Day Tripping - Eastern San Jose
Just a few miles from the capital’s downtown area, eastern San Jose is a world unto itself. Visitors choose the area for its inexpensive hotel rooms, excellent restaurants, and some of the country’s best nightlife. Home to the University of Costa Rica, the town of San Pedro welcomes both inquisitive minds and the young-at-heart. Spend the day discovering educational attractions and the night on the Calle de la Amargura, a bar-lined street infamous for after-hours fun. For a more refined evening, you can head to San Pedro’s Jazz Café – one of Costa Rica’s hippest live music venues.
A far cry from smoking volcanoes or rainforest ziplines, eastern San Jose offers a glimpse into the Costa Rica of everyday Ticos. Church bells chime on cue, herds of stray children morph into pickup soccer games, and a wealth of information and attractions dare you to better understand Costa Rican life and culture in this small corner of the country’s largest and most prestigious city.
Tucked into the small city of Guadalupe, San Jose’s Spyrogyra Butterfly Garden is a downtown oasis. Nature lovers and butterfly enthusiasts with a day to spend in the city can’t miss this landscaped garden, which is home to at least 30 species of butterfly and five varieties of hummingbird. Most of the country’s iconic butterfly species – including the metallic blue morpho and speckled monarch – are represented here, and the borrowed field guide will help identify them all. At the end of the garden walkways, open the door onto the Contemplation Path, a natural trail that winds through oak and pine forests – look closely, and you might spot a sloth or monkey lounging in the treetops above.
San Jose Planetarium
As any stargazer can attest, the night sky is full of mystery. The University of Costa Rica’s Planetarium delves into the secrets of the stars with five rotating shows – the Sun and the Planets, the Solar System’s Ghosts, the Traveling Astronomer, the Celestial Zoo and the Firmament’s Jewels – available for viewing Monday through Saturday. If you’re in town on the first Tuesday of the month between December and May, don’t miss the Planetarium’s urban telescoping meeting, which invites enthusiasts to gather for conversation and a chance to investigate Costa Rica’s perspective of the heavens above.
There are more than 300,000 insect species in Costa Rica – and if you’ve ever wondered about the country’s six and eight-legged inhabitants, a visit to the Insect Museum at the University of Costa Rica is in order. Housing one of Central America’s largest insect collections, the museum’s displays include detailed explanations of specimens from around the country, including fuzzy arachnids, flying insects and truly gargantuan beetles. This is both an educational day trip and an excellent intro to an oft-forgotten section of Costa Rica’s animal kingdom.