Вулкан Поас

San Jose (the Capital of Costa Rica) and Around. Poas Vulcano

After crossing the border between Panama and Costa Rica, we arrived in the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose, to spend a day and a half there and in the nearby national park featuring volcano Poas. Within this short time, we saw and learned about Costa Rica much more than expected because we were staying with couchsurfers, the locals. Here, we share the insider’s information about the life in Costa Rica and the most interesting places in San Jose and around.
San Jose Costa-Rica

Prices in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is the richest and, consequently, the most expensive country of Central America. It is definitely more expensive than Panama, and its prices are comparable to average prices in Western Europe or neighboring USA (not as expensive as, say, California but often costlier than Ohio). Visiting all the landmarks is for a fee, the price of eating out is around 10-15 American dollars per person. We decided not to spend too much time in Costa Rica and paid longer visits to other Central American countries: we realized that visiting Caribbean beach would be cheaper in Panama than in Costa Rica, or that seeing a volcano would be also more affordable in Nicaragua.

Safety in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a safe country in general; it is hardly comparable to Salvador or Honduras where they may threaten and rob the tourist with a knife or a gun in the middle of the day in a bus or at the market. Not far from San Jose bus station there is the so-called red zone, which is the most dangerous place in San Jose, but the couchsurfers reassured us that it was very safe during the day. In addition to Costa Ricans, there are many immigrants from Nicaragua in San Jose and beyond; as our new friends told, immigrants comprise one fifth of the population. Couchsurfers often compared Costa Rica to Panama in favor of the former: lesser gap between the rich and the poor, large and small settlements. Also, we talked about travels a lot. In Costa Rica, they get only 16 to 20 days of vacation a year, which is why longer travels are hardly possible.

Sightseeing in San Jose

The couchsurfers Anabelle and Verny drove us around the city center and treated to a homemade ice-cream; then, we walked along the main pedestrian street. Although this was in the evening, the walk was extremely safe: there were crowds of other relaxed people enjoying the walk. Central streets were reminiscent of some European city.
San Jose Costa-Rica

San Jose Costa-Rica

Victor even added to his photo collection by taking a picture with a Costa Rican policeman: they turned out very friendly.
Police Costa-Rica

In addition to the central pedestrian street, other sights to mention are National Museum, Jade Museum (also containing archeology and geology artefacts from pre-Columbian times), and the National Theatre.
San Jose Costa-Rica

San Jose Costa-Rica

As Anabelle and Verny kindly showed us around by car, we could also see the stadium.
Stadium San Jose

To buy souvenirs, opt for a tourist market, where you can buy all kinds of things, including traditional Costa Rican coffee makers, made of cloth.
Costa Rican souvenirs

Costa Rican souvenirs

How to move around San Jose

The main sights of San Jose are situated in the city center, which is why as soon as you find yourself there, distances are walkable. Public buses are quite good, they are rarely late, and traffic jams in San Jose are not bad. Also, Uber is very popular in Costa Rica; it is much cheaper than, for instance, in the US, so you may want to use it.

Where to eat in San Jose

Within a day and a half, we discovered two great places to eat. If you are in the city center, go to the central market, they have plenty of cafes for any taste, from fast food to traditional Central American dishes.
central market

If you have time and do not mind taking transport, go for a restaurant of Costa Rican cuisine La Posada de la Bruja. It is well beyond the city center (in fact, it is in San Jose vicinity), but it is totally worth it. The food was amazing, and all the locals were there; we would have never found it without couchsurfers.
La Posada de la Bruja

Costa rican cousine

Anabelle and Verny, many thanks! Visiting this restaurant was great to finish the first day in San Jose.
La Posada de la Bruja

Poas Volcano

Not far from San Jose, there is Poas Volcano, with the second largest volcano crater in the world and a lake inside it. There we went on the second day.
The road to the volcano takes two hours, you should take a direct bus at 8.30AM from the bus stop Avenida2 in front of Parque La Merced (the ticket cost around 3$). Another possibility is to get to Alajuela city, from which many more buses depart to the national park Poas. Beware: the only bus back, from the volcano to San Jose, departs at 14.30, don’t miss it! The entrance fee to the national park with the volcano is 15$, you may pay both in local currency and in dollars.
The earlier you leave, the more possible it is that you see the volcano, as it tends to hide in the clouds in the afternoon and later on. Before going to Poas, check the weather forecast: if it is overcast, better don’t go. We went there early in the morning and were lucky!
Poas Volcano

Later, it turned out to be the right decision: in about 40 minutes after our arrival, the volcano hid in the clouds, so newly coming people could not see anything. Sometimes, clouds evaporated for several seconds, then people ran to take pictures with their family or friends in front of it, as clouds often came back almost immediately.
Poas Volcano

Poas Volcano

This is perhaps the most accessible volcano we have seen: the path to it is very nice.
Poas National Park

In addition, you may walk around the tropical forest near the volcano along another wide path.
Poas National Park

Poas National Park

We met and fed the local squirrel.
Poas National Park

We saw another lake of the unusual color.
Poas National Park

We did not see the rabbits and many birds which should have also been around, but felt what it was like to hide from the rain under the poor man’s umbrella, as this plant, which was indeed used as umbrella in this region some time ago, is called.
Poas National Park

Poas National Park

There is a museum at the territory of the park, where you may learn more about Poas and other volcanoes around the world.
Poas National Park

The time between arriving and departing buses is plenty enough to see everything in the park, and it is around 13.30 that the queue to the bus starts to form. In our case, the queue became giant at some point and we were sure that we people were too many for one bus. At 14.30 another bus came, so that all the people could fit. The buses drove much faster on the way back: in an hour and a half we were in San Jose.
This was our brief visit of Costa Rica and the next day we departed for another Central American country, Nicaragua.