Just a few minutes after our photo tour
clients met up with our tour guide yesterday and pleasant introductions were finished, a police alarm sounded and the previously docile crowd of about 50 skaters hudled under the temple in Parque Morazan ran towards the east side of the park to greet thousands of skaters hurdling down Paseo de los Damas.
The flash-mob style event sponsored by Emerica was in action in its route through San Jose, starting in Barrio Aranjuez and ending in Parque de la Paz. The company which specializes in skater apparel brought 5 of the top ten best skate boarders to Costa Rica for a day of WILD IN THE STREETS.
Some of the kids are pictured below with the legend Bryan Herman
Our photographer clients were thrilled with the rare opportunity and consumed with the enthusiasm radiating off the majority teenage skaters. This was the urban equivalent to boating through a costa rican pod of dolphins
! Because our tours
are never larger than 8 people we were able to seize the moment and rework the tour to accommodate the twenty minutes or so it took for our clients to photograph the event. Can't wait to see their finished photos!
*This article is my summarized translation of the Wall Street Journal's Latin American Story which you may read here.*
Starbucks has completed the purchase of 240 hectacres in Costa Rica near Volcán Poas. The company's mission with the farm is research based, testing different growing methods to develop its own coffee and to discover best ways to fight the Roya, a mushroom that has begun plaguing Central American coffee crops.
The plantation sits between 1,000 and 1,600 meters allowing experimentation with the plant at different altitudes to better understand the contributing factors to successful and flavorful crops.
Starbucks will also use the farm as a laboratory, mixing varieties of plants to hopefully create its own breed, and takes heed to mention that there will be no GMO.
The purchase is motivated by growing concern of the Roya mushroom which attacks the coffee bush leaves, prohibiting the plant from receiving nutrients and eventually dying. Scientists are unsure why the plague has only now begun in the region, hypothesizing that it might be related to the drier than normal weather we have had in recent years. Fortunately, the company says it will share its findings with farmers regardless of whether they are suppliers to Starbucks.
Starbucks made headlines last year in the country with the opening of its first two coffee shops in Costa Rica, one in Avenida Escazu and the other in Lincoln Plaza. In addition its first '$7 cup of coffee' featured a roast from Turrialba.
The municipality of San Jose will host its tenth Transitarte Festival
this weekend. The project aims to bring art into public spaces. All events are free and attendees will find a variety of workshops, concerts and art for sale amongst the downtown parks of Morazan, Jardín del Paz, España and Nacional.
Scheduled highlights include workshops on hydroponics, rock concerts by bands from other central american countries and art for sale by vendors leading current design/fashion trends in Costa Rica.
In addition there will be 2 nights of movies under the stars
Fri. and Sat. inside CENAC.
A full schedule of Transitarte
is available. We also recommend starting Sat. morning at the Feria Verde
in Aranjuez and Sun. morning stretching in yoga at 10:00 a.m. at Downtown Yoga.
A Review of My Ride with Chepe Cletas
From time to time I get to guest write with the English-speaking newspaper The Tico Times.
Last Sunday I had the pleasure to finally participate in a biking event with the 3-year-established Chepe Cletas
, a group working on promoting zero transmissions as a way to create a better San Jose.
After being temporarily gifted a bike I took off with this group to see how the group has advanced and to see for myself what changes were happening because of Chepe Cletas and what challenges still exist.
You can read my review of riding a bike in San Jose
. Overall, I had a great time socially and look forward to the next event, but I realize we are farther off from a bike-friendly San Jose than I was hoping.
Our walking tours
strive to show tourists and expats the history and new advancements that give this city great potential. Chepe Cletas
is also working towards the same goal. We want a healthy San Jose, a city people can be proud of at every turn, but it will take the effort of more than a few hundred people to create this change. Please continue to support downtown businesses and activities -- We get the city we deserve
Costa Rica: The Complete Guide Rocks!
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Have you ever wanted more from your guidebook?
Less hotel/restaurant info and instead better maps, more detailed directions that can truly take you off the beaten path to unique adventures??? Us too!
