San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, is often viewed as a drab entry point into the country full of exotic destinations. Half a day on a way out to beaches or jungle eco resorts is more than enough to spend there. Spending a month or two, would be unthinkable. Or is it? After three weeks there, I am not convinced anymore.
San Jose happened to be our accidental stop. In the aftermath of the Caribbean fiasco, it was the safest bet to find a place with functional not fictional internet and hot water that should not be underestimated during the wet season.
During our previous visit couple years ago, San Jose failed to impress. It looked like a typical industrial city less concerned about looking good or smelling nice. True, the aroma of exhaust fumes was so overwhelming on busy streets that an urge to obtain a gas mask prevailed over any cultural activities.
This time, San Jose showed us a different side. It still has a long way to go to match either sophisticated Montevideo or energetic Medellin, but it shunned purely industrial image and adopted softer side.
Dust and smog nowhere to be seen, the air is cleaner and there are more trees in San Pedro, the part of the city that became our temporary home. Located off the central touristy part of San Jose and near the University, it is lined with traditional houses hiding behind impressive ornamental gates and guarded by imposing-looking dogs who quickly decided that we are not posing any threat to the neighborhood and stopped barking every time we walked by.
And, the best part, the wet season in San Jose means that the sun shines only before noon, but during the second part of the day rain cools down the streets and brings fresh air.
We are impressed that San Jose authorities do not view graffiti as vandalism. There are some very creative street art here and there around the city. Even a drearily dull wall looks cheerful covered with murals.
More photos of unexpected San Jose:
The ever popular attraction: feeding the pigeons at La Cultura Plaza in front of the National Theater