It was tricky to compile a list of the Best Breakfast in San José, as that the majority of breakfast places in San José do not open before 10AM. This list celebrates scrumptious breakfast spots offered at cafés and restaurants who serve breakfast at a breakfast friendly hour (late risers might want to check out our “Best Brunch” post here).
Café del Barista
One of the earliest opening great breakfast joints in town, Café del Barista serves gourmet coffee, eggs, pancakes, waffles and pastries to the hip and hungry. The menu switches at lunch to focus on small plates, quesadillas, salads and the like, or you can choose for their any time menu of sandwiches, wraps and bagels.
For coffee lovers though, the most important thing to know is that Café del Barista doesn’t have its name for nothing. The espresso drinks are crafted by truly skilled baristas, each one trained by owner Manuel Dinarte, who organizes annual competitions to test the skills of baristas across the country. Now that's a good buzz to start off your morning with.
Barrio Amón - Av 9 between Streets 19 and 21
Open Daily 7am - 6pm; Closed Sundays
More Info: 2221 4712; http://cafedelbarista.com
If you’re looking for the best typical breakfast in San José, head down to the Central Market for some good, down-home cooking. While much of the market selling souvenirs and the like stay closed until later in the morning, many restaurant and food stalls open at 6am to cater to early morning food shoppers. Try Soda Los Angeles (2223-2606), where fresh squeezed juices are mixed with water or milk and sugar for a breakfast smoothie, or head upstairs to Soda Cristal (2223-5002), where you can hanker down for a traditional plate of gallo pinto. The Cafeteria y Cafe Central (2222-1769) serves delicious, fresh roasted coffee, and if you’re feeling cheeky, grab a post-breakfast dessert at Sorbetera de Lolo Mora (2256-5000), near the main entrance. This institution of an ice cream parlor makes one flavor only: a vanilla sorbet-like ice cream with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves - and has been making it for more than 110 years.
Downtown - Av Central between Streets 6 and 8
Open Daily from 6am; Closed Sundays
Grano de Oro
The gold medal winner for our number one best breakfast in San José is potentially the least known as well. Not that Grano de Oro itself is unknown - this beautiful boutique hotel has been delivering five star service and old world glamour to San José city lovers for more than two decades. Their restaurant is considered one of the best fine dining establishments in the city. What people don’t seem to know is that Grano de Oro also serves an excellent breakfast at completely reasonable prices.
Try their Eggs Benedict with salmon and avocado, accompanied by a fresh squeezed orange and pineapple juice. Or, the truffled eggs with a smooth black coffee. Really, who doesn’t want to lounge in an impeccably decorated courtyard, an oasis from the city’s bustle, eat delicious food and experience five star service for the same price you’d pay at any trendy café in the city? Consider the city’s best kept secret to now be officially revealed.
Sabana South - Street 30 between Av 2 and 4
Open Daily 7AM - 10PM
Our favorite Mediterranean restaurant, Sofia's, has opened up a breakfast cafe right down the street in Escalante and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Everything that you love about Mediterranean food - fresh ingredients, delicious, dips, feta cheese and the like - is now available in breakfast form, all day long.
The best thing about Mediterranean food is that the quality of the ingredients will always shine through, and Pandeli is no different. Fresh breads, rich butters and jams,thick honey and dark coffee enlighten the senses even for those surfing from the worst hangovers. If that won’t do it, then go for a chia seed breakfast pudding or a green juice. It's the most delicious detox you could hope for.
Barrio Escalante - Street 33 and Av 1
Tues - Sat 8AM - 7:30PM; Sunday 9AM - 4PM; Closed Monday
More Info: 2253 6474; https://www.facebook.com/pg/pandelic
San José isn’t a huge city, but it’s not small enough to walk around in a day. If you want to get the most out of your visit, you might want to employ a few different methods of transportation.
The adventurous sort might consider renting a bike to get around San José. Although you’ll need to be careful on the roads, as there are very few designated bike lanes, cycling can be a great way to see the city. Many locals get around strictly by bicycle, especially since San José starting limiting driving in the city to help alleviate the traffic problems. We caution only expert bike riders to try this and definitely wear all safetly gear as drivers have little respect for cyclists.
Cycling as a sport is very popular in Costa Rica, so if you’re looking to go outside of the city it’s an amazing way to visit some of the further away sights. For example, there is a fantastic 4-5 hour ride up to Poas Volcano. You can rent a bike (and get connected with all the cycling information you’ll need) from companies like BiciRent Costa Rica or Costa Rica Cycling.
If you’re staying in or near downtown, walking is the best way to see most of the nearby things to do in San Jose.
The Jade Museum, Gold Museum, Central Market, National & Morazán parks, the Antigua Aduana, the National Museum the colonial architecture of Barrio Amón, the restaurants of Barrio Escalante and the bars of La California are all within walking distance of the each other - as long as you’ve got a decent pair of walking shoes.
Walking during the daytime in San José is pretty safe, so it’s a good way to get in some sightseeing and exercise at the same time. There aren’t too many hills in the downtown region, and you’ll get to see some cool street art along the way.
Obviously we support a walking tour as one of the best things to do for San Jose sightseeing.
Buses & Trains
The city bus system in San José is very complete, and once you’ve gotten the hang of the routes you can get almost anywhere. For destinations outside of San Jose there are usually bus stations where you can wait and buy tickets.
For the buses that take you shorter distances within the city, it will be trickier because they are located at random spots on a sidewalk, possibly marked with a sign. We recommend this only for people who have more time in the city---time to get on the wrong bus and get lost to be exact because it's inevitable. The best way to figure out how to get where you’re going is to ask people at the bus stop. Bus fare costs between 90 cents and a dollar forty (460-820 colones)
There is commuter rail service mostly during rush hours to: Cartago, Belen, Alajuela and Heredia. Routes and schedules can be viewed at Incofer. Rates vary from about 1000 - 1500 colones.
A taxi or an Uber only costs a few dollars, so if you’re really having trouble figuring out a route it might be worth a little bit of extra money just to grab a cab.
Taxis are plentiful in San José and are a good way to get around the city, especially at night. Official taxis are red with yellow triangles on the side panels, and are relatively safe. They also aren’t too expensive, with a 5km (10 min) ride costing about $7 USD.
Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for tourists to get ripped off by taxi drivers who pretend their meter isn’t working or take the long way round. When you get in the cab, insist that the driver start (or restart) the meter - called la maria. If you’re riding alone, the driver may try to pick up another fare. If he does try this, politely ask him not to.
Ride share services like Uber are popular in San José. Whatever you feel about the company ideologically, Uber is a safe and simple way to get around the city. As your route is pre-determined, you won’t have to worry about getting overcharged or taken a round-about route so you’ll pay more. There are a fair amount of drivers and the city is small enough you won’t be left waiting for a ride for very long. It’s safe, as you don’t need to exchange cash with the driver, and very economical - a 6 km ride (20 minute) cost just over 2000 Colones.
Driving in Costa Rica is not for everyone. In San José, there are a lot of one way streets, creative driving maneuvers and parking difficulties. Be mindful of rush-hours (6a.m - 9a.m., 4p.m. - 7p.m.) as traffic can and most probably come to a standstill and take hours to cross maybe 5 - 15 miles of distance.
If you’re staying downtown or nearby, it’s important to have secure parking overnight, as car theft or break-ins do happen.
Ticos tend to drive fast and the normal rules of the road may not always be followed, but for an alert driver it’s not impossible. However, with so many options for transportation inside of the city, you’ll enjoy your trip more without the hassle of a car to take care of.
We recommend picking up your car rental when you’re on your way out of town.
By Stacey Auch.