This train station was built by the Costa Rican government to connect San Jose to the towns of Caldera , Puntarenas and their harbors. Although not in regular service the line has recently been reopened for regular tours organized by the Tico Train Tour Corp. The train uses 1940 coaches to travel through villages offering views of jungle scenery.
Address: Avenida 20 - Calle 2
Surrounded by high, bleak, concrete walls, the old National Liquor Factory has been turned into a complex with two theatres, three art galleries, a library and live cultural activities. There are frequent dance performances and concerts in the Teatro FANAL and the Teatro 1887. The newly named Centro Nacional de la Cultura, National Cultural Center, is administered by the Ministerio de Cultura Juventud Y Deportes, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport. The main building was built in 1856 and used to distil coffee liquor. On the grounds are historical artifacts as well as some of the original equipment and machinery from the factory. Open Tue-Sat, 10 am- 5 pm. Free admission.
Address: Avenidas 5-7 - Calle 11; Next to the Parque España (Park of Spain).
Because we were in San Jose on a Monday, the Gold Museum wasn't open. So ... what else is open on Monday. Let's go to the Jade Museum and then to the Spirogyria butterfly farm. I had the Frommer's guide which mentioned where it was and I had the lady at the tourist center show me where it was on the map. But no one had ever heard of it - maybe it is different now.
A short taxi ride later, we were dropped off in the university district behind the zoo. The garden is at 50 east, 150 south from the main entrance to "El Pueblo" shopping center. Open every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. We had a hard time actually finding the garden entrance and wandered around quite a bit first.
We paid what I thought was an exhorbitant admission charge (something like $10 each). Then we saw a film about the butterfly life cycle (good for Bob who as an engineer didn't know any of that kind of thing) and went through the exhibition area and out into the garden. For some reason I had not expected that the gardens were covered. Inside were not only numerous butterflies but also hummingbirds.
We sat in the garden and watched the butterflies and hummingbirds and listened to the lions roaring below us at the zoo. After we had regathered our strength, we left and got a bus back to town where we had an icecream drink at Pops.
I think now there is a cafe at Spirogyria.
It’s about a 30 minute walk here(beware of the big roundabout), or a short cab ride. There’s the university and some shopping and it’s like being in another San Jose, but more modern. The main street leading to the University has many shops and things, most directed towards students, including some cheap good food.
It proportion to it's territory, Costa Rica has more of its land in National Parks than any other country in the world. On our trip to San Jose from Puerto Limon we passed through the Braulio Carrillo National Park which is only 20 killometers northeast of the Costa Rican Capitol.
Although the limited time of our tour did not allow us to stop and explore the park, it was still very interesting to at least get a passing glimpse of the lush green volcanic mountains, laced with rivers and streams. The fact that our tour guide was a retired National Park Ranger was a bonus because he shared many stories as only someone intimately involved with the park service could do.
One of our best views of the Braulio Carrillo National Park was that of the Rio Sucio, literally translated as "Dirty River." However, we were informed that the water is actually very clean. The yellow color is caused by sulfur from the volcanos within the park and not from mud or pollution.
All throughout Costa Rica you will see small beat, run down looking local restaurants with a sign outside that says "SODA". They are not advertising that they sell soda. (provided you are from a place in the US that says soda and not "pop"). This is the local name given to these small budget, usually family owned, restaurants. You will be inclined to avoid them initially because of there dingy, non-tourist friendly surface aspects. They are designed for locals on a budget and dining at one will not only give you an idea about what a typical Tico eats for breakfast but it will also give you a glimpse into the actual economy of Costa Rica (as opposed to the tourist economy that is reserved for you). The food is surprisingly good at most and the portions are enormous. They usually have eggs, gallo pinto or arroz y frijoles (black beans and rice sometimes with other ingredients as well) , two or three types of sausages, ham, platanos (fried plantains), and pastries ( doughnuts, cakes, and brownies). They will have a series of pre-arranged combo plates that are really cheap (usually about 2-5US) and including these mixed fruit drinks that Ticos love. You can customize you platter by substituting items or adding and subtracting dishes as you see fit. I ate at these places almost everyday and never got sick and was able to fill up and save a lot of money this way. They are also great for people watching.
