10 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in San Jose

Jul 22, 2021

Located on the western coast of Costa Rica, San Jose is the capital city and most important cultural, economic, and political center of Costa Rica. The city is named after Saint Joseph, patron saint of the Spanish-speaking world. The city is also a main commercial hub of the central and northern regions of Costa Rica.

San Jose is a large city with a cosmopolitan feel, home to nearly half a million residents. The city has a bustling downtown core with notable museums and the oldest and largest university in Central America. Outside of the city lies a pristine, virgin rainforest, as well as the country's largest national park, Corcovado National Park.

This part of Costa Rica has a rich, diverse culture and interesting sights like San José's historic and attractive Central Market.

Discover the best places to visit in San José, including a handful of unique attractions like the Central Market and the Museo de Oro Precolombino (Colonial Gold Museum), which is housed in a majestic Spanish mansion.

Visit our travel guide page for more information or to plan your next vacation.

Santa Clara Convention Center

Photo of Santa Clara Convention Center
Santa Clara Convention Center: en.wikipedia.org

Convention Center, formerly the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, has a 2,400-seat arena, ballroom, and meeting rooms, as well as four restaurants, a spa, and a number of other shops and amenities. Located in downtown San Jose, the Fairgrounds are only 10 minutes from the San Jose International Airport, a 25-minute drive from the San Jose Amtrak station, and 35 minutes from the Silicon Valley. Parking is available in the adjacent parking garage. Venture off into the surrounding neighborhood to visit the Valley Fair Shopping Center or walk around the well-known area of Mission San José.

Santa Clara University

Photo of Santa Clara County, California
Santa Clara County, California: en.wikipedia.org

In 1777, 24 settlers came to a rocky barren land in California. Today, nearly 40,000 students attend Santa Clara University, whose cornerstone can be traced back to a miner who was martyred in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. The earliest of Santa Clara University's buildings were built in the 1850s. The Missionary House was the first academic building constructed, in 1850. In 1909, the university moved to its current location on the banks of the Guadalupe River. The campus spreads over 53 acres, including athletic fields, ponds, gardens, and the Taplin Family Gates and bell tower. The university's theater, the Royce Theatre, is the largest and most opulent building on the campus. It is best known for performances of opera and musicals.

Children's Discovery Museum

Photo of Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose
Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose: en.wikipedia.org

A special museum with 100 engaging interactive exhibits for kids between the ages of 2 to 12, the Children's Discovery Museum features 10 different spaces with imaginative, kid-friendly exhibits, and uses many types of technology to bring interactive, fun learning to life. Located in the downtown area of Costa Rica's capital city, San Jose, it is also a short taxi ride from the Tico Skytrain station. The museum is open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm and is closed on holidays and Sundays.

United Nations Plaza

Photo of San Jose, California
San Jose, California: en.wikipedia.org

The United Nations Plaza, known as the Japantown Mall because it has a large concentration of Japanese businesses, is the heart of San Jose's central business district, a few blocks west of the famous 