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

From San Jose: Tabacon Hot Springs & Arenal Volcano Day Trip

1. From San Jose: Tabacon Hot Springs & Arenal Volcano Day Trip

See the best of both worlds - the raw, untamed beauty of the imposing Arenal Volcano juxtaposed against the soothing thermal waters of Tabacon hot springs - on a day tour from San Jose. Enjoy the backdrop of lush vegetation and breathtaking views of the nearly perfectly conical volcano. After hotel pickup, head to your first stop, the famous town of Sarchi, known as Costa Rica's craftwork center. Appreciate many of the arts and crafts that Costa Rica has to offer, and perhaps pick up some brightly colored or wooden handicrafts to take back home with you as a souvenir. Next, head to La Fortuna, home to the magnificent natural wonder of the Arenal Volcano, where you will have a Costa Rican lunch. After eating, head to the impressive Arenal Volcano and take a short hike around the base to take photos. Marvel at the conical volcano and its plumes of white smoke. Then, relax at one of the best hot springs in the area, Tabacon hot springs, where you will revel in the cleansing and rejuvenating effects of the thermal waters. Enjoy the combination of the heat of the volcano, the flowing waters of the hot springs, and the pure air of the rainforest. Finally, be dropped back at your hotel in San Jose.

San Jose Bites and Sights Walking Tour

2. San Jose Bites and Sights Walking Tour

On this experience you’ll 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, vegetables, and more. Nothing could get you closer to authentic San Jose than strolling through the streets with a local as they show you the ins and outs of daily life. Your experience starts with a morning pick-me-up cup of coffee in a café located in the Central Market where you’ll get to know your guide and relax into your surroundings. From here, we’ll take a stroll through the vibrant market, tasting local fresh fruits, empanada and continuing 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 and from this experience, you’ll have another sense – taste – to get more in tune with San Jose. For the end visit a special coffee store where you will find coffee and chocolates produced by women, in this special place learn to prepare coffee, enjoy a tamal, and make plantain empanadas...

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

3. 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.

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

4. 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.

San José: Tortuga Island Tour with Lunch & Hotel Transfer

5. San José: Tortuga Island Tour with Lunch & Hotel Transfer

Explore Tortuga Island on a guided tour with hotel pickup and drop-off included. Go on a quick tour of the other islands in a boat, then arrive at Tortuga Island. Go snorkelling or swimming, and eat breakfast on the beach. Opt to do other activities, such as renting a jet ski. Tuck into lunch. Begin your tour by getting picked up in an air-conditioned vehicle directly from your hotel in either Heredia, San José, or Alajuela. Once you arrive at the harbour, hop into your speedboat and set sail on your adventure. Listen to your guide tell you about the local area and take in the views. Go on a tour to the Gulf of Nicoya, and see islands such as San Lucas, Isla Cedros, and Jesusita. Use the opportunity to take photos. Along the way, keep an eye out for bottlenose dolphins that are residents of Puntarenas. See if you can spot whales or turtles, and stop to observe them. Upon arrival at the island, be provided with equipment to go snorkelling, as well as instructions on how to use them. Go searching for exotic and colorful fish underwater. Spend time relaxing on the white sand in the shade of palm trees. Savor some fresh fruit for breakfast. Opt to participate in other activities at an extra cost. Rent a jet ski and head out onto the turquoise waters, go on a hike and take in the breathtaking views, go paddleboarding, or rent a kayak.  Opt to participate in other activities at an extra cost. Rent a jet ski or a kayak, or go paddleboarding. After you have explored the island, head back for lunch on the beach. Enjoy cold drinks and a coffee along with it. Hop back in the boat to be taken back to your hotel at the end of the day.

From San Jose: 3-Day Tortuguero National Park Excursion

6. 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.

Poás Volcano, Coffee Plantation & La Paz Waterfall Gardens

7. 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.

San José: Night Food and Culture Tour with Dinner

8. San José: Night Food and Culture Tour with Dinner

Follow an expert local guide and explore San José at night on a small-group, food-themed walking tour. See important cultural sites and feast on a traditional dinner with wine or beer pairings. Get up close and personal with the nightlife in San José, starting with Morazán Park where we will learn post-colonial Costa Rican history. From there, the appreciation for San José’s historical architecture continues, with a walk by the Metallic Building, then on to Spain Park for a fantastic view of the Yellow House (now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Continue to the harming Barrio Escalante, one of the oldest residential areas neighborhoods in San José. Nowadays, Barrio Escalante has reinvented itself and is now home to many up-and-coming restaurants and at night is a favorite meeting spot for locals and visitors alike. The evening will end with a contemporary traditional meal with wine or beer tastings at a hip local restaurant that is very popular with locals and offers a sampler of traditional Costa Rican pub fare.

