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San José is typically the starting point for most visitors coming to Costa Rica thanks to the fact that it’s the country’s capital and central international airport hub. The city boasts a vibrant history, a thriving nightlife, and a plethora of museums, art galleries, and parks that will surely keep you busy throughout your stay.
While San José isn’t as well-visited as the other Costa Rican destinations, you won’t regret taking the time to explore this bustling metropolis for its cultural and gastronomic offerings. Keep in mind that this is a large and densely populated city, though, so expect traffic to be a nightmare.
That’s why where to stay in San Jose, Costa Rica is super important. You’ll want to book your hotel close to the area you want to spend the most of your time.
Lucky for you, I’ve put together this guide detailing where to stay in San José, Costa Rica based on what you want to get out of your trip. It will give you the low down on everything you need to know about this humming capital city, particularly when it comes to the best hotels in San José located in the best areas for tourists to stay.
Where are the BEST Areas to Stay in San Jose, Costa Rica
This blog post covers three of the best areas to stay in San José including what to expect from each neighborhood and my personal recommendations for hostels and hotels. These neighborhoods are the most common for travelers and offer the best things to do, restaurants, and shops.
They are also generally the safest places to stay in San Jose and where you’ll find the most other foreigners.
But before deciding where to stay in San José, Costa Rica, you need to determine what type of holiday you’re looking forward to. After all, each area in San José offers different atmospheres and attractions, so be sure to pick the neighborhood that most appeals to you.
If you want to get a taste of city life, downtown San José is a great location. If you’re someone who is only traveling through the city for one night, staying near the airport may be the best choice. Meanwhile, people wanting peace and quiet can try staying in the outskirts of San José.
Let’s take a closer look at these three neighborhoods to see which one is the right location for you.
Getting Around San Jose, Costa Rica
San José is centrally located and well-developed, making it easy for visitors to get into and out of. With that said, expect the city to be a high-traffic area with plenty of choices for public and private transportation.
Public buses are readily available day and night and can take you pretty much anywhere in San José. This is the cheapest way to get around the city, with fares ranging from 200 to 630 CRC depending on your destination.
One thing to keep in mind is that bus drivers don’t always speak English. So if you don’t understand Spanish, check and confirm the bus’ destination before boarding just to be safe. It is also quite common for buses to be packed, and they follow no specific schedule.
If you prefer private transportation, taxis are easy to come by in San José, and the official fee per kilometer is 700 CRC. However, some drivers often refuse to turn on their meters if they know you’re a foreigner. In such cases, you can always use Uber since it is widely accessible in San José and is usually cheaper than taxis anyway.
If you’re staying downtown, walking will be your best choice. This busy neighborhood is small enough to explore on foot, and walking will spare you from the highly chaotic traffic. However, if you’re alone, I wouldn’t suggest walking around San José after 9 p.m. since certain areas can be sketchy.
Downtown San Jose, Costa Rica
Known as Costa Rica’s commercial and political capital, Downtown San José offers a diverse range of attractions and activities for tourists of all ages. You can head to the city’s main historical and cultural sites, including the Gold, Jade, and National Museums, as well as the National Theater. Don’t forget to drop by the Central Market, too, where you can mingle with locals and other foreigners.
This bustling neighborhood is also brimming with various shopping centers, cafés, restaurants, and political offices. The nightlife here is vibrant, with a more genuine and local feel than in the city’s more exclusive suburbs.
Another great thing you will love about staying in Downtown San José is that it is very well-connected to the rest of the city and Costa Rica. You can find plenty of public transit here that can take you beyond the city to other popular places to visit in Costa Rica including Puerto Viejo, Monteverde, La Fortuna, and more.
I personally find this location to be one of the best areas to stay in San José as this is where most hotels are. But it’s important to note that the neighborhood is huge! You can stay in the heart of the city and be within walking distance of the major attractions, or you can stay about 1km from the city center and enjoy a little peace and quiet – you have to take a cab to reach the must-see sites, though.
