José experienced a real population explosion in the second half of the 20th century (1950: 86000, 2010: about 350000). Three museums stand out from San José’s sights, giving a compact and impressive overview of the pre-Spanish history of the “rich coast”: The National Museum, housed in a former barrack, the “Museo de Oro Precolombino” dedicated to the most coveted material of South American cultures in the building of the Central Bank and the most important jade collection in Central America in the new INS building, named after the former president of the state insurance company INS, Marco Fidel Tristan. Although jade was never found in Costa Rica, the processing of jade reached an artistic climax here. This fact is attributed to trade relations with Guatemala, the main mining area of the subcontinent. The most interesting building in the city is the neoclassical National Theatre, built on the model of the Paris Opera and opened in 1897 with a staging of Faust.
The capital San José is the starting point and/or end point for trips to Costa Rica and the hub of domestic air traffic. For “city haters” and rental car drivers we recommend a hotel in Alajuela, which is only a few minutes away from the international airport “Juan Santamaria”. This is also where most car rental companies have their offices. From Alajuela you can easily reach many interesting destinations in the central high valley. Since most travellers stop twice in San José and the surrounding area, it is also possible to spend one night in the city and the other in Alajuela.