We are really excited about this 4th guidebook released by award-winning James Kaiser, his first on Costa Rica. Kaiser spent the last five years living in and exploring Costa Rica. Fortunately he found us along the way and found our city walking tours
worthy enough to mention in his San Jose chapter!
We saw the book in person this past weekend and it's the best Costa Rican guide we've seen, sincerely. We'll be buying it on Amazon here
for only $14, it's a ridiculously good price for the content in the book. We also recommend it for those that have lived here for some time, there are many new adventures waiting for you to discover.
To see more proof of how stellar Jame's research is, check out his recent Huffington Post guest piece, 16 'Secret' Costa Rican Beaches.
Discover Un Toque Francés
If you are surprised by the headline to discover there is a wonderful french creperia
tucked away in China Town, believe it, we are too!
This restaurant not only stands out in its location, it is a step above many restaurants in San Jose due to its attention to ambiance detail which we have come to greatly appreciate after experiencing a lack of it for the 4 years we have been here.
The space is small and the menu is simple. You can choose from savory or sweet crepes. A vegetarian option is included. There is nowhere else in the area serving this variety of crepes! Salads, soup and sandwhiches are also an option. The prices range from 1.200 - 2.800, extremely reasonable.
We enjoyed two of the sweet crepes with coffee, all spread out over a nice tabletop map of Paris. With soft french tunes playing in the background it was impossible to not dream of our next visit to France.
The owner is friendly and after living in France for over a decade has returned to Costa Rica to share what he loved most during his time abroad. This is a great stop for locals working downtown to grab lunch or an afternoon coffee. Expats and visitors would enjoy eating here while exploring the rest of China Town
My guest and I finished with complete satisfaction in our stomachs and our hearts, and left with glee knowing we had just found San Jose's newest culinary treasure.
Want to learn more about food in Costa Rica? Try our food tour
Variety to Entertain All Adult Ages
After Chinatown's inauguration in Dec. 2012 we decided to take a closer look behind the grand entrance gate installed at Av. 2 and Calle 11 to uncover what hides down the road. We visited at different times of the day in order to get a true sense of what happens on these 6 pedestrian-only blocks.
We were truly surprised at the variety of quirky offerings found within the different shops, many not even chinese. As is customary in Costa Rica, any formal delineation of an area is immediately lost upon arrival as you will always find 'a little of everything' across the entire city. What does set this area apart are the minor details of the stained concrete, chinese-style benches, street lights, trash cans and an increase in costa rican-chinese citizens walking around. You almost feel like you've left San Jose for some asian world.
We recommend arriving around 4:30 before the sun sets to explore and window shop, and leaving around 6:30 or 7. This is a higher traffic time which is safer. Because the sun starts setting at 5:30 you can take in all of the bright lights coming from the chinese shops. Restaurants are also open at this hour, and if you feel a little risqué you won't have to wait too long for the 'adult' movies. HOW TO GET THERE
The main entrance to China Town is located along the main drag of Av. 2, 4 blocks east of the entrance of the National Theater (the main marker in San Jose) at Calle 11. Thanks to the newly installed street signs
, this isn't difficult to find. SAFETY
Realistically, this area is safe if you are VERY aware of your surroundings. If you head further south or off the main path please use caution and good judgement. If you are a conservative parent I don't recommend going beyond the first 3 blocks as there are some 'adult' theaters and possible sex workers in the evening further south. Take little valuables with you to this area and do not flash fancy camera equipment or cash. Sticking to the main pedestrian road is advisable as a few blocks south/west/east are more abandoned.TOP TEN SITESChinese Cultural Center
- For those of you that truly want to experience a variety of Chinese culture, this will be a must. The center operates weekdays and offers courses during the week and weekends. You can enroll in language classes, dance, cooking and other workshops. You can view a full calendar
here, and will need to speak some spanish to navigate. French Creperia -
Un Toque Frances - Yes, one of the best places in China Town is a french creperia, like we said above, you always find a little of everything regardless of defined areas. Owned by a Costa Rican who lived in France for over a decade, this is a culinary gem that we hope gets enough business to stay open and expand. Read our recent review. House of Screws - We
can't be mature at this place. All innuendos come to mind at the 'House of Screws'. Good for a chuckle and the outside architecture is 'screwy'. Many other places in the area give their address from this well-known landmark. To see more unique architecture try our Bird's Nest
tour. Variety Shops
- This is where you go when you are looking for the 'one thing you can't find'. Product is constantly rotating so if you want it, buy it. Statue of Confuscius
- The most noble thing in China Town, this statue is worth a visit. It anchors the southern end of of the walkway. Samuelito's Bakery
- Shhh......this is a top secret destination on our food tours
, the best bakery in town (and yes this is a chain, but this is the best one of all of them!)Iglesia de la Soledad
- One of the few churches to have not suffered much earth quake damage, the structure is original neo-baroque. >>read more
. Statue of John Lennon
- Installed in Dec. of 2011, this statue has a history you can learn more about on our walking tours
. This is a great spot to rest for a moment, take some funny pictures and eat your pastries from Samuelito's. Anime
- For those of you that love anime, comics and models, there are several shops along the 6 blocks that offer a variety of products in this genere. Tica Bus Ticket Center
- Want to go anywhere else in Central America? This is where you can arrange your travel and buy tickets
, located on the north side of the Iglesia de la Soledad.