For this reason, I’ve listed hotels right in the downtown core and ones that are about 1km out in two separate sections below. This way, you can easily choose a hotel based on the area you think is perfect for your stay in San Jose!
Advantages to staying in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica:
- There are many hotels in downtown San José, so finding a place to stay is generally not an issue.
- This area is ideal for sightseeing, thanks to its convenient access to museums and other major attractions.
- You can find lots of affordable dining options and shops, especially along Central Avenue Boulevard.
- There are many public transportation options here that will take you to the Costa Rican countryside.
Disadvantages of staying in downtown San Jose:
- Expect hotel prices to be high.
- Whether you come during the peak season or not, traffic is generally an issue.
- With all of the busy businesses dotting the city, the downtown area can be very loud.
Where to Stay in the heart of Downtown San Jose, Costa Rica
These next five hotels are located right in the downtown core of San Jose, Costa Rica. They are only meters from the National Museum as well as many of the other top attractions in the city.
$$$ – Gran Hotel Costa Rica Curio Collection by Hilton
Located right in the city center, the Gran Hotel Costa Rica is only a 5-minute walk from the National Theatre and San José Cathedral. It has been designated as a historical and architectural landmark by the government, the only hotel in San José to receive such title.
Renovated last 2016, this luxurious property boasts a graceful combination of historical architecture and contemporary flair. You can find an impressive lobby here, as well as an executive lounge, conference space, and an innovative brand restaurant.
Gran Hotel Costa Rica will also pamper you with its state-of-the-art guest rooms fitted with elegant furnishing, updated facilities, and top-of-the-line technology.
Rooms here start at roughly US$125 a night.
$$ – Hotel Colonial
Set near the lively San Jose Central Market, Hotel Colonial is one of the best hotels in San José with its neo-colonial architecture with a cozy vibe. It offers visitors an outdoor swimming pool, sun terrace, and complimentary Wi-Fi in public spaces.
When it comes to the suites and rooms, Hotel Colonial made sure to keep the space as homey as possible. There is a ceiling fan, cable TV, and an en-suite bathroom complete with free toiletries and a shower in each room.
The best part about this property is its central location that puts you just five minutes away from the National Museum of Costa Rica, eight minutes away from the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Jose, and a few steps away from a wide range of restaurants.
You can stay here for as little as US$65/night with deals available during the low season.
$$ – Urban Green Hotel and Suites
The 4-star Urban Green Hotel & Suites offers you a variety of amenities in the same building. It is fitted with private parking, a casino, a sauna, and a fitness center, allowing you to enjoy yourself even while on the property.
The hotel’s guestrooms are also fully air-conditioned and include a desk, coffee machine, minibar, flat-screen TV, and attached bathroom with a shower.
When it comes to nearby points of interest, there’s the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Pre-Colombian Gold Museum, and the National Theater of Costa Rica. You can also enjoy Mediterranean and Turkish cuisine at Sofia Mediterraneo, located just a 5-minute walk away.
A twin room here costs around US$59 a night.
$ – Hotel Cultura Plaza
Hotel Cultura Plaza is a contemporary hotel nestled in the heart of the city center and close to the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Theater of Costa Rica, and the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum.
It features a tour desk, a massage service, and free Wi-Fi. Meanwhile, the rooms are fitted with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and an attached bathroom.
Although the hotel offers paid breakfast, you can find multiple bars and various gastronomic offers within a ten-minute walk from the property.
You can book a Standard Double Room here for as low as US$48 per night with discounts available during the low season,
$ – Fleur de Lys
A small and enchanting hotel in San José’s cultural district, Fleur de Lys is the perfect home-away-from-home for visitors on a tight budget. It features a lovely terrace, tropical gardens, and a charming pink façade.
What I love about this restored Victorian mansion is that it has 31 distinctively decorated rooms that will make you feel at home. They made sure to use only warm and soft colors that provide a relaxing atmosphere.
