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Best areas/neighborhoods to stay in?

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Lexington KY
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Best areas/neighborhoods to stay in?

What are the best areas of San Jose to stay in for tourism (seeing some of the city). We will be staying 2 non-consecutive nights, so I'm looking for 2 different areas (one closer to the airport if possible). Many thanks!

Here are the choices hotels.com gives me:

City center

San Jose Juan Santamaria Intl. Airport (SJO)

Mercado Central

San Pedro Mall

San Jose Tobias Bolaños Intl. Airport (SYQ)

Gold Museum (Museo de Oro)

University of Costa Rica

Costa Rica National Stadium (Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica)

Sabana Park

Poas Volcano National Park

City Center

Parque Nacional Volcan Irazu

Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma

Morazan Park

Plaza de la Cultura

Children's Museum (Museo de los Ninos)

Museum of Costa Rican Art (Museo de Arte Costarricense)

Our Lady of the Angels Basilica

Palace of Sports (Palacio de los Deportes)

Universidad Nacional

Edited: 8:17 am, October 19, 2012
Nashua, New...
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1. Re: Best areas/neighborhoods to stay in?

In my earlier experiences on this board, I am guessing that many people (some of whom claim to be experts) will tell you not to bother going into San Jose. In our personal experience, that is because a lot of people believe that zip lines and surfing are superior to cultural venues. But enough venting...

Our experience is limited to one trip last year and we will be there again in three weeks. We found San Jose very enjoyable, albeit quite noisy. Therefore, we suggest staying out of the city itself so that you have some peace and quiet at night. We personally like La Rosa de America in Alajuela, near the airport. That is outside the city and very pleasant. The staff is extremely helpful, so they can help you with your itinerary and arrange for local transportation. You can take a taxi (or private driver) into the city inexpensively. You can also take tours from there, but the tour pickups are not from the hotel so you will need a ride to a pickup spot. If you don't want to spend the time and money for that ($15 max), you can stay at a hotel like the Holiday Inn very near the airport. We much prefer to enjoy Tico hospitality and a pleasing environment so the ride is worth it to us.

Some of the places you mention (like Parque Nacional Volcan Irazu) are more accessible from the Cartago side of San Jose. Cartago also has some enjoyable cultural sites. If you like orchids and botanical gardens, the Lankester Botanical Gardens (in Cartago) is excellent. You might want to consider staying part of the time near Cartago. Travelling through San Jose is very time consuming because of heavy traffic and a lack of bypass highways.

We enjoy museums and have been to many across North America, Europe and parts of Asia. The San Jose museums tend to be small, but the content is quite impressive. The pre-Colombian gold collections are phenomenal, as is the pre-Colombian pottery.

Enjoy your trip!

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2. Re: Best areas/neighborhoods to stay in?

A second vote for Cartago – a relatively safe, clean, historical city with many cultural and recreational activities as well as close proximity to attractions such as the volcano and the Orosi Valey. As an added bonus, depending on when you are going, the train from Cartago to San Jose will be running very soon so you could visit those attractions while avoiding the traffic.

San Jose, Costa Rica
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3. Re: Best areas/neighborhoods to stay in?

Any hotel in the city like Presidente...Don Carlos...even Grano de Oro...Balmoral...and some more...you will have access to museums...Central Market etc...

Cartago nice area...agree with others


Winnipeg, Canada
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4. Re: Best areas/neighborhoods to stay in?

Hi Fidelity,

I had a look at the hotels.com page and all the places listed are sort criterea. You choose one and them it will tell you how far away the hotels are.

I would approach this another way - given your limited time. Look at the hotels listed, chooose a few that are in your budget range and sound nice. Then come back to the forum and ask what we think of the hotel itself and the area. or of course you don't have to book on hotels.com - but choose a hotel from the many to choose from.

For sightseeing in San Jose I agree with Roadadvisor - the downtown hotels are most convenient. He has named a few good ones.

Another area which is fairly close to the centre but on the way to the iarport is the Sabana Park area. And there is a nice art museum in Sabana park.

For the night that you want near the airport , the hotels in the Alajuala area are the ones you want to look at.

Although Cartago is nice, I suspect that for this visit it wouldn't be the most convenient place to stay. How much actual sightseeing time will you have based on your arrival and departure times and ongoing itinerary?

NH couple, I think that many of the posters who in the past have advised people to avoid San Jose have moved on or do not post as frequently because lately the advice being given about San Jose has a different tone. :)


Lexington KY
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5. Re: Best areas/neighborhoods to stay in?

Thanks for the responses; here is a little more information. We arrive at about 8pm (airport) the first night we are staying in San Jose. Plan to spend the night there and see some of the city the following day. I'd like to stay somewhere that will have things going on walking distance and safe on the night we arrive. How far is Cartago from the airport by rental car?

After the first night in San Jose, we will be driving to Arenal, Guanacaste, and Monteverde, then ending back up in San Jose for our last night - we will be staying close to the airport for that night, because our flight leaves at 8am.

Thanks again, very excited about seeing the country!

Cahuita, Costa Rica
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6. Re: Best areas/neighborhoods to stay in?

I think there is plenty of pro-San Jose people around! Me for one. I love the museums, whether you go to the more visited Gold and Jade or the spooky La Salle with its stuffed animal collection. The Musuem of Contemporary Art in the Sabana is great and has a room with the history of CR around the walls in bronze. The park itself is very popular for sports and family strolls. You can people watch for a couple of hours easily while munching snowcones and looking at the modern sculptures around the park. There are some decent hotels around this area but I prefer Barrio Amon with its colonial buildings. The National Theater is a nice tour too. So much to do and all in a city that is small enough to walk around!

7. Re: Best areas/neighborhoods to stay in?

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