Rainy days on vacation might lure you to stay in, wrap yourself in a blanket and snooze, but this shouldn’t be the case when you have such a vibrant city like San José to discover!
If you’re visiting the Costa Rican Central Valley during rainy season (April-November, most rainfall occurring in September and Oct.) you’ll most likely encounter a half day of either light drizzle or heavy rainfall.
There’s no need to be discouraged, you can still have fun and explore the city even when it’s pouring outside!
Follow our guide of the best places to visit in San Jose on a rainy day.
Morning: Take in Your Best Chance for Sunshine on Our Bird’s Nest Tour
If you’re interested in stepping off the beaten track then this is the tour for you!
Chances of rainfall are greater in the afternoon so start the day outside by exploring downtown San Jose. We designed the Bird’s Nest to take you beyond the common tourist experience by giving you an insight into day-to-day Costa Rican city life.
We’ll take you on a walking tour of over 40 stops that combine history with architecture, artwork, urban landmarks and local personalities. If you have a topic in mind that you want us to focus on we can do that too.
Take this opportunity to make the most out of your morning and get an insider’s experience of San José!
Lunch: Central Market
Get some lunch, rub shoulders with the locals and buy souvenirs, all in one place.
After exploring the city for 2 hours you’ll be ready to refuel and people watch. San José’s Central Market is the one-stop-shop for locals. Here you’ll find goods ranging from medicinal herbs to handcrafted items (jewelry, decorative sculptures, woven hammocks, etc.). It’s also a great place to purchase fresh produce or buy a quality meal at a very economic price.
If you want to eat like the locals then this is your best bet for lunch. We recommend tortillas with cheese, ceviche and ice cream!
Afternoon: Jade Museum
Right in the heart of city, the Jade Museum proudly stands as an emblem of Costa Rican pre-columbian archaeological and artistic heritage.
This museum manages to fuse pre-columbian cultural legacy and contemporary elements of display in a truly modern space. Its current installations are packed with jade and ceramics. The craftsmanship is truly incredible and inspiring, particularly for our creative visitors.
Located adjacent to Plaza de la Democracia, it sticks out because of its unusual exterior -a five story silver building resembling an uncut block of jade.
The museum showcases its precious stone artifacts as the highlight of various exhibits that include gold, shell, wood, resin and clay items. A total of six halls are open to the public, each with a different theme and providing a distinct visitor experience. The lighting and sound effects strategically placed throughout the galleries are meant to immerse you in a narrative of sorts: a timeline of Costa Rica’s early inhabitants and their ways of life.
This peculiar site is home to one of the most important Pre-Columbian jade collections in the continent, a must see attraction during your visit!
Tip: It is a great spot to sneak in panoramic views of the city as you climb the stairs from floor to floor. Allow about 2 hours.
Late Afternoon: Coffee at National Theater There’s no better way to end an active afternoon on a rainy day than with a cup of coffee - just as the locals do.
All over the city you will see Costa Ricans also stopping for an afternoon coffee (it’s not just to start the day here). Culturally it is a chance to catch up with friends and wind down the day’s activities.
One of the most beautiful spots to participate in this tradition is at Alma del Café located inside the National Theater, boasting much like its host an ambiance of art and tradition. The café brings together elegance and daily life, becoming a place where the theater and musical enthusiast is as welcome as the casual passerby.
The menu offers a broad selection of hot beverages, coffee being the specialty of the house. With a choice of top local brews, you can order anything from a simple cup of black coffee to one of their elaborate warm cocktails -some of which have been inspired by Costa Rican regions and customs. We suggest pairing your drink with a dessert or pastry for a quick late afternoon bite!
Evening: Cine Magaly
End your day with an independent film at one of the most iconic metropolitan cinemas.
Cine Magaly opened its doors in 1978, soon becoming one of the most prestigious movie theaters of its time. It is also important for its distinctive architecture. Crowds of locals flock here to watch independent movies, enjoy national audiovisual productions and take part in the occasional film festival.
*Many films run in English with Spanish subtitles so you can still understand. Watch out for titles, they do not get translated word-for-word into Spanish. Google is great to figure out how you may of heard of the film in your native language.
Cine Magaly is the perfect spot for laid-back evening entertainment. If you arrive here hungry you can grab a panini or personal pizza with craft beer beforehand from Kubrik’s just to the right of the theater entrance.
Added Bonus: Movies in Costa Rica are a half or third of the price in the US or Europe. Expect to pay $8 max, have the option of caramel popcorn and enjoy comfy, reclining seats too!
Contrary to popular belief, downtown San José is filled with activities to enjoy even when it’s pouring outside.
These are just a few ideas that we hope will encourage you to walk around and take in the city. If you feel like you need any more suggestions feel free to contact us.
From the Barrio Bird Tours staff, we wish you a wonderful rainy day!
recent sunny morning during rainy season
umbrellas and shoes fit for getting wet are a must in rainy season. - Photo Credit: Jennifer Murillo
affordable and traditional lunch at the Central Market - Photo Credit: Jennifer Murillo
By Stacey Auch. Stacey is the founder of Barrio Bird Walking Tours and an original advocate of San Jose's revitalization. She has opened 4 businesses all with a focus on sharing San Jose secrets and tips with locals and visitors.
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