Barrio Bird had a chance to leave San Jose and explore one of Costa Rica’s newer hikes.
THE CERRO PELADO HIKE:
Situated about 30 minutes from Cañas, Cerro Pelado offers you the chance to feel on top of the world in a short amount of time.
This hike is a great chance to view sunrise across a mountain valley. During various times of the year it is also excellent for viewing sunset behind the Golf of Nicoya.
The hike is about 3km one-way (5-6k or 3.5 miles total).
The first kilometer is a steady climb to reach the top of the mountain ridge. From this point you have 360 degree views of mountain ranges near La Fortuna, wind turbines in Tilaran and the Golf of Nicoya. If you are short on time or not physically up for more you will be pleased having reached this point.
However, when you reach the top you will be tempted by the last 2 kilometers in front of you of rolling up and down hills to reach the final peak of Cerro Pelado. Every new hill peak offers a different, stunning view and perspective of the valleys below.
About ½ kilometer from the end you will reach a fork, go to the right to reach the peak. If you go to the left you will visit some watering holes.
TIME OF YEAR:
We went in late October for sunrise on a Tuesday and had the entire hike to ourselves. The guide at the entrance said that summer months and weekends are the busiest.
While October is the rainiest time of year throughout the country there is still a good chance to get in a dry morning hike. The clouds formed during the rainy season also help give off more vibrant sunrises.
The guide explained that October and November is the best time to visit because it is the least windy. As you head into late December thru March you can get winds up to 60 miles an hour.
We wore pants and short sleeve shirts and did not get hot or cold. It sounds like if you visit in the windier part of the year you might want more clothing.
LOGISTICS FOR CERRO PELADO:
We left Cañas at 3:30 a.m. and arrived at Cerro Pelado trailhead about 4:10 a.m. We timed it perfectly arriving at the top of the ridge minutes before the sun started to peak out. The sun continued rising as we hiked along the last 2 kilometers.
Location: There is only 1 entrance to Cerro Pelado and it is on private land. The family manages the trail.
About 10 minutes south of Cañas there is a small town called La Jabilla to the east of the Interamerican Highway 1.
There is not a sign Jabilla. It is the turn off for Route 926 in Google Maps. As of this writing there is also a soda on the north side of the road named Soda las Flores. You will go east down 926 for about 30 minutes down a dirt road crossing several bridges along the way.
There is a well marked sign on the right to announce your arrival. When we arrived it was dark and we were a little uncertain where to park but a man came out and told us what to do. He said you can arrive at any hour, night or day and there will be someone to assist you.
We paid him to enter and then he showed us to the trailhead.
The entire trail is wide and easy to see. My headlamp wasn’t working so I used my cell phone flashlight and that was fine. The trail varied from just dirt to bigger rocks so we recommend some shoes with grip.
They have hundreds of hiking sticks made from branches available at the entrance and we absolutely recommend taking at least one if not two. We would have had a much more difficult time without.
Because the first kilometer is a steep climb to the ridge (when I say steep it’s not crazy but it isn’t a casual zig-zag either) that means going down is a bit harder on the knees. I have more sensitive knees so had to put on my knee braces about a one-third of the way down.
We took about 1.5 liters of water for both of us and that was enough. It wasn’t hot, so if you are hiking in the daytime you might want more.
There are some bathrooms at the entrance so you should be covered if you take care of business beforehand.
There are no buses that access this part of the country so you will need to go in a car or take a tour.
In addition, if you do drive there are locals along the way that wave at cars for a lift. If you have space in the car it’s a great help to them.
Their waving is a little different, we passed one lady because we were confused and thought she was signaling that something was up the road. When we came to an older gentleman doing the same we stopped and realized he wanted a ride. We took him to his destination and that’s when we found out that is the only way these people can get around -- by getting a lift. This can be an extra nice way to connect with locals.
Cost of Admission per Person: ₡3.000
Cost of Parking: ₡2.000
Duration: 30 minutes to top of mountain ridge, 1 hour to final peak. About 3.5 hours total when you add in eating a snack and taking pictures.