On the 11th floor of an insurance building is the Fidel Tristán Jade Museum, which has the largest collection of jade in the world - pre-columbian artifacts (mostly carved adzes and pendants but some rather rude ceramics too) and reconstructions. The museum also displays a archaeological exhibits of ceramics, stonework and gold miniatures.
It takes of the whole floor of the skyscraper and you get 360 degrees of views of the city.
Mon-Fri 9:00-3:00. When we went it was free, but I think there is now a small admission fee of $2 or $3.
9 Street, 7 Ave., INS Building, 11 Floor, San Jose across from the Parque España (Park of Spain). The elevator to the museum is off to the left side as you approach the main entrance. The URL has a map of the location.
(The second URL doesn't seem to be working ATM)
You don’t have to go into the country to experience a butterfly garden, there’s one located centrally in San Jose. Located across the river from the zoo, you’ll have to swing around to the El Pueblo shopping centre and come in from the north. The garden consists of small waterfalls surrounded by orchids and heliconias with live butterflies and hummingbirds. The entire area is covered by a net ensuring that the butterflies will be there when you come to visit. Open 9 am-4 pm (except Monday). Medium admission.
Address: Across from El Pueblo towards downtown across from the zoo.
An unattractive square made up mostly of concrete and very little greenery. Rising above to the east is the fort containing the National Museum. On the west side is a bronze statue of Don Figueres commemorating 100 years of democracy in Costa Rica. Also on the west side is a daily flea market.
Address: Avenidas Central-2 - Calle 13-15
I was always encanted with the short pedestrian mall on Calle 17 that connects the National Park with the Organismo de Investigación Judicial, Court Administration buildings. There are few is any street vendors, palm trees line the street and interesting architecture lies to either side. Along the way, stop off at the Legislative Assembly (Avenida Central), the National Museum (Avenidas Central-2) and the Criminology Museum (Avenidas 6-8).
Address: Avenidas1-6 - Calle 17
Established in 1916, San Jose’s zoo contains more than 300 animals and 150 species of plants. Operated by the National Park Service, it offers opportunity to view numerous species of native wildlife that are not all that easily seen in the wild, even after a week or two of walking trails through different national parks. Open 9:00 am to 3:30 pm. Small admission.
Address: North on Calle 9
Designed in 1895, this park contains the National Monument commemorating the successful battle against the American adventurer William Walker in 1856. In fact, the park has several statues dedicated to national heroes. The park was remodeled in 2001 and is now a popular place for students and strolling lovers under its tall tropical trees.
Address: % b Avenida 1-3 - Calle 15-19
Located in front of the La Merced church, this park is also referred to as Parque Merced. The park is nicely treed with palms and contains a Pre-Colombian stone sphere, the statue of former president Braulio Carillo and a fountain.
Address: Avenida 2-4 - Calle 14-16, Across from the church of La Merced
This train station was the jumping off point for the “jungle train” which connected San Jose to Moin harbor near the town of Limón. Service has been discontinued in 1991 when an earthquake destroyed more than 50 miles (80 km.) of track on the Atlantic slopes. Currently, the 1908 Victorian-style building houses the National Train Museum which contains pictures and documents from that era. Outside there is a steam engine of the Northern Railway (as the line was called before nationalization) that was brought from Philadelphia in 1939. Open 10 am to 3 pm. Small admission.
Address: Avenida 3 - Calle 21
Built in the 1930’s the roof is adorned by a figure of Santa Teresita. This church turned out to be an excellent landmark for my walking adventures. To the west the streets are grid-like and easy to navigate; to the west, not so much.
Address: Avenida 9 - Calle 29