San José: Guided Volcano, Waterfall & Coffee Farm Day Trip

9. San José: Guided Volcano, Waterfall & Coffee Farm Day Trip

Visit the Poás Volcano, the picturesque La Paz outdoor waterfall, and the one-and-only Starbucks coffee farm on a day trip from San José, Costa Rica. A wonderful choice for coffee aficionados and nature lovers alike, this tour includes a hotel pickup and lunch at a local restaurant. Enjoy a convenient pickup directly from your accommodation in San Jose and make your way to your first stop for the day, the Poás Volcano. Travel in an air-conditioned van and admire coffee plantations as well as flower and strawberry farms along the way. Poás is one of Costa Rica's most active volcanoes and last erupted in April 2017. The volcano and the surrounding park were closed for close to 17 months and a safety perimeter of nearly 2.5 kilometers was established around the erupting crater. At the volcano, you'll have time to enjoy the impressive main crater with its sulfur fumaroles. Then, follow a trail to the Botos Lagoon, a crater lake located inside the Poás Volcano National Park. As you hike, learn about the different ecosystems in the park. After your trek, refuel with a delicious lunch of local fare at one of the restaurants in the area. Then, head out to your next destination, the La Paz Waterfall. Discover La Paz waterfall as you stroll along paved trails through cloud forests and rainforests. Make the most of excellent photo opportunities as you visit these falls and see them from different vantage points Then, head to your final stop for the day, the Hacienda Alsacia coffee farm, the first and only Starbucks coffee farm. See the visitor center and learn what Starbucks is doing to empower farmers, promote sustainable practices, and develop the next generation of coffee. At the end of your Costa Rica adventure, enjoy a convenient transfer back to your hotel in San José.

Manuel Antonio National Park Combo Tour from San Jose

10. Manuel Antonio National Park Combo Tour from San Jose

Expereince the stunning beauty of the Manuel Antonio National Park on this day trip from San Jose. Visit Crocodile Bridge and Tarcoles Beach. Discover the abundant wildlife on the park’s rainforest trails and eat breakfast and lunch at local restaurants.  Enjoy being picked up from the comfort of your accommodation in the San Jose area. Travel aboard an airconditioned coach on the way to have breakfast in a local restaurant located next to the biggest fruit market in the country.  Visit the market to observe a large variety of tropical fruits. Continue your journey with a stop at the popular crocodile bridge where you will have the chance to observe one of Costa Rica’s biggest crocodile’s populations.  Search for scarlet macaws in their natural habitat on Tarcoles Beach where they like to gather. Stop at the Jaco Bay lookout point and take pictures of Costa Rica’s most popular coastal town.  Travel to the Manuel Antonio National Park, hike the rainforest trails with your guide for about and hour and search for monkeys, sloths, toucans, and agoutis. Spend some free time relaxing on the park's pristine beaches or hiking to along rainforest trails. Savor a delicious lunch of local cuisine in a restaurant that provides great jungle and ocean views. Lunch is served in the early afternoon around 2 PM, after which you will be taken back to your hotel in San Jose.

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:

Alajuela

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 676 reviews

One of the best tour I've ever been on. My guide was very knowledgeable about virtually everything. Capture vivid images of sloths and birds right in the heart of downtown San Jose. I'll recommend this tour to any visiting CR. I'm very bad with names but my tour guide was exceptionally brilliant, articulate, very friendly and patient.

This is the best way to explore the city. Candidly there’s not much to do in San Jose but this tour was SO WORTH IT! Dinorah was our guide and she was extremely knowledgeable, friendly and upbeat making the tour very interesting. Don’t hesitate — book this if you’re in town for a day or just 6-7 hours.

This excursion was amazing. The lunch they provided was the best lunch I had all trip. The guide was informative and polite.

Inside tours an excellent operator, I loved the beach and our guide helped us a lot thanks for such kindness

Our tour guide was beyond amazing. She was stellar.