dominical, san jose, costa rica.

Playa Dominical, San Jose, Costa Rica. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Find City Vibes With Jungle Flair on a San José, Costa Rica Weekend Escape

San José, Costa Rica’s largest city, serves as the main point of entry for visitors to the Central American nation — but it would be a mistake to treat this up-and-coming capital as a mere pass-through point. If you’re planning a visit to Costa Rica, tack on a few days to explore San José.

It’s an ideal place to get a sense of Costa Rican culture, thanks to its historic sites, abundant parks and plazas for people-watching and excellent restaurants serving traditional Central American cuisine.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Get Cultured

San José is truly an international city, so for lunch, walk to La Esquina de Buenos Aires, an Argentine-style steakhouse with tango music on the speakers and malbec on the wine list — it feels like a trip to 1950s Buenos Aires in the best way.

Ballerina dancing onstage on pointe in tutu
Add a bit of theater to your night. (Photo: Getty Images)

Next, head over to the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica to see if you can snag tickets to a show later this evening. The rotating roster of performances includes orchestral symphonies, dance shows, plays and so much more. Tickets in hand, head to Parque Metropolitano La Sabana to take in a bit of the city’s green landscape and people-watch as the afternoon fades.

After your evening show, end the day at Restaurante Silvestre. Chef Santiago Fernandez Benedetto serves up the best local farmers and fishermen have to offer in a rotating daily fine-dining menu. Spring for the tasting menu if you’re up for the full show.

Then it’s time for a nightcap and live music at Jazz Café Escazú before turning in.

Saturday: Find Home Inspo

Ring in the day with breakfast at Kalú, known for its filling French, Mexican and Tico dishes. Portions are big here, so eat up and take your time getting your morning started.

After taking in the city’s cultural sites yesterday, it’s time to check out some of its best architecture. You’re already in Barrio Amón, which has a high concentration of both preserved and restored colonial buildings. Located between Ninth Street and Central Street and Seventh Avenue and 13th Avenue, it’s a fantastic district to let yourself get a little lost in — just make sure to keep looking up.

Jade bowl with gold detail
The whole family will love the Museo del Jade. (Photo: Getty Images)

Once you’re ready for a change of scenery, head to the Museo del Jade.

This institution houses the largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts in the world. There are more than 7,000 items in the museum’s holdings, ranging from jewelry to religious artifacts. It’s one of those niche museums that will leave a mark on your memory and find a permanent spot on your “must-see” lists for friends visiting the area.

After seeing the sights, head over to any one of the neighborhood’s restaurants housed inside restored buildings. This includes La Criollita, known for its delicious traditional Costa Rican dishes (think roast chicken, rice and beans, and crispy fried plantains) and Café Mundo, a popular spot for traditional fare as well as pizza and pasta.

Later, enjoy a craft beer from the extensive draft list at Stiefel Pub.

Sunday: Take a Breath of Fresh Air

On your last day in San José, grab breakfast at Búlali in the Escazú neighborhood. This light, bright café offers a delicious range of vegan and vegetarian options, from toasts piled high with local goat cheese, arugula and caramelized onions to sandwiches filled with melty cheeses, hearts of palm and honey aioli.

From here, take a drive to Santa Ana for a peek of the nation’s stunning outdoor spaces.

While in the neighborhood, head to the Refugio Animal de Costa Rica, an animal sanctuary that rescues endangered local wildlife, including parrots, sloths and other native species. Guests can tour the facility and visit with some of the inhabitants (from a safe distance, of course) plus learn about the sanctuary’s conservation mission to help safeguard Costa Rica’s favorite critters.

Interested in learning more about the country’s wildlife and wild spaces? Visit the Centro de Conservación Santa Ana, which is also putting in the work to preserve the flora and fauna of Costa Rica for future generations.

For lunch, head to nearby Restaurant Maxis by Ricky, a Jamaican-influenced family joint, for fresh ceviches, smashed plantains and rice and beans.

If you’re still hungry for more fresh air, get out and play a round of golf at Valle del Sol Golf Course, also located in the Santa Ana neighborhood. The scenic par-72 championship course was designed by North American architect Tracy May and is certified as a wildlife sanctuary by Audubon International.

Valle del Sol also runs the country’s largest golf academy, in case you’d like to practice your swing with a pro before hitting the links.

Plate with risotto steak and asparagus
End the trip with a fantastic meal. (Photo: Marriott International)

After you’ve worked up an appetite, book a table at Doris Metropolitan, an upscale steakhouse, or grab a seat at Andiamo Là, a restaurant that brings Italy to Costa Rica with pasta, pizza and antipasto dishes.

End your trip with a nightcap at Costa Rica Craft Brewing, one of the nation’s best-known breweries, or dance the night away at Castro’s, a classic Costa Rican disco where the music swings from salsa to merengue to reggae and back.

Need a break from the dance floor? Grab the mike at the on-site karaoke bar and belt out your favorite song before calling it a night.