day trips from San Jose

Thomas and I live in San Jose and he has a full-time job. That means that on the weekends we are either jetting out of here as early as possible on Friday to beat the traffic to head to the beach or we are planning fun day trips from San Jose. Let’s just say we take A LOT of day trips from San Jose.

Here are our faves…..

1. Head to the beach

day trips San JoseOur favorite beach for day trips from San Jose is called Playa Blanca. This beach is located in a private resort, but because every beach in Costa Rica has to have public access by law, there is a secret dirt road you can go down to access the resort. It will only take you about 1.5 hours to drive there from San Jose and it is seriously beautiful.

2. Check out Irazu Volcano

day trips from San Jose

Our favorite volcanic day trip is to Poas, but unfortunately, it has been very active lately and is now closed indefinitely. 🙁 Sorry guys! Instead, you can check out Irazu volcano. It is also pretty neat!

From the top of Irazu, you can sometimes see the nearby volcano called Turrialba erupting ash. You can take a walk (or drive) up a hill from the crater. It’s about half a mile and on a clear day, you can have some amazing views.

Cost: $15 for adults and $5 for children

Tips:

1. Bring warm clothes. It can be really cold up there.

2. Don’t over do it. You are at a really high elevation which effects everyone differently. What might be an easy walk at a lower elevation can make you really short of breath at such a high elevation.

3. There is a nice little picnic area if you want to bring some snacks or lunch with you. They also have a little store with snacks and souvenirs, but the prices are way marked up.

4. Get there early (the park opens at 8:00). You will have a better chance of having a good clear view.

Need more info? Here you go!

3. Get lunch at a trucha

Oh how we love truchas! This is one of those hidden gems of Costa Rica that most tourists don’t experience, but totally should.

The concept is you go to a place with a small freshwater lake. An employee will give you a line with a little piece of bait on the end. You then stand around the lake and try to catch a fish (usually trout).

One you catch a fish you can go to the restaurant located on the property and they will cook up your fish for you. You can expect to pay about $10 for your fish and some side dishes (usually rice, beans, salad, and fried plantains). It’s a great way to spend a few hours. There are many

It’s a great way to spend a few hours and it’s cheap! The fishing part is free, so you are really only paying for your food and any drinks. There are several truchas in the Central Valley area of the country. Just search “trucha” on Google maps and you’ll find them.

You could combine this with a trip to Irazu and Cartago (there are many truchas in that area).

4. Explore Cartago

day trips San Jose

Cartago is not really a city of beauty or anything, but if you are heading in this direction to go to Irazu, it is worth doing a little exploring. There are three really interesting churches that are worth checking out.

  1. Our Lady of the Angels Basilica (Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles)– This is the church pictured above. Every year August people from all over the country pilgrimage here. Some even approach the last several miles on their knees. It’s beautiful inside and worth checking out.
  2. Santiago Apostol Parish Ruins– I find this place so incredibly beautiful. It is an old stone church that had burned too many times. Instead of rebuilding it they decided to just keep the outside frame and turn the interior into a park. Unfortunately, the park is often closed. I can’t find a schedule listed online, so you will have to just show up and see if you can get in. Either way, it is still beautiful to look at from the outside.
  3. Iglesia de San Jose de Orosi- This church is located a little bit out of the city. It is credited as being the oldest church in Costa Rica. It is free to go inside the church, but the small museum next door costs a few dollars.

5. Go Hiking

day trips from San Jose

When you look online for hiking near San Jose, pretty much everything that comes up is about touristy areas which have paved paths or listings for areas that say you need a guide. This is just not true! There is plenty of hiking you can do nearby for those that want something a little more strenuous and don’t want to hire a guide.

We recently discovered Volcan Barva. It’s a short drive from San Jose (in fact it’s really close to the Cafe Britt tour). The drive is a little crazy though so we do suggest having all-wheel drive on your rental car.


It’s a bit strenuous, but not bad. Plus you’ll be rewarded with a nice view on clear days.

6. Tour a Coffee Plantation

to do in Costa Rica

If you find yourself in the Central Valley, find a coffee plantation to tour. There are a few good ones on the way to Poas volcano. We recently went to Cafe Britt with my family and had a great time filled with wayyyy too much free coffee. We all felt a little caffeine drunk afterward. Cafe Britt is not a working coffee plantation, though. You will learn a lot about the history of coffee and can see the production, but you won’t get to see the farming side of things.

Cafe Britt is not a working coffee plantation, though. You will learn a lot about the history of coffee and can see the production, but you won’t get to see the farming side of things.

We have not been yet, but we’ve heard really good things about the Doka Estate Tour as well. Doka is an actual working plantation. We’ve heard that they give you a really good overview of the entire coffee production process and you get to see it all in action.

7. Go Ziplining and on an Aerial Tram

day trips from San Jose

About an hour from San Jose as you are heading towards Jaco there is an adventure park called Rainforest Adventures. Thomas visited recently and loved it! You can go zip lining, ride an aerial tram, check out their butterfly garden, take a nice hike, and see some great wildlife. You can also buy a package which includes lunch. Thomas said the food was great! This place does not run cheap. The basic packages per person start at about $100, but sometimes you just need to splurge for some great adventures.

8. Visit a Dog Sanctuary


You may have seen a video of this place that has been going viral recently. Territorio de Zaguates (land of the strays) is located in the valley in Alajuela and is home to hundreds of stray dogs.

It is possible to visit this beautiful place and play with the dogs, but only on certain days. They usually do one open day a month on a Saturday or Sunday. Check out their Facebook page to stay up to date on their next open day.

They do amazing things here so please make a donation if you visit or contact them ahead of time to see how you can help.

9. Go on a chocolate tasting

day trips from San Jose

There are plenty of chocolate plantation tours throughout the country, but unfortunately, there aren’t any that are an easy drive from San Jose. However, there is Sibu Chocolate.

Sibu is about 20 minutes from downtown San Jose and conducts chocolate tastings. I mean, let’s be real. The only reason you go on a chocolate plantation tour anyway is with the hope of eating some tasty chocolate at the end. Why not skip right to the fun?

Tastings are 1.5 hours long and cost $27 per person. I know it’s a bit pricey, but you won’t be disappointed here. The tasting includes info on history, production, and tons of yummy chocolates!

Also, they have this gorgeous restaurant on site with delicious fresh foods. Oh, and most important they have a gift shop so you can stock up on tasty chocolate to bring back to family and friends.

Have any questions about day trips from San Jose, or suggestions for other day trips we should try out? Leave them in the comments and we will get back to you. 🙂

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12 awesome day trips from San Jose, Costa Rica. These tips are geared towards budget travelers who don't want to skimp on amazing vibes. 12 awesome day trips from San Jose, Costa Rica. These tips are geared towards budget travelers who don't want to skimp on amazing vibes.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Sarah,

    The dog thing looks like fun! We have been to CR 2 times. Loving it more each time. Our fave beach in by Manual Antonio – a distance from San Jose – but loved spending a few weeks in Atenas, a hop skip and jump from SJ.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Ryan

    • Hi Ryan,
      Thanks for commenting. I agree, the Manuel Antonio area is amazing, but lately, it is wayyyy too crowded!
      Let me know if you head back here someday 🙂

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