You'll notice we didn't mention any Chinese restaurants. While there are a few in these 6 blocks, the best are found in the surrounding area. If you are looking for Asian Fusion try Tin Jo
, or you can find well-prepared good dim sum at Wong's
Have other recommendations in China Town? Let us know about your favorite spots.
DAY TRIP I - OROSI
6 - 10 hours
Budget $10 entrance fee (foreigners), $3 entrance fee hotsprings, buses $6, cab $40 roundtrip or Rental Car + Gas
Our news site is all about downtown San Jose, Costa Rica and why it's great to live or visit here.
We focus the majority of our news
on immediate downtown happenings. However, we've realized recently that a part of why it's so great to be in San Jose is because it is relatively easy to get to many other destinations for day trips, allowing you to escape the hustle and bustle of the city conveniently.
So, this will be the launch of our Day Trips from San Jose Series
For the first trip I went with friends on a rather ambitious trip SE of the city. Our orginal plan was to take a bus to Orosi
, then a cab to go hike in Tapanti National Park
for a few hours, and finish in the hotsprings park, Balneario de Aguas Termales Orosi
. That same morning my friend found a car, so we skipped the buses and cabs, and we were lucky we did.
Previous write-ups made it sound like we could easily take a bus from San Jose to Cartago, and then Cartago to Orosi
(which is pretty easy and takes about 1.5 hours). But the misleading part was that we could take a $10 cab from Orosi
, maybe ten years ago this was the case but not now. After stopping in Orosi
to see the rustic church which was recently restored and is the oldest building in the country, it took us 45 minutes in a car to arrive to the entrance of Parque Nacional Tapanti
. That cab ride would easily cost $20 one way. Keep that in mind when budgeting time and money. It is easy enough to ask people in Orosi
to point you to the park and to follow signs to arrive at the park. It is mostly one straight, yet bumpy, road. The Tapanti Park
is well mapped, marked and easy to navigate once you arrive. As you can see in the map above there are 4 hiking trails. We chose to go to the Mirador first, which gives you a view of the waterfall. We caught several vistas of the waterfall coming in and I think they were all better than this Mirador. I'd skip this and focus on hiking the other trails.
We chose to do the Sendero La Catarata first. Catarata in spanish is 'waterfall'. This was an easy enough hike in sneakers but it was pretty slippery so I recommend hiking boots. This area of the country gets rain almost everyday so a rain jacket is a must as well. We quickly reached two different clearings at the river, the latter having a view of the waterfall. Here the rocks are an interesting green. It was pretty cloudy when we were there but on a sunny day it would be a great spot for swimming.
All over this park are areas to grill some food and hang out for awhile. You'll see local families set up for a full day in nature, a great chance to make some friends along the way.
Because the drive in and out took longer than we planned for, we had to make a decision to either hike another trail or hurry back to Orosi
to get in some time at the hotspring park. Both Tapanti
and the Balneario
close at 4 p.m. We were feeling lazy so we chose the hotsprings!
