Introducing San Jose, Costa Rica
Nov 15, 2012
Located in the Central Valley, San Jose is the largest city of the nation, the capital of San Jose province and of Costa Rica. Built on an 1170 meter mountain platform, it has major importance in the political and economical activities of the country, being the national government’s seat.
But it was not always like this. Its main activity was agriculture for a long period. A few decades later, starting with the baby boom that followed the war and with the increased rate of urban migration, the city turned into a grandiose, completely transformed capital.
One more step and the elegant capital of that time became today’s metropolis. Due to the exponential population growth, to the uneven development and to the abysmal architectural preservation, the metropolis may seem unsightly and sprawling.
With fast food restaurants, shopping malls and office towers every step of the way, Chepe, as it’s referred to by Ticos, appears no different than most cosmopolitan Central American Cities.
Despite the development it brought about, capitalism increased the rate of disenfranchised residents, like an excuse for much violent and desperate manifestation in the slums, the growing crime rate being a continuous problem for the San Jose authorities.
Unfortunately, this problem tends to over shadow the treasures this city hides.
San Jose Treasures
History: Established by Cabildo de Leon in 1738, the city was not named capital until 1823. Encountering water problems, its population was reduced; growing after the Tobacco Factory was built. The ditches assured the water supply and the surrounding fields’ fertility.Since then, the city was predominantly agricultural until a couple of decades ago. Now, San Jose is listed among the youngest Latin America’s capitals, a modern art and architectural tourist attraction.
Education: Although the city’s history is marred by a foggy past, nowadays the majority of the residents are literates, making use of basic arithmetic and with a growing number of high-school level degrees.
Composed of all-ranges schools, from pre-schools to universities, San Jose is said to have the best Central America and Latin America education level.
With over 50 universities, the city is thought to be the nation’s educational hub, as the educational institutions used to teach their students in a bilingual system composed from German and Spanish or German and English.
High-level transportation system - Train, bus, taxi, airport, San Jose has everything for its residents and for the tourists coming from all over the world.
High-speed trains run into an inter-urban railway network, linking together most of the town, from Curridabat to Tibás, via Sabanilla, San Pedro de Montes de Oca, Pavas, San Antonio de Belén, and Heredia.
Taxis complement the public transportation system, known for their red (those belonging to registered cooperatives) and yellow or orange (other taxi services) color.
The city is only 23 km from one of the busiest airports in the area, the Juan Santamaría International Airport, receiving over four million international passengers a year. The airport received “The 3rd Best Airport in Latin America” award last year.
Simple and tasty cuisine - Not that spicy, the traditional food is called “Gallo pinto” mixing black beans and fried rice. Served with a tortilla as breakfast, it used to be eaten with a thin sour cream.
The locals claim that their food and restaurants offer very affordable prices and you can find them by the name of “sodas”, offering “casados” for lunch or dinner. In Spanish, the word means “married” and it mixes meat, beans and rice, usually eaten with a salad made of tomato and cabbage, tortillas and fried plantains.
The desserts are sweet and very creamy. The most popular dessert is the three milk cake,considered a traditional dessert. It is a spongy cake that they soak in condensed milk,evaporated milk, and cream!
Tropical rainforests and torrid climate - San Jose has a range temperature between 17 degrees and 30 degrees, raining around 170 days a year, from May to November, alternating with sunny and windy days.
Basic Guidance for San Jose Tourists
First of all, you should know that time in Costa Rica is Central Standard Time (UTC-6), so you should adjust your watch accordingly. Then, make sure you get accurate information on everything worth visiting in the town. There are some interesting museums - The Children’s Museum, The Museum of Costa Rican Art and The Museum of Pre-Columbian Gold are just some examples of museums worth visiting.
The National Theatre and The Melico Salazar Theatre are two interesting and important places to visit. If your children are with you, The National Auditorium of the Children’s Museum of Costa Rica is a great adventure for them. Drama, concerts and dance performances can be seen in any of the theatres, painting a cultural image of the city and its traditions. Zoos, Parks, and Plazas are a must-see as well. The Simon Bolivian Zoo shelters a variety of animals and plants.
More specific are the fiestas and festivals. The Fiesta de Palmares is a carnival held in January and is considered the national fiesta and the largest in the country. Bingo, rides, parades and concerts can be seen at this event every year.
The Full Moon festival, held on the Peninsula de Osa, the Sun Festival, The Music Festival in Monteverde, the Dia del Boyero and The Caribbean Music Festival are only some of the events taking place throughout the year in Costa Rica. Just plan your visit to the region accordingly and make sure you don’t miss these opportunities.
An interesting perspective of the city is available to those walking down the streets. You may see colorful statues of doves, patterned differently. These 70 statues were brought here as a part of a Peace Parade event, as blank canvases, and people were asked to artistically design them during the event.
Another interesting part of the city is the no-address system. Although the committee started a project for this, people guide each other in a different, personal way: the blue house with red door by the green store.
It may be difficult to get a perspective on the people or traditions, but a few days in this Costa Rican city can prove the truth in the “beauty on your doorstep” concept. Vibrant streets, stores, sophisticated nightlife, having over one-third percent Tico population, San Jose may be your best opportunity to understand the modern-day Costa Rica.