You can also find native artwork adorning the walls of the rooms, lobbies, and corridors. Instead of using numbers, every room is thoughtfully named after a Costa Rican flower, as well.
The cost of a night’s stay here starts at US$49 with various discounts available at certain times of the year.
Best Places to stay within 1km of Downtown San Jose
If you want to stay in downtown San Jose but want a little peace and quiet then these next hotels are for you! Still within walking distance to the main attractions of the downtown core, these hotels are just about 1 kilometer from the main action – so your stay is sure to be a little less noisy and a little more relaxed.
$$$ – Grano de Oro Hotel
Previously a private mansion, Grano de Oro Hotel will take you back to the early 1900s with its historic but luxurious vibe. It boasts 40 rooms and a variety of other facilities distributed over three buildings on its extensive property.
Within this hotel, you can find a modest gift shop carrying handmade crafts, a highly regarded restaurant serving a fusion of Costa Rican and European cuisine, and a secluded rooftop garden terrace with two jacuzzis. This place is pure paradise!
The best part about this turn-of-the-century mansion is that no two rooms are similar, with each one featuring unique paintings and handcrafted furniture.
Grano de Oro Hotels’ location is also quite strategic. Lots of San Jose’s top attractions are located within a 10-minute walk. Juan Santamaria International Airport is about a 15-minute drive away, too.
You can book a standard double room here starting at US$169/night.
$$ – Autentico Hotel
Great for business or leisure, Auténtico Hotel is devoted to delivering a unique service away from the large chain schemes while keeping the elegance and family-friendly atmosphere. It comes complete with several amenities, including an outdoor pool, garden, bar, and restaurant.
Starting at US$74/night, you can enjoy the accommodation here that serves as peaceful, business-inspired retreats. There is air conditioning in each room, as well as cable TV, a coffee maker, and a shower in the en-suite bathroom.
Auténtico Hotel is also a short distance away from the Parque La Sabana and the ICE Group Historical Technological Museum, placing some of the city’s most notable sights right at your doorstep.
$ – Gaudys Eco Hotel
Gaudys Eco Hotel provides pet-friendly lodging near the widely visited La Sabana Metropolitan Park. On-site amenities include a communal lounge, a sundeck, a lending library, and a game room where you can bond with other guests.
Many of the rooms at this humble hostel come complete with a work desk, a lounge, and a sitting space. You also have your own en-suite bathroom, fitted with a bath or shower and complimentary toiletries.
If you feel like exploring the nearby sights, the hostel is only 1.2 miles away from Metropolitan Cathedral and a 5-minute drive from the National Theater of Costa Rica. You can also just walk to some of the restaurants in the area that serve a variety of dishes.
Rooms here cost roughly US$28/night and up.
Near the International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica
Many people who visit Costa Rica often want to make a beeline for the stunning countryside and skip downtown San José. If this is you, then you’re probably wondering where to stay in San José to avoid the traffic and get to your flights on time without any hassle.
In this case, staying near the Juan Santamaria International Airport is your best option.
This is an excellent option for visitors who intend to arrive in Costa Rica late at night (and therefore need immediate access to lodging upon exiting the airport) or for those who just wish to spend one night in the city before departing San José the next day.
Staying near the airport can also save you time since the drive from the San José Airport to downtown San José takes about half an hour or more, depending on traffic.
However, just because you are staying in this neighborhood doesn’t mean you have to exclude these nights from vacation. In fact, only several minutes away from the runway are some of the best hotels in San José that will offer you a taste of Costa Rica’s friendly culture and gorgeous landscape.
Advantages to staying near the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica:
- You can quickly leave San José via the airport and visit the other parts of Costa Rica.
- Avoid San José’s bustling cityscape and horrific traffic.
- You can rest immediately after arriving in Costa Rica.
- You’ll be on time for your flight out of the country.
Disadvantages of staying near the airport in San Jose:
- You will be quite far from the city’s major attractions.