The popularity of Halloween in Costa Rica depends on the year. As more bars start to use it as another way to host creative events it seems to gain traction. And while you won't find the elaborate costume options like in the USA, you will probably encounter more creativity with homemade costumes.
We have compiled a list of our top Halloween-related parties happening in the downtown area including family and gay friendly!
Friday October 27:
Skull and Rock Halloween Party at Taberna Club Aleman (Los Yoses):
Live music starting at 10pm, Night Buffet from 9 am to 12mn
Aniversary Party at Colonia Tovar (Barrio Escalante):
If you are looking for some festivities without a crazy bar scene celebrate Colonia Tovar’s Anniversary with Venezuelan arepas and discounted Costa Rican craft beers.
Noche Ancestral (Downtown):
The Jade Museum will open it's doors for this interactive nighttime event where you can learn about Costa Rica's Indigenous culture. There will be Maleku indigenous dances, Barrocan Music Concert and guided tours. Starts at 5:00pm and ends at 9:00pm, with the last chance to get in at 8.30pm, $13 international visitors.
Halloween Pool Party at Me Extraña Thrift Store (La California):
Beach Party! If you are looking for an intimate event filled with an artsy crowd you won't be disappointed. Guaro-lemonades are free. Cover is 1000 colones. Starting at 8 pm.
Saturday, October 28:
Los Cuchillos at El Sótano (Barrio Amon): - Top Pick Music
Nothing says Halloween like surf rock! Pin-ups and gore! Thematic shots and drinks. Cover is 6000 colones and it starts at 8pm
Zombie Parade 2017 starts at Parque Morazán: - Top Pick Family
This is a can’t miss activity! The parade starts at 6 pm, you can go with or without costume, or on bike and it’s family friendly!
PopPop Costume Party (Barrio Mexico) -- As You Are - Top Pick Unique
PopPop is as underground as it gets. Inside this warehouse turned bar one can take advantage of full self-expression, Halloween or otherwise. The owner takes great care to not let guests take photos. This creates a safe space for exploring a night of alter personalities that maybe we are too timid to share in day-to-day life. PopPop is where you go when you want to experience an environment free of social norms. Halloween guarantees to take already great parties to the next level! Gay friendly.
DNCFLR at Steinvorth (Downtown):
Steinvorth’s Halloween party is unique in this historic space and the DJs of DNCFLR are so fun! This is about dancing and good, scary vibes. Cover is 5000 colones, starts at 9 pm.
Halloween Party Monster at Club Vertigo (Paseo Colon):
San Jose's most professional club will have various music shows throughout the night, as it will have two separate stages. Parties here easily end around 6a.m. Cover: 15,000 colones with costume, 20,000 without costume.
Halloween Pub Crawl by Carpe Chepe:
this Halloween pub-crawl is a great option if you want to check out a variety of different parties happening in the city. Tour cost: 15,000 colones with include: Cover: 4 bars + 4 shots + 1 hour of Open Bar in La Carreta, the party bus. There will be experienced guides and private security. The meeting point is Craic Irish Pub at 7 pm
Fiesta Unicornio: BruJAJA at El 13 (Barrio Chino): Unicorn Party!
This party will be filled with amazing, over-the-top costumes competing in their famous Costume Contest and with Dino Real, one of San Jose's most colorful artists as DJ. Gay friendly. Cover: 3000 with costume, 4000 without costume. Starts at 9 pm.
Aguizotes Gastro Pub (Barrio Escalante)
A creative dining experience with a special menu based on Costa Rican scary folktales
Fortunately, San José is a relatively safe city with pick-pocketing being a tourist's top concern. We sometimes see visitors so worried about safety they forget to have a great time. So, follow these tips and you’ll be able to enjoy the capital city and create positive memories.
Keep That Cell Phone Under Control!
Many people don’t realize that they’re making themselves obvious targets for a street robbery. While at home, it might be normal to walk around chatting on your cell phone. Walking on the street, it’s a pretty sure way to get your phone stolen out of your hand. You’re not only showing off that you have a new iPhone 6s, you’re walking around distracted and therefore won’t hear when someone walks up behind you. If you’re texting, it means you’re looking down and won’t see someone coming up to you. If you want to chat on your phone, step inside of a shop or stop at a café. If you’re using your phone as a map (a great thing to do!) try to have the route already mapped out and just glance at it from time to time.
