This church dates to 1909 and has stained glass windows shipped from Switzerland. Statuettes adorn the niches of both matching towers. The bells and organ date from the early 1900’s.
Address: Avenida 4 - Calle 9
Originally constructed in 1909, the church of La Merced is currently being restored. This is the oldest church in San Jose and is noted for its sculpted wooden ceiling, slender spires and arched windows.
Address: Avenida 2-4 - Calle 12
The original church was built on this site in 1841. When Costs Rica was experiencing a cholera epidemic in the 1860’s the people promised to carry a statuette of Black Christ if they were but spared. The church still holds the mahogany statuette and it is carried in a parade on the last Sunday of August.
Address: Avenida Central - Calle 3
The eye is drawn to one of the few sky scrapers in the downtown area, but in this case not necessarily for its beauty. This is the headquarters for Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, also known as CAJA or CCSS. These are the people who look after the hospitals and clinics in Costa Rica. It is also the home of the Costa Rica Tourist Ministry (ICT). Beside the buildings is the Plaza de Guarantees Sociales. Covering the entire block, the square is mostly paved with some lawn and trees.
Address: Avenida 4 – Calles 5 y 7
We arrived about mid-day on Sunday, and by the time we got to the hotel and checked in, we didn't have much time left for sightseeing. We took a cab (expensive) into San Jose to the Serpentarium at 1st Ave., 9 & 11 Streets. I figured the chances of encountering a poisonous snake were small, but I wanted to know what one would look like if I did run across a snake.
This was a VERY interesting place, and I enjoyed it very much, but then I'm not freaked about snakes. The website says: "Most notorious is the terciopelo, responsible for more than half the poisonous snakebites in Costa Rica. The menagerie also features boa constrictors, Jesus Christ lizards, poison dart frogs, iguanas, and an aquarium full of deadly sea snakes. There are also such exotic creatures as king cobras and Burmese pythons."
According to my information at the time, the serpentarium is closed Monday, but it was one of the few things open on Sunday.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9:00-18:00 / Sat-Sun 10:00-17:00
Admission: Approx. US$5, per person
This is an orchid garden run by the University of Costa Rica. Originally a private garden run by a British orchid enthusiast, it is now open to the public.
Between February and April is the best time to visit the gardens to see most orchids in bloom.
There are over 800 species of orchids in these gardens, as well as many other plants and an arboretum
Although very touristy and commercial, I thoroughly enjoyed this theatrical tour.
Led by professional actors posing as plantation workers, you are guided through the whole process of coffee growing, harvesting, roasting, tasting and buying.
There is also a multimedia show, plant tour and tasting session, with the ubiquitous shopping experience at the end. Their coffee liqueur is to die for!
Sarchi is Costa Rica's famous craft centre, best known for its painted ox carts. These carts are Moorish in origin and can be traced back to Spanish immigrants. Now you can find them adorning gardens of local inhabitants. You can also see them being made at a couple of cart factories.
If you would like to bring home one of the painted carts, but are worried about space in your luggage, the same painting style is also used to decorate wooden trays, plates and other souvenirs.
Many other crafts are for sale here including unpainted woodwork and leather rocking chairs.
Grecia is situated in an agricultural area, where mainly sugar cane and pineapple are grown.
Grecia was once voted the cleanest little town in Latin America.
It's red town centre church is constructed from metal.
In a private reserve bordering the Braulio Carrillo National Park , about an hour from San Jose. One of the biologically richest canopy cominities in the world.
90 minute journey in ski-lift type aerial tram, outwards though the lower level of the forest and return amongst the higher levels at 35 metres.
Each car has a naturalist guide to help you
spot wildlife and explain about the plants and life in the canopy.
We found the trip very interesting, even though we didn't spot many birds or animals.
This aerial tram was the first of its kind in the world. It was created with minimum impact on the rain forest by carrying all the building materials by hand or cable systems, and the pilons were helicoptered in by the Nigerian Air Force.
Restaurant, shop and toilets available at the site.
After the tram trip, you are taken on a guided tour of the grounds - in the pouring rain!
There are several recently renovated parks throughout the city. This one is by the court house, a short walk from the Jade Museum and the National Museum. It has lovely benches, a frog pond, lots of trees, and many buses stop near-by.
Located one-hour far from San José, river La Paz forms five amazing waterfalls. Templo, Magia Blanca, Encantada, Escondida and La Paz.
You can visit them by contacting La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which offers a trail to see all or some of them, it's your choice. The entrance fee for adults are US$24.
This area is a must for two reasons:
- you can visit the crater of the Poás volcano (around 2700 m. over sea level) which is the second largest accesible crater in the world. The volcano is still active, but it is safe though, considering that its activity consists on, eventually, throw out steam and stone, but not lava.
My big frustration: the day I went to the Poás... it was cloudy!! That means that I could neither observe the turqoise lagoon in the crater nor take a picture of it :-( That's why I had to conform myself with the pic of the board of explanation of the crater, next to it.
- you can observe the rich flora and fauna of the national reserve, which conserves 79 types of exotic birds, as hummingbirds and quetzals, as well as other animals like coyotes and the green-yellow squirrell, this last one only found in this park. You could also enjoy the different types of forests that it conserves.
I would also recommend a tour by boat in river Sarapiquí, where you can observe some of the fauna of the place, like howler monkeys, crocodriles, caymans and toucans, among others. However, in order to preserve the calm of the place to not to disturb the animals, the tour is short and the most silent possible. There are several tour packages that includes this activitiy with the visit to the Poás volcano and the waterfalls, but if you prefer you can reach this place by bus or car.
There is also the possibility to do rafting in other areas of this river (see adventure sports tips).
This amazing butterfly observatory is also located inside the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. It consists on:
- a laboratory where butterflies are not only classified, but also controlled from their process of birth till they become adults. There's also a sort of museum where you can observe the types of butterflies that the area has.
- a closed area outside the laboratory where butterflies are free to fly and visitors can observe them.
- gorgeous hummingbird gardens where flowers, especially orchids, are grown in order to supply the hummingbirds what they need to live. There are around 16 types of hummingbirds in this area, which are also feed with a preparation of smashed bananas.