- San José has a lot of excellent culture that you will most likely miss.
The Best Places to Stay near the Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica
$$$ – Courtyard by Marriott San Jose Airport Alajuela
Situated just 2 miles from the airport, Courtyard by Marriott San Jose Airport offers the ideal combination of luxury and convenience. It is perfect for travelers not only because of the complimentary airport transfers but also because of the plethora of dining options in the immediate vicinity.
You are always just a short walk away from restaurants serving a range of international cuisines. There is also a supermarket close by if you need to grab some snacks. For those who are too exhausted to go out to eat, the hotel’s Centro restaurant and bar offers international food and beverages, too.
You can also find an outdoor pool within the property, along with a 24-hour fitness center and 24-hour reception. Meanwhile, each of the hotel’s 127 smoke-free rooms are well-appointed with thick mattresses, fluffy comforters, and wonderfully soft linens and pillowcases to guarantee a good night’s sleep.
The biggest perk about staying at Courtyard by Marriott San Jose Airport is its close proximity to some of the must-visit spots like City Mall and the neighboring town of Sarchi, where you can find artisanal craft shops.
Room rates here cost as low as US$127/night.
$$ – Holiday Inn Express
Much like Courtyard by Marriott, the primary selling point of the Holiday Inn Express is its proximity to San Jose’s international airport. In fact, it’s located only a two-minute drive away!
This convenient American chain hotel has everything you need to make your stay in San José and Alajuela more enjoyable, whether you’re visiting for business or pleasure. It boasts a free 24-hour airport shuttle, an outdoor pool, a complimentary breakfast buffet, and free wireless internet.
When it comes to the air-conditioned guestrooms, expect them to be well-appointed with free Wi-Fi and cable TV, the perfect place to unwind during your downtime.
Directly across the hotel, there is a restaurant and bar you can go to if you don’t want to get cooped up in your room. The hotel also provides a free shuttle to the City Mall if you’re up for some shopping.
The average cost per night for two adults in a Queen standard room is around US$99.
$ – Toucan Hostel
Featuring starting rates of US$36/night, the budget-friendly Toucan Hostel sits within a 6-minute drive from Juan Santamaria Park and boasts 24-hour front desk assistance and security service.
There is also a shared kitchen on the premises, along with a tour desk and free Wi-Fi. Private parking is complimentary, too, so no need to worry about leaving your vehicles on the streets. The rooms are well-appointed and cozy enough, and the best part is that the rates won’t break your bank!
Feel free to bring your pets, too, as Toucan Hostel is open to all furbabies.
Popular points of interest near this property are the City Mall, Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto Stadium, and of course, the Juan Santamaria International Airport. There are plenty of options for eating out nearby, as well.
Check availability and prices at Toucan Hostel here!
The Outskirts of San Jose, Costa Rica
So you don’t like big buildings or car horns blasting every second of the day? Then, I’m guessing that staying right in the city is not something you’re really looking forward to on your visit to Costa Rica.
If this is the case, you’re probably meant for the countryside. Lucky for you, there are plenty of neighborhoods near San José that will take you closer to nature and far enough from the bustling metropolis.
One of the best areas to stay close to San José include Heredia, bordered by large coffee farms and beautiful vegetation, making it perfect for a family vacation. Grecia is another medium-sized neighborhood in the Central Valley. Set amongst towering mountains and rolling green valleys, this town provides you with breathtaking views of sugarcane and pineapple fields.
The best part about staying in the outskirts is that although you’re far from the city, you still have a plethora of the best hotels in San José to choose from. Plus, if you want to visit downtown San Jose for a few hours one day then you easily can!
Advantages to staying on the outskirts of San Jose, Costa Rica:
- You will likely get a room with a beautiful and peaceful view of the landscape.
- You will be closer to nature and the best hiking spots.
- No more bumping into numerous people on the streets and waking up to honking cars.
- New and interesting experiences await you.
- Hotels come with better value for money.
Disadvantages of staying on the outskirts of San Jose:
- The major attractions are pretty far away.