*If you have an unlocked phone it is totally worth getting a SIM card for your trip to have data wherever you are. We recommend Kolbi or Movistar, you can even get one in the airport. This will greatly alleviate stress during many parts of your trip.
San Jose has decent foot traffic in most areas until about 8 p.m. After that hour we recommend definitely taking a taxi or Uber, the latter preferable even if only a short distance. The golden rule is if no one else is on the street, don't walk down it.
If you’re out at night, don’t accept drinks from strangers. If you’ve left your drink alone, its better to ditch it and buy a new one.
If you'd like to meet local people, especially if traveling alone our tip is to arrive somewhere a little early, meet the service staff and ask for recommendations before they get busy. Going to see live music can be a great way to 'bump' into people, as well as stepping outside with the smokers. Ticos are more than happy to ask you about where you are from and if you have yet fallen in love with Costa Rica so find a way to start a conversation and enjoy making new friends!
Going out? Check out our post on the Best Bars in San José
Avoid the Taxi Runaround
The old taxi meter scam is alive and well in San José. that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a cab - it just means you need to be smart. Only take official taxis. They’re bright red with yellow triangles on the side panels of the car. Before you get in the taxi, make sure the driver has a working meter (la maria). If he doesn’t, or says he can’t reset it, politely decline the ride.
Ask the driver if he knows the route to where you’re doing. If you have 3G or wifi, you can download the route on your phone and confer with him before hand. If you’ve downloaded the route on Google Maps, you can follow along on your progress even if you’re offline, to make sure you don’t get taken for a runaround.
If you think the taxi is ripping you off feel free to pay him the appropriate amount and then walk away, do not let his attitude/anger/etc. intimidate you.
This potential runaround is our main motive for suggesting the use of Uber whenever possible. You must remember that if an Uber driver is caught it is illegal to offer transport services without being registered with the government and he will be fined. So, when using Uber learn your driver's name and get in the front seat.
Solo Female Travelers
Ladies rejoice - There are many things to do in San Jose and it's a great city for women traveling alone. Most Ticos are very educated, and will treat you with kindness and respect. It is the hub of activity and culture in the country and therefore affords many opportunities to connect with locals.
Costa Rica still has its roots in Machismo - macho culture - so you might get catcalled as you're walking down the street. You could consider opting for wearing city attire vs. slinky beachwear. This will keep you warmer (San Jose is 3400 ft. above sea level) and reduce unwanted attention. ----Don't worry we are involved with various groups that focus on counter-machismo culture and we work on educating men about eliminating 'acoso callejero'. Let us put up the good fight and you enjoy your trip dressing for the amount of attention you want or don't.
If you are looking to connect with other travelers or locals we recommend using Airbnb to connect with a host or following various Facebook venue or community pages ahead of your trip to see if there will be special events during your stay. Maybe you'll happen upon a mini craft beer festival or vegan taste-testing. Our yoga-loving clients often make new friends attending classes at Downtown Yoga our sister business.
Our recommendation is to avoid having a rental car in San Jose. There are pick-up locations on Paseo Colon, it's easiest to get your car as you head out of the city or drop it before heading to airport.
If you do have a rental car in San Jose you should know that you cannot leave it in the street unattended. There is an informal industry here of 'guachis' (pronounced watchees) that hang out in the street and watch cars. There is no actual guarantee your car will be safe but it's usually the only option if a parking lot is not nearby. You can pay them about 500 colones per hour as a general rate, pay when you leave. It usually comes down to whatever change you have in the car.
Downtown San Jose also has lots of new metered spots. You must pay these (look for a machine a few blocks distance) or it is likely you will get a ticket. Unfortunately there is no security associated with it so you might also have to pay a guachi.
Parking lots usually charge about 600 colones an hour and some will negotiate an overnight rate.
When parking in the street or a lot you CANNOT leave anything in the car. A few dollars worth of valuables can help someone get the next high or meal.
Be Sensible - Other Random Tips
As mentioned, San José is relatively safe. That doesn’t, however, mean that opportunists aren't out there. Just have a normal amount of caution when you’re out and about.
Use common sense, and you’ll have a great time in Costa Rica’s capital city.
Traveling with children can always be a challenge. Thankfully, Latin American cultures are family oriented and therefore most restaurants, shops or tourist sites are very open to kids. Here are some of the best family-friendly places to visit in San José, Costa Rica .
The Children’s Museum
Oddly enough, the children’s museum is located in what used to be a giant prison! In the early 1990s, after it had been abandoned for more than a decade, the space was remodeled into a children’s learning center. The Children’s Museum was, at the time, the first interactive museum in Central America. There are 40 interactive rooms where kids (and adults) can learn about topics like the universe, Costa Rica, animals, the natural world, recycling, electricity and more.
Downtown - Street 4 and Av. 9
Tues-Fri 8AM-4:30PM; Sat-Sun 9:30AM-5PM
Rich smoothies and coffee creations paired with free range, locally sourced organic egg omelets, vegan breakfast burritos and heaps of vegan and gluten free sweets. This pet friendly, family friendly, vegan friendly spot is also - when compared to other trendy San Jose joints at least - rather reasonably priced.
Barrio Escalante - Street 35 between Av 13 and 11
Open: 9:00AM - 5PM Daily
2253 6715; firstname.lastname@example.org
Walking around the Feria Verde is a lovely thing to do in San Jose on a Saturday morning. Besides free tastings at the food stands, there’s live music, clothes and artisan goods on display and very good vibes. The Feria runs from 7:00AM to 12:30 PM on Saturdays, and takes place at the Polideportivo at the back of Barrio Aranjuez. The Feria Verde is pet friendly and kid friendly, as well as a great place to sample locally produced artisanal foods.
Barrio Aranjuez - Polideportivo; Av 15 Street 19
Open 7:00 AM - 12:30PM Saturdays
More Info: http://www.feriaverde.org/
Maza Picnic in the Park
In front of Parque Nacional is a very cute bistro called Maza. Beyond serving yummy brunch daily, Maza will pack your food into a picnic basket for you to enjoy in the park. That means no high chairs necessary. Spread a blanket and enjoy fresh cooked, locally-sourced organic dishes without the stress of restaurant manners. The kids can run about in the park while parents dine al fresco.
Barrio Carmen - Street 19 and Av 3
More Info: 2248 4824
Natural Science Museum
This isn’t a museum you’re likely to see on many lists, as, in museum terms, it’s a little outdated. However, it is exactly that fact that makes the Natural Science Museum really cool for kids. The place is loaded - and we mean seriously packed - with fossils, displayed floor to ceiling on the walls, surrounding a giant T-Rex skeleton. There’s not much in the way of explanation or learning, however it’s a great way to pass a rainy day marveling at the stuffed and immortalized creatures of past eras.
Mon - Fri 8:00 AM - 4PM; Sunday 9AM - 5PM
More Info: 2232 1306; http://museolasalle.ed.cr/
National Museum (Butterfly Garden)
While museums can typically be a little tiresome for kids, the National Museum offers a really special exhibit that will entertain young kids long enough for parents to enjoy the rest of what the museum has to offer. The entrance to the National Museum, which is situated inside of the old Bellavista fort, is a giant, two story butterfly garden. The warm light enclosure just inside the museums entrance has been planted with a mini tropical forest and hoards of large blue butterflies fly around, undeterred by photo-happy visitors. The staff puts out fresh fruit regularly, which attracts the butterflies and makes for even easier viewing. There is a little house on the second story area where you can see the cocooned butterflies and children can learn about the lifecycle of this beautiful flying bug.
Plaza de Democracia, between Av. Central and Av 2
The Jade Museum has been recently renovated, and it’s new exhibitions are very kid friendly. Each room has low mounted interactive video learning centers where kids can get a pint-sized view of pre-Columbian Costa Rica. The Museum is extensive, however, so it's good to plan on your little one getting tired halfway through. There is a café at the museum but its menu isn’t very comprehensive, so don’t forget snacks!
