International Studies Abroad ®est. 1987

Culture Corner

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San José City Center

Tiny Travel Story: Costa Rica

What is San José Like?

San José, with a population of approximately 1.5 million people, is the "hub" of Costa Rica in every sense of the word. It is the cultural, economic and social center of the country where one can experience the hustle and bustle of daily life for nearly a third of the country's population. San José is also a very cosmopolitan city, with a large international population, many international organizations, corporations and NGO's, and numerous opportunities to taste cuisine from all over the world with a Costa Rican twist.

San José, or Chepe, as the locals lovingly refer to it, has experienced high growth rates in the past century, turning it into a true Latin American metropolis. Although the city may not be viewed as aesthetically pleasing in the traditional sense of the term, and suffering from traffic woes as well as less than stellar architectural preservation, there is an indescribable charm about the city that is discovered by visitors upon meeting friendly locals or "ticos" at a local café and witnessing historical gems like the National Theater and the National Cathedral.

San José features a vibrant urban center, with a pleasant pedestrian-only boulevard lined with a variety of restaurants, shops, and some of the city's best attractions. At night you can feel the pulsing heartbeat of the city in the festive beats emanating from the many salsa clubs that can be found all over the city. Fanning out from downtown, you will encounter quieter neighborhoods, a variety of tranquil parks, and pockets of activity like the San Pedro Mall and El Pueblo. Not far from the city center, you will be able to experience quiet neighboring towns, including the pristine colonial capital, Cartago. From San José's two bus terminals (the Pacific Terminal and the Caribbean Terminal), you are able to easily travel anywhere in the country and experience the natural wonders of Costa Rica.

Region and Population

San José is located in the Central Valley region of Costa Rica, known for its green, fertile land, coffee plantations, and its two famous volcanoes: Poás and Irazú.

About 1.5 million people live in the province of San José.


Costa Rica has two seasons: the rainy season ('winter') lasts from May to mid-November; the dry season ('summer') lasts from mid-November to April. During the rainy season, days often start out sunny with rain falling in the afternoons and evenings. Be prepared for rain and cooler temperatures most afternoons during this season. This plentiful rain is what creates the lush green tropical flora and fauna that is so characteristic of Costa Rica. The dry season, because of its lack of rain, tends to be Costa Rica's high season for tourism, so prices all over the country are elevated during this season.

Temperatures in Costa Rica vary primarily with elevation, not with seasons. On the coasts, it is hot all year, while in the mountains it can be cool at night any time of year. The Central Valley is in a constant spring-like season, where weather varies and temperatures fluctuate. Humidity is a major factor on the Caribbean coast where it rains much more frequently than it does on the Pacific side.

Average monthly highs and lows (degrees Fahrenheit) and rainfall (inches):

Avg. Rainfall.39.24.471.738.8611.38.469.813.0713.075.591.61

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