C'mon Inner Peace… I Don't Have All Damn Day
What can be said about a town that most people choose to skip, or scurry away from quickly into the Costa Rican jungles and beaches?
The very appropriate nick-name for San Jose is “The Big Ugly”. I simply LOVE this big and ugly city.
OK, OK… I love all cities. I am by nature a city girl, who thoroughly enjoys the hustle & bustle and crowded streets. I love the noise and I thrive on the chaos. If you are like me, then you will also fall in love with this city.
If you are “the scurrier” type who never really stops to smell the pollution of San Jose, I am certain you will find that it is at the very least worth spending some time exploring.
The overwhelming majority of visitors to Costa Rica have usually made plans for tours or guides to pick them up at the airport and whisk them away into paradise. Those who do choose to brave the “Big Ugly” don’t really spend any time to actually get to know this interesting metropolis.
There really is quite a bit to see and do that I am sure you won’t really read about in guide books.
For instance, you would never imagine that the children’s museum in San Jose, BLOWS AWAY any children’s museum that I have ever seen, including the one in NYC.
It used to be an old jail which has been renovated into a seemingly endless children’s dream come true.
I will admit that a lot of the attractions are older, and less modern than we may be used to, but the kids don’t seem to care one bit. They have this earth quake simulator you stand on, real airplanes to play inside of, and real trains to explore.
It has a grocery store with employees to scan real items, a giant exhibit of the body, and a petting zoo. The museum only costs about $3. and is definitely one place my son insists upon each time we visit Costa Rica.
Then there is Central ave. which is a pedestrian walking mall with all kinds of cool things to see, including the ornate and historical theater.
My favorite place in the walking mall is the Central Market, where you can find tons of authentic gift items to bring home at a very very cheap price since this is more for locals instead of tourists. For instance you can buy a hammock to bring home as a souvenir for only about $10 bucks instead of being ripped off and paying $50-$75 gringo dollars at a side of the road tourist trap.
It looks small from the outside but it’s actually quite big, crowded and ugly to the eye, but I dig that sort of stuff. It doesn’t get more real than the Central Market.
The entire Central ave. walking district is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, shopping and checking out the art work. Sometimes I just sit by a fountain and people watch.
My usual spot to lay my head is the Gran Hotel Costa Rica on Central ave. & Second ave. It only costs about $80. a night, but I like everything about it. I have stayed at more expensive and elaborate hotels in San Jose, but I usually feel most at home at the Gran Hotel.
The pedestrian mall is attached to the hotel so I can easily spend a day shopping.
I love the piano bar and breakfast on the fourth floor with a view. The rooms are big and clean with comfy beds. After you have been in the jungle for any period of time, this pace totally helps you get acclimated back into society in the best of ways.
Although, I do have to say that if you feel like spending a few more bucks, the Grano De Oro is an old mansion that makes you feel as if you are visiting an old friend who welcomed you into their home and cooked you some of the BEST food you have ever eaten in the most lush romantic gardens tucked inside like a little maze. You can seriously get lost in there, checking out gardens, fountains and birds. It is truly a hotel for the senses and well worth a visit, even if only for dinner and a margarita.
The zoo? How should I put this? Well… it’s very sad, and quite possibly the scariest place on earth.
Maybe not THE scariest, but close.
I found it to be a nice little addition to a day at the children’s museum, then the zoo. BUT… it is old fashioned and not exactly for animal lovers, and certainly not for members of PETA in any way.
I was scared for my life while standing in front of the lion cage. I could only envision one of those pissed off suckers escaping and having a continental American lunch.
The cages are small, like we used to see in Bugs Bunny cartoons, with an actual CAGE. It is nothing like modern zoos that at least try to give the illusion of freedom and space.
NOPE… none of that here.
They do have a lot of animals, and it is a somewhat large zoo. I just kind of wish Donald Trump or someone would purchase it and completely renovate it.
There is this other cool place that might kind of be slightly dangerous for those of US who like that kind of thing. It is really hard to find in any guide book, BUT, I assure you it is well worth it for those of us who want to check out the night-life, and by night life I mean, some of the hottest humans you will EVER see.
It’s called “El Pueblo”. Just ask any taxi to take you there. It is a night club city… of sorts.
I guess it was designed like a Mexican village? It is an enclosed village, that has tons of bars and clubs. Everything from gigantic New York style clubs to small four seat jazz bars. There are little restaurants and shops, all hidden in these little alley ways. Each turn holds a new door with a bar inside. It winds around for what seems like an eternity.
In my days before I was a mommy, this was one of my favorite spots on the planet. Now of course, I can’t get up on stage in a foreign country at 5am to shake my ass, but there was a time when… SIGH.
Now, what kind of Jersey Girl would I be if I did not completely asses the mall situation?
I have to say… this mall ROCKS.
It is a GINORMOUS , modern, three story shoppers heaven, called the multi-plaza in Escazu. It has everything from Guess to Chanel. The mall is perfect if you are in dire need of a latte, some heels and a new bag for your adventure to Pura Vida.
Yes friends, there is actually a place in Costa Rica, that is not in a jungle, covered with mud and mosquitoes! In this shoppers paradise you can also get your nails done, and hair trimmed while hocked up on coffee. YAY!
I do admit on any of my extra long extended visits to Costa, I sometimes felt the need to take the bus into San Jose simply for some air condition, cable TV in English and a mall. I do love me some Pura Vida, but on occasion a girl needs a hot shower a blow dryer and CNN too ya know?
Give San Jose a try! But check out what we did in Dubai!
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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain