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; email@example.com
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This isn’t a museum you’re likely to see on many lists, as, in museum terms, it’s a little outdated.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/
El Lobo Estepario
El Lobo is the local rock bar. This low lit, black and red beast is a fan favorite for rockers and groupies alike. Both the food menu or drink menu are full of traditional bar fare. The tables, of which there are many here, are usually covered with nachos, burgers, beers and vodka & cokes. The predictability is clearly comforting to the right crowd, as even with two floors of seating extending far back from the street, you’ll still find a line at the door as early as 9:30PM on a Friday Night.
La California - Av 2 Calle 13
Open 4:00 PM - Just past Midnight Daily; Until 2AM Saturdays & Sundays
More Info: 8704 4111; 2256 3934; https://www.facebook.com/loboestepariocr/
In the middle of a city that has grown increasingly too expensive, it’s refreshing to find a clean bar serving affordable, no frills drinks and food. This is a bar of olden times known for it's draw of the local theater and political crowds both with offices nearby.
The music is pretty good, the bar is spacious and tables are plenty enough that those without deep pockets can still enjoy a night out with their friends. There isn’t much in the way of design or decor, and you’ll be hard pressed to find craft beers or fancy drinks on this menu, but if all you’re looking for is a place to hang out and chat with friends over a cold beer, El Acapulco is your destination.
La California - Av Central entre Calle 17 y 19
(not to be confused with Bar Acapulco)
More Info: Click here
La California’s coolest new night spot could be boiled down to little more than a collection of food and drink stalls inside of a gated off alleyway. El Mercadito, however, is so much more. An artistically designed, light blue iron gate walls off the outside world, and polished wood kiosks dressed with artistic wood burned signs serve fusion tacos, buffalo mozzarella pizzas, craft beers, wine and gin tonics. The narrow entrance opens up into a large courtyard full of seating areas, where bohemian string lights hand between the trees. Each stall specialized in only one or two items, so you’ll never have to be standing in line for too long. Four footed companions are welcome here.
La California - Avenidas 1 y 2, Calle 21
Thurs 9PM - 3AM; Fri & Sat 6PM - 3AM; Sun 1PM - 10PM
More Info: firstname.lastname@example.org, https://www.facebook.com/MercadoLaCalifornia/
Mil 948 is not just a cocktail bar - is a mixology house. Set in a redesigned colonial mansion, this bar is an updated spin on the speakeasy era theme. Design mixes classic pieces - like the 1950’s powder blue Chevy truck on the side patio - with modern furniture and decor. There is a main bar, ample indoor seating, outdoor seating and a large area outback equipped for private parties (there’s even a pool). Best seating is on the outdoor patio, or if you’re keen to learn about cocktails, grab a stool at the main bar and watch the bartenders - oops, mixologists - put on a show. Private, secure parking in the back.
San Pedro - Edificio B, Calle Negritos; Av Central entre Calle 29 y 33
Tues - Thurs 4PM – 12AM; Friday & Saturday 4PM – 2AM; Sunday 11AM – 10PM; Closed Monday
More Info: 8990 4527; https://www.facebook.com/mil948/
Stiefel is a craft beer pub that outdoes expectations. There is nothing flashy or contemporary about this joint - in fact, if it weren’t for the neon green sign announcing its existence, you might easily walk right by. The sign is there though, and so is a bouncer who welcomes you at the wrought iron gate of the narrow downtown house. After passing inspection, make your way through the world’s tiniest front yard, that somehow manages to hold two full tables of beer drinkers.
If you expected tack - due to the neon green signage and the conspicuously large boot shaped beer glasses, you might - you’ll be pleasantly surprised. A chilled out vibe resonates from every inch of the old house. Besides an extraordinarily large selection of both draft and bottled craft beers, Stiefel has a second floor of fun and different ambients. There is a room with low pallet sofas for relaxing; another with small tables and low music for easy conversation; a third room with a fussball table and bar seating for more active crowds. Twin tiny narrow balconies, each holding up to four people, cater for people watchers and lowers of fresh air. Rowdier drinkers hang out downstairs by the bar, and patrons can admire the cool artwork murals that fill the staircase on the way to and from. An excellent place to start off your night.
Barrio Otoya - Av 7 Calle 11A
Open 11:30AM–2PM & 6PM–2AM Daily ; Closed Sundays
More Info: 8850 2119; https://www.facebook.com/StiefelPub/
Antik is a lunchtime restaurant that turns into one of the city’s most popular clubs on Friday & Saturday night. For lovers of a late late nights, electronic or Latin/Pop and fun debauchery, you’ve found your mecca. At this three floor beautiful colonial house, the party here really gets started around 3AM - before then there’s not much action past the dinner crowd. At 6AM, those still standing are sent back out onto the streets. Check their Facebook page or website for parties and events.
Casa Matute, Calle 21 Ave 10,
Tue - Fri 11:30AM - 3PM (lunch); Thursday 6PM -11PM; Fri &Sat 6PM - 6AM; Closed Sundays
More Info: 4033 3324; https://www.facebook.com/pg/antikcr
Pulperia La Luz (Food Truck Park)
Pizza, Tacos, Artisan Beers
According to their Facebook Page, Pulperia La Luz is "a space for gastronomic expression, where one can enjoy authentic street food, artisan bears food trucks and music"
Pulpería La Luz "La Cantina del Barrio" is less of a bar and more of of nighttime feed and gathering spot. An indoor building serves drinks, music (and a much needed toilet break) for the parking lot food fest.
Though the main crowd seems more interested in the drinks and music, hanging out in the ample seeing area enjoying the DJ and beers, we prefer the outdoor picnic benches under stretched string lights, surrounded by the wafting smells of grilling choripan, chicharrones or gourmet burgers - the perfect nightcap for a booze soaked stomach.
Barrio Escalante - Av Central y Calle 33
Wed & Thurs 6PM-Midnight; Friday 5PM- 1AM; Saturday 3PM - 1AM; Sunday Noon-10PM;
More Info: https://www.facebook.com/pg/PulperiaLaLuz
This intimate basement jazz club is located downstairs in a beautiful 1920’s house in the Amón neighborhood. The tiny music club has two gallery rooms upstairs, a small menu of yummy food, and incredible jam sessions, live music shows or vinyl presentations. It’s a spot for musicians and true music lovers.
The brick-walled club, which holds maybe 30 people at once, is truly from another era. Both international and local groups play here - impressive for the small stature. Mondays is considered by many to be the best night to go. The one downside is a slightly sketchy location. If you arrive during the day you’ll be alright walking, but after dark its advised to take a taxi or an Uber.
Barrio Amón - Calle 3 Av 11
Monday - Saturday 3PM - 2AM; Check for Sunday events
More Information: 2221 2302; https://www.facebook.com/pg/sotanocr
By Stacey Auch.