San Jose, Costa Rica IS Worth A Visit
As soon as I entered Costa Rica I started hearing it. San Jose? Don’t go there. There’s nothing to do. It’s a total dump. If there’s any possible way you can AVOID San Jose, do it!
Not exactly a glowing review.
This is pretty typical for backpackers on the gringo trail. Capital cities are a general no-go. Too expensive. Too crime ridden. Not enough hostels.
Hey, I get it. I’m a backpacker, too. I appreciate affordability and feeling safe and an abundance of cheap dorm rooms. I considered skipping San Jose like all it’s naysayers told me to.
I’m very glad I did.
Here are some reasons San Jose, Costa Rica is worth a visit!
TripOn Open House Hostel
I admit, I may not have stayed as long as I did in San Jose (4 days) if it hadn’t been for TripOn.
I arrived after my bus ride from Puerto Viejo and an incredibly expensive taxi ride across town (those other travelers were right on the ‘too expensive’ front), and found myself walking into a sort of paradise as far as hostels go.
TripOn is a converted house, so it immediately feels homey. There’s a pool table, a communal kitchen, a beautiful little courtyard, and a living room with Netflix (!!) What really sealed the deal for me, though, were the dorm rooms. Each bed had it’s own little curtain (Every hostel needs to implement this. It’s a game changer). The bathroom was HUGE (One of them even had a bathtub in it…that didn’t work, unfortunately). And it was CLEAN. Cleaner than I’ve seen any hostel ever.
I put my backpack down, and immediately asked if there was availability to extend my stay from one night to two.
The next morning, after a restful night’s sleep, I woke to the best free breakfast I’ve ever seen at a hostel.
Not only the requisite DIY Pancakes, there was also toast, eggs, cereal, oatmeal, granola, etc…
I stared in wonder. Those veterans who had already been there a few days smiled at me and nodded their heads. “Yeah,” they said, acknowledging the feast.
Quickly I realized that even two nights wouldn’t be enough, and I extended two more.
My phone charger broke in San Jose, and Thank God it broke here and nowhere else on this journey through Central America.
San Jose being one of the biggest cities in Central America (besides Panama City, of course), you can find a lot of things here that you won’t be able to find in the rest of the region. IPhone chargers being one of them.
Another bonus, for me, was a movie theatre within walking distance of the hostel!
I love going to see movies back home, so this was a real treat for me. I ended up seeing three movies in my four nights in San Jose. #sorrynotsorry
At $3.78 a pop, with popcorn and a drink being only $5 more (as compared to $14 for a movie and $8 for a small popcorn back in the States), I didn’t feel the least bit guilty about seeing three movies. Not even when two out of the three movies I chose to see were “How To Be Single” and “Deadpool.” Sometimes you have to go guilty pleasure, my friends.
Seeing a movie in a foreign country is also a cultural experience! For instance, I learned that if you see “The Danish Girl” in Costa Rica, it’s apparently a comedy! (Please watch the trailer to see that this movie is in no way a comedy. But people will giggle at what they’re uncomfortable with. Or straight up hysterically laugh when a character dies. Whichever.)
The first night, I walked all by myself in “scary” San Jose to the Cineplex and back, and felt 100% comfortable.
It’s quite rare for me to feel so comfortable in a new city at night. Part of it had to do with the fact that the area TripOn is located in is one of the nicest neighborhoods in San Jose, Barrio Escalante. The Mayor even lives in this neighborhood!
It’s also a fairly busy part of town, with the mall nearby. And where there aren’t many pedestrians, there are security guards on seemingly every corner.
I know that I can’t paint all of San Jose with the same stroke, but I felt very comfortable as a solo female traveler in this part of the city.
By now, I’m sure you’re aware how important food is to me. And equally important that it taste good.
Well, there were a ton of cool restaurants I found in San Jose that would have fit right in had they popped up in NYC!
There was the cafe, Buhonero, where I got work done and ate a delicious Thai Salad with a juice to wash it all down. And a brownie afterwards, just for good measure.
There was the Vegetarian/Vegan restaurant, Mantras, where I ate a tasty Tofu Bowl and on another day a soup, salad, and lasagna combo.
And one night I treated myself to an Italian meal of pizza AND wine at a place called Il Volpino. Gotta live your life, am I right?
And at the end of my time in San Jose, there were still MORE places that I wanted to check out but didn’t get to.
There was also a Yoga Studio or two in the neighborhood that I passed by, vowed to take a class the next day, and then went to a movie instead. Ah well, you win some you lose some.
The most important thing I got out of my time in San Jose wasn’t the movies I watched, the meals I ate, or even the hours of Netflix I watched in the hostel common room.
It was the serendipity of meeting two new travel buddies, one of whom I would go on to travel with for the next month!
Upon arriving to San Jose, I only planned to stay one night. When I found it to be a cozy landing pad, I decided to stay a few more days and do some writing. For the first three days I more or less holed myself away in the above cafes and restaurants (or at the movie theater), working and having some “me time” after a pretty hectic first month of travel.
So I wasn’t expecting or even trying to make any friends at TripOn. But when I overheard an Australian girl saying she was heading to San Juan del Sur the next day, I chimed in and said that I was thinking about heading that way myself.
She told me to join her – it would be her 21st birthday and a friend she made in Panama was coming up to celebrate as well. She told me all about how she had already traveled to San Juan del Sur and done a Sunday Funday there, and how in honor of her birthday she would be having a raucous time at that week’s’ Sunday revelry. I was sold.
I came to San Jose with few expectations, besides the warnings of travelers gone before and an underlying desire to prove them all wrong. And prove them wrong I did, if only to myself.
I still hear people talking down on San Jose on my travels, and I’m quick to chime in to give my two cents: that San Jose, Costa Rica is worth a visit and can actually be pretty cool if you give it a chance.
What about you? Are there any cities you’ve traveled to that others have deemed ‘total shit’ that you’ve actually really enjoyed? Tell me in the comments!
Happy Exploring, Wherever You Are!
Like What You See? Pin It!