Trying to experience a country in just two days is a kind of sweet torture in which you’re stricken by decisions you never thought you’d have to make. Beach or jungle? Volcano or waterfall? And by the time you make a decision the trip is over and there’s still so much you haven’t seen. I found a perfect split between interacting with the locals and capturing the abudant wildlife.
Costa Rica is known for its gourmet coffee beans. Whether you’re a coffee fan or not, it’s interesting to see the amount of work that coffee beans go through to bring out their best taste. Cafe Brit offers an hour and a half long comedic take on the coffee making process from import to export. The tour gives you a closer look at the effort it takes to create coffee. With the best part being the savory smells and tastes of several blends along the way.
Downtown San Jose
Most people stray away from San Jose in lieu of Costa Rica’s beaches, volcanos & hot springs. But to me, at least a day in San Jose is worth a trip.
National Museum of Costa Rica
You get a true look at the country’s rich cultural heritage by visiting the National Museum of Costa Rica. The National Museum of Costa Rica is very well organized. You can expect to spend a few hours here although the museum isn’t very large there’s plenty to see. This museum features beautiful gardens, with some of the best views of the city. By the time you leave you’ve received an extensive walk through the history of Costa Rica.
La California has some of Costa Rica’s best nightlife, but during the day the focal points are on the graffiti. True graffiti artists often represent the hard times of the local population. The graffiti in La California represents ideas of expression. What inspires people to grow, stand up for their values and against the hardships of live, poverty or regime?
Nightlife in San Jose
The city comes to life at night! I used AirBnB experience to hire a local to show me some of San Jose’s nightlife. My guide spent her spare time as an invited guest to restaurants. Naturally, she picked some of the best spots to see in the area. We visited 2 neighborhoods and 5 restaurant / bars and I can tell you Costa Rica nightlife is extremely exciting.
Barrio Escalante, has a lot of diversity of flavors to choose from. Even at 7:00 PM the street were starting to buzz with laughter.
Hoplers is a unique and relaxing bar for hanging out. While we were there, we had shots of Chiliguaros. Chiliguaros is the Costa Rican take on the Bloody Mary that the locals go crazy for. If you’re a Bloody Mary fan you’ll absolutely enjoy this drink.
Costa Rican Beer Factory
This beer factory reminds me a biergarten. It offers a variety of craft and international beers, several meals, and table games in a very large open space. I tried the Costa Rican rendition of Ceviche here. It includes all the traditional ingredients in ceviche: fresh fish, chili, lime, cilantro, avocado, tomato and cucumber, with the addition of pineapples! I am a die hard ceviche fan, and the addition of the Costa Rican pineapples makes this amazing dish extraordinary.
Barrio La California
Barrio La California has the most upbeat nightlife. The highlight of the night was our visit to a 3 in 1 bars/restaurant/club: Casa Fenix, Mercadito la California and La Concha de la Lora. You don’t have to leave this place once you enter, you can eat, drink, lounge & dance in the same area all night.
In addition to coffee, Costa Rica is known for it’s grand ecotourism efforts. I balanced my two day trip with eco and city life. Taking a look at the greener side of Costa Rica, I booked a tour to Arenal & Tabacon. The drive there took about 3 hours total, and we made several stops along the way.
Our first stop was in Sarchi. Sarchi is known throughout Costa Rica for its beautiful and intricate arts and crafts and souvenirs. The town of Sarchi is perhaps most widely recognized for its colorful and decorative oxcarts that have been made here for over a century. They also have the world’s largest ox cart. The cart is 2 stories high, nearly 45 feet long and weighs 4400 lbs., and took 70 days to complete according the Guinness World record.
Besides the beautiful handicrafts, another reason to visit this charming town is for its unusual church that is painted pink and blue. Built in the 1950s, this two-towered church sits on a hill overlooking the town.
If you want to buy elegant and stylish, wooden furniture Sarchi is the place to do it. We stopped at artisan market in Sarchi, where they had furniture on display. I wasn’t able to transport large furniture back so I settled for a Search wooden chorreador. A chorreador drip coffee maker which is a staple you can find in many Costa Rican households.
La Fortuna holds the infamous Arenal volcano. Arenal volcano has a perfect cinder cone shape and is the world’s most active volcanoes although it hasn’t erupted in year. Because I visited during their rainy season there was a lot of overcast. I managed to capture a shot but was not able to see the perfect cone through the fog.
Tabacon Grand Spa
Although I didn’t get a clear view of the volcano, the thermal hot springs at Tabacon Grand Spa made up for that. The spa has several pools that increase in heat the higher up you go. It’s recommended to acclimate your body by starting at the lower temperatures and gradually making your way up. When it’s not foggy, you can see views of Arenal as you sit in the hot springs.
San Jose may not get a good reputation but there are, a number of historic and artistic gems scattered all over town. I’d recommend a day or two in San Jose for the restaurants and nightlife. I can’t wait to go back and next time visit the beaches and rainforests!
Drop a comment below for some of your favorite places to visit in Costa Rica