We drove back to Orosi, asked a few people to point us in the direction of Balneario Aguas Termales Orosi which was about 4 blocks west of the church and 1 block north. This hotspring park resembles a community pool. There are 4 different pools full of naturally heated water with different depths for children and adults. With only an hour left in the day, the site was clearing out but we could tell the place had been full of families. If you don't care to be around so many people you might consider a weekday option (during their high months, refer to site). The water was warm, but not hot. It might have been because it was the end of the day, we watched them drain the pools at closing so maybe in the morning the water is hotter.
Overall it was a really nice trip. If you want to get all of those sites in with sufficient time at each stop I recommend leaving San Jose around 7 a.m. Tapanti is definitely worth the visit, I could sit at that river all day.
To arrange your own day trip with a private driver email us at BarrioBird@gmail.com.
image from La Nacion.
In as little as two months riding the bus in the metro area will become a little less sloppy and will start to resemble other metro area technologies that expats and tourists are familiar with. Eight inter-city bus lines will begin to accept payment via a chip on your phone (TAG) or an electronic card.
Many do not realize that each route here is owned by a different company. This makes it more difficult for one central governing body to distribute all route information and maintain well-marked bus stops, which is the biggest problem for visitors, 'how the hell do I find the bus stops or get anywhere in SJO on public transport!'
While there won't be a decent 'bus map' coming out anytime soon, this new payment method will be a foundation-laying collaboration between the Santa Ana, Escazú, Moravia, Curridabat, Tres Ríos, barrio Luján, Sabana-Cementerio and Estadio bus routes.
Users can obtain the chip or card for free in a Banco Nacional or pulperias located near the bus stops. A minimum charge of 6.000 is required for either, and the route price will be deducted each time you board one of these buses. This will help riders more easily track their transport expenditures, and help the drivers move more quickly without having to count change at each stop, not to mention the extra security for drivers not having as much cash on the bus.
This product has already been tested over two years, most specifically with the 'seniors' card currently accepted on buses by the product developer Corporación de Investigación Electrónica. The company is also trying to work with the cell phone companies to reach an agreement to provide extra free minutes or some kind of incentive to users with the cell phone chip.
There are many nuances that have made San Jose feel like such an 'other world' experience for visitors and I would say paying with cash and even receiving exact change on the buses is one. With this change we'll see better efficiencies but a little part of a more simple (yet somehow more complicated) way of life will disappear. Can I be happy and sad about this? If you want specific directions on how to travel by bus in San Jose please contact our concierge staff
I hope you got in your rest during winter and the holiday season because this is the time of year to come out and play and there is no rest for the weary as back-to-back festivals and cultural events carry us through to Semana Santa.
Here's a quick summary of what's to come in the next few weeks,we'll be covering some of these in more detail soon. FILM
- Jan. 28 - Final film in Chaplin series at Teatro Variedades_
, EL GRAN DICTADOR (The Great Dictator) 1940. THEATER
- The English-speaking Little Theatre Group will kick off the 2013 season with a Cabaret Night,
theater and musical performances will be the highlight of this Jam at the Bar
. 7:30 on Feb. 8, 2.500 entrance fee at Sala Garbo. ROCK
- Festival del Rock en el Farolito
, 11a - 8p Feb. 16 and 17. This is a free concert featuring prominent Costa Rican rock bands in Parque Morazan. Full line-up schedules
will appear on the facebook page. ELECTRONIC
is an annual event that opens up international electronic music for free to Costa Ricans while closing Paseo Colon for a Sun. As the name implies, this will be an event mostly attended by teenagers and then electronic fans of all ages. Hosted also on Feb. 17 you can listen to music ALL DAY downtown. This festival runs 8a - 3p.
DJs spinning include:
- Jeff Brenes
- Monik Zdan
- Hector Moran (El Salvador)
- Erik Prestinary
- Lawrence Casal
is an idependently organized event with the same spirit of 'ideas worth sharing'. Presentations are in Spanish but that's a good opportunity to practice and a great chance to meet some of the nation's thought leaders. Tickets are $150, the event will be hosted at the Children's Museum. A full schedule of presenters
To explore of the exciting places and activities in San Jose, Costa Rica Book a City Tour