What is nice about Costa Rica (in addition to its incredible natural attractions!) is that you can do a lot of fun and unique activities without having to drive for too long. Here is my personal list of the must-do activities when visiting San José, Costa Rica’s capital city.
About 20 years ago, scientists came to Costa Rica to study the canopy of the forest. Vegetation, wildlife, levels of humidity, etc. They found out that moving around the platforms set in the trees was easier by using steel cables. An entrepreneur found out a better way to take advantage of this amazing invention; and he decided to call this activity "The Canopy Tour".
There are several Canopy Tours in the surroundings of San José, but there is one I personally recommend; it is called Canopy Adventure and is located in Barva, Heredia, only 45 minutes drive from the city.
Pacuare River Rafting
When you think of river rafting in Costa Rica probably the first thing that will come to your mind is Pacuare. This is one of the rivers that offer Class IV rapids but inside a beautiful and pristine rain-forest. There are daily excursions to Pacuare River that include not only the 3 hours ride down the river but specialized equipment, certified tour guides, comfortable transportation units, breakfast and lunch. The drive from San José to Pacuare River via the Braulio Carrillo National Park is 1.5 hours.
Irazú Volcano and Hot Springs
Costa Rica is divided in half by a mountain range with active volcanoes. One of them is called Irazú. This is a very unique place; it is one of the few places in the world where you can walk all the way to the top of the volcanic crater. The drive from San José to the entrance of the National Park is only 1 hour. But the best way to spend the rest of the day in that part of the country is by combining it with a drive through the Orosi Valley. Here you will find the historic colonial church or Orosi, the Cachi dam and the ruin of Ujarras. But most important and relaxing: its hot springs. There are several hot springs in the area; let me take you to the best one. It is called "Chucaras" and is located in a private property surrounded by coffee plantations.
Sarchi Village and Botanical Garden
Experienced travelers don't go to all inclusive resorts. They go to small villages to check out customs and traditions of local people, right? Well, Sarchi is where the traditional-painted oxcart was invented and there are some workshops that still paint this important national symbol by hand. Sarchi is located 45 minutes from the city of San José, so the best way to enjoy a day trip after visiting one of the workshops is by walking on the trails of the Else Kientzler Botanical Garden. There are well marked trails and a great variety of tropical plants.
San José Food Tour
There are several tour companies that offer City Tours around San José. I personally think the best way to explore the city is by trying out the real stuff; including traditional meals. The food tour we like is the one that goes to local markets, "sodas" and "chinamos" to eat where locals do and of course, checking our historic sites, theaters, cathedrals, etc. This tour not only includes the guided walk but the food tasting as well. Talk to me about it!
Thanks Stephanie, for providing travelers with some fun and interesting day trip possibilities from San José. If anyone is headed to Costa Rica this fall or winter, consider chatting with Stephanie about your trip plans to get a local’s perspective!