Downtown - Street 13 and 13 bis,
Open: 10AM-5PM Daily
More Info: 2521 6610
Kalú Kids Area
Kalú Bistro, one of Barrio Escalante’s hip café restaurants, is also a great place for families. The bistro, which is situated inside of a repurposed home, has a small central courtyard with a dedicated children’s play space. It’s the perfect opportunity for parents to socialize and enjoy a sophisticated meal while kids can color or run around. There are also kid friendly options on the menu, and fun gifts for children in the boutique.
Barrio Escalante - Street 31 Av 5
More Info: 2253 8426; http://kalu.co.cr/
Street Art Walk
The outdoor murals on the streets of San José, Costa Rica easily rival the works you’ll find in a contemporary art museum. From larger than life portraits to trippy dreamscape designs, Chepe’s streets are living proof of the talent that inhabits the city. One of the best places to go in San Jose is the stretch of 17th Street from 1st Avenue down to the National Museum. The entire wall on the east side of this pedestrian only street has been turned into the equivalent of a free outdoor art museum. It's one of our favorite free things to do in San José. If you want to get a more in-depth view on whose painting what and why, join an Art Bird Walking Tour and learn more about local contemporary artists, and what their works mean to the city.
Picnic in the Park
San José has several really lovely parks where you can spread a blanket, unpack some homemade sandwiches and enjoy the lovely crisp weather that Chepe is known for. Parque La Sabana is a beautiful place to picnic - the largest park in the city has excellent views of the mountains to backdrop your idyllic afternoon. For those closer to downtown, Parque Morazán is a popular picnic spot where you can enjoy the good weather with locals on their lunch break. Or plop down at Parque Nacional - an especially good destination those who would rather get a to-go burger from La Ventanita Meraki or have Maza pack their a picnic basket.
Walking around the Feria Verde is a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning. Besides free tastings at the food stands, there’s live music, clothes and artisan goods on display and very good vibes. The Feria runs from 7:00AM to 12:30 PM on Saturdays, and takes place at the Campo Desportivo at the back end of Barrio Aranjuez. The Feria Verde is pet friendly and kid friendly, as well as a great place to sample locally produced artisanal foods. Easily one of the best free things to do in San Jose.
Barrio Aranjuez - Polideportivo Aranjuez; Av 15 Street 19
Open 7:00 AM - 12:30PM Saturdays
More Info: http://www.feriaverde.org/
Costa Rican Art Museum
The Costa Rican Art Museum exhibits more than six thousand works by national and international artists from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century. The museum's works include photography, sculpture, paintings and more. Here you can reflect on different artistic periods and discover artistic movements that have left their mark on Costa Rican art. The museum has a lovely sculpture garden and a rooftop exhibit area with views of La Sabana Park. Best of all, the Costa Rican Art Museum is free to the public every day.
Open Tues - Sun 9AM - 4PM; Closed Monday
Free to the public
Walk around the Central Market
The Central Market is one of the most interesting sights in San José, as it is a piece of living history. The market has been open since 1880, in the exact same place, and every day the people of Chepe come to do business here. Vendors sell fresh fish and poultry to ladies whose bags are already filled with fruits, nuts and spices. While most tourists only show up in the late afternoon when the place is packed, its worth arriving early in the morning to see the local business taking place, just as it has every day for the past century. If you want to be guided through the mazes of products to the best secrets try a Hungry Bird Tour.
Downtown - Av Central between Street 6 and 8
Open 6AM - 6PM Daily; Closed Sundays
More Info: 2547 6104
Colonial Architecture in Barrio Amón
Barrio Amón is having an architectural resurgence. More and more business are moving into the area and helping to renovate old colonial houses, reigniting the urban beauty of the neighborhood.
Walk around and take a look at the old buildings - and if you want to stop inside of one, try Casa Pejibaye. This huge old house has been restored and turned into a co-working space. It’s one of the few buildings you can freely wander into (downstairs at least).
While your wowing at the vaulted ceilings, check out the Costa Rican designer goods at Tienda Carmen, or lounge on the wrap around porch drinking a coffee from Cafe Nauta, the coffee shop downstairs. If you want to know where all the most interesting architecture in the city is - and learn more about the history of each building - join a Barrio Bird Saturday’s Favorites tour.
By Stacey Auch.