Why tourists shouldn’t ignore Costa Rica’s capital

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San Jose (CNN photo)

It’s true that most tourists probably don’t come to Costa Rica with the urban experiences of San José at front of mind, but we were pleased to read Lilit Marcus’s recent article encouraging precisely that, in a CNN Travel article explaining why tourists shouldn’t ignore Costa Rica’s capital.

On our first trip to Costa Rica, our experienced travelling companion (who had made our arrangements), had us stay overnight in a cheap n’ dingy hotel near the airport before our connection to Quepos the next morning. “San José is a pit,” he said, “but it’s just for one night.” All we saw of the capital was a stretch of several blocks of Alajuela, from the window of a speeding taxi.

On a subsequent, solo trip, we made the choice to explore San José for several days. Yes, it has its challenges (like almost any city anywhere), but we found it also has a lot of charm. We’ve been making time for San José in our itineraries ever since.

We’re not surprised that urban-dwelling denizens of relatively frigid northern cities who fly in for a short break want to head straight to idyllic palm-lined beaches and jungles teeming with exotic wildlife, but we know that Costa Rica’s oft-maligned capital city has a lot to offer.

If San José is not the “pit” our friend announced it to be, we wonder – where did he get that idea? Was he just rehashing the pronouncements of others, the way urban myths are circulated? Or are we, who market  Costa Rica to potential visitors, a little bit guilty too by focusing our ads exclusively on a very few national stereotypes at the expense of local economic diversity and providing our guests with well-rounded experiences?

Check out why Lilit Marcus thinks tourists shouldn’t ignore Costa Rica’s capital.