- San José has lots of great culture that you’ll likely miss.
The Best Places to Stay on the Outskirts of San Jose, Costa Rica
$$$ – Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Farm and Inn
Nestled in the tropical paradise of Santa Barbara de Heredia, Finca Rosa Blanca Plantation & Inn is a one-of-a-kind, well-appointed property just north of San José. This resort is located on a working organic coffee plantation, allowing you to experience the Costa Rican culture and cuisine firsthand.
On the property, you can find a spring-fed hillside infinity pool, farm-to-table restaurant, free private parking, communal lounge, and refreshing garden. You can also experience on-site activities like organic coffee and bird watching tours, or you can just treat yourself to a spa treatment.
For over three decades, Finca Rosa Blanca Plantation & Inn has been setting the standard of hospitality by providing exquisite, artistic lodgings. Each unique villa and suite offers magnificent views of the surrounding tropical forest or mountains.
The property also boasts artisan-crafted furniture, murals, and local crafts. Each morning, you can wake up to an a la carte breakfast and their signature coffee. In the afternoon, you can enjoy a free cup of coffee and some freshly baked cookies while mingling with the other guests.
Room rates here start at $236 USD a night.
$$ – Casa Vistas del Conde
Sitting almost 10 miles from San José, Casa Vistas del Conde offers you a quiet mountain getaway in the beautiful Heredia. It features an outdoor fireplace, a jacuzzi, paid airport shuttle, and a games room. The hotel provides guests with free Wi-Fi, and there are parking spaces available, as well.
Casa Vistas del Conde is ideal for people who want to feel far away from the city without traveling too far. Since this private country house is situated in a privileged conservation area, you will find a biological reserve nearby, along with waterways, trails, and waterfalls, making the location perfect for hiking enthusiasts.
Talking about the guestrooms, each one is well-appointed with a private bathroom and a relaxing view of the surrounding landscape.
You can rent a room here for long or short periods, starting at US$95/night.
$ – B&B Garden Grecia
Strategically located in Santa Gertrudis Norte de Grecia in Grecia, B&B Garden Grecia offers you free shuttle service, an outdoor pool, 24-hour front desk services, and a relaxing garden dotted with tropical trees. You can take advantage of the roundtrip airport shuttle for a surcharge, but complimentary self-parking is available on-site, too.
When you get to your room, you will find several en-suite amenities like a fan, satellite TV, and a bathroom with a shower. You also get a garden view, and breakfast will be served in your room in the morning.
If you feel like exploring the area, Grecia Par and Los Chorros Municipal Recreational Park are both within a 10-minute drive of B&B Garden Grecia. Juan Santamaría International Airport is 8.1 miles away, though.
Room rates start at around US$50/night.
Where to go Next
After you’re done exploring all the best things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica it’s time to explore other amazing destinations. As I said, San Jose is a common base for those who want to explore more of Costa Rica.
A couple of places I would recommend going to which are easily accessible from San Jose are:
- Puerto Viejo – here you will get amazing beaches on the Caribbean coast as well as a big dose of animals in the national parks and rescue centers. Check out our guide to Puerto Viejo, and our guide to the famous Cahuita National Park.
- Monteverde – completely the opposite of Puerto Viejo is Monteverde, a cloud forest inland! Daniel and I really enjoyed exploring Monteverde, especially in the wet season.
- Arenal and La Fortuna – Head over to explore all of the amazing things to do in Arenal and La Fortuna including volcano views, swimming at waterfalls, relaxing in hot springs, and so much more!
Before you go…
After reading this comprehensive guide, I hope you now have a better idea of where you want to stay in San José, Costa Rica, for your trip. I know choosing a hotel in this humongous city can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. But, if you keep in mind your purpose for visiting, you’ll ultimately discover a wonderful location to stay!
If you found this blog helpful, be sure to check out the rest of our blogs about Costa Rica. Or, check out a few of our favorite posts: