San Jose Off The Beaten Path

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.

Museo Nacional de Costa Rica
Museo Nacional de Costa Rica is one of a few attractions in San Jose

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.

Teatro Nacional is a rare example of classical architecture of San Jose
Teatro Nacional

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.

San Jose
San Jose off the beaten path

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.

The typical neignborhood
The typical neignborhood
The gates are impressive
The gates are impressive

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.

One of many examples of street art
One of many examples of street art
Much better looking wall
Much better looking wall

More photos of unexpected San Jose:

The ever popular attraction: feeding the pigeons at La Cultura Plaza in front of the National Theater

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