To rely solely on online reviews and tourist agency propaganda for information on where to go and what to see at a particular destination is the perfect way to miss out on the true essence of the destination, it's people, culture, food, sights and more. Many travelers overlook the great abundance of resources available through the diverse mediums we have to choose from in this high-tech, fast-paced 21st century. One of the best techniques to use to assure one gets the most out of his/her trip or vacation, and too many times not considered, is to simply speak to the locals. Nobody knows the area better and in the process many good, lifelong contacts, business as well as personal are made. This many times makes my whole trip a great success, fun and entertaining and many times saves me a great deal of time and money that would have otherwise been wasted on overrated sites. This technique helps me get a more true idea and feel of the people and culture which to me is the essence of the destination.
San Jose, located basically in the center of Costa Rica, is the capital of this Central American country which shares it's northern border with Nicaragua and it's southern boundaries with Panama. It is found in the province bearing the same name, San Jose. To truly get a feel of the essence of San Jose, after one gets over the inital shock, because truly, with most vistors, that is the initial response upon first sight, one must accept that it's the best of the third world and then make it a point to have interaction with the people and get a feel of the energy of the city. The charm of the people soon becomes apparent and the friendliness is quickly palpable creating for a more relaxed feel and a fun time, changing your whole view and understanding of the city. In the case of San Jose, the saying about "looks can be deceiving," certainly applies here. To only visit the sites in travel pamphlets would be be a travesty, missing out on many of the hidden gems known by the local people. Just about anyone that has been to Costa Rica, will tell you that the aspect they enjoyed the most, was the friendliness of the people. It tops all the rest of Central American countries hands down and is by and large much safer. Costa Rica is the safest, most democratic and financially-stable destination in all of Central America, with friendliness of the people as it's greatest asset. One aspect that many visitors find so appealing, is the fact that the country has no military. It was done away with to better utilize funds for a top notch, universal health care system that is envied the world over, and for use towards quality education. The country boasts a legitimate 76% literacy rate, amongst the highest in developed countries. Serious crime is rare but San Jose along with the rest of the country, has many poorer people and thus petty theft can be experienced at times. Using the same street smarts one would use in NYC, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Mexico City and other major cities across the globe will usually assure a fun and safe visit. Getting down to brass tacks, ask hotel personnel, taxi drivers, newsstand operators and young people about recommendations, suggestions on sites, restaurants, entertainment, transportation. I say young people because so many of them study English in school and are eager to practice what they have learned and it is a perfect opportunity to practice your Spanish, however limited it may be. The interaction alone it allows for is priceless. Worry not about language barriers because most hotels in San Jose' have English-speaking employees that are more than happy to help out. Not only will you be able to get useful info that significantly increases your chances of having a good time, you will also recive good local info as to what to avoid so you have great memories and maximize your travel time and funds. An example is that I wanted to eat at a popular restaurant that was highly advertised, as this restaurant is a unique dining experience with breath-taking views that is situated in the mountains just outside San Jose that looks down over San Jose itself and the entire Central Valley. A bell-hop at my hotel suggested a different one not listed in any of the travel guides and assured me it was the best and it was where the locals go. Needless to say, wow! What a very unique, romantic experience that I say is a must do, to dine at what is called a mirador (looker in Spanish). I had similar experiences with nightclub recommendations and restaurants in general, shopping areas and more. I have returned several times because that first experience was a great one by virtue of not being shy and having utilized the resource of connecting with the locals. Try it upon your visit to San Jose and your chances of experiencing the true essence and charm of the people will be your great reward and no doubt, keep you returning. And guess what? In San Jose' you can drink water from the tap freely without worries! Now that's what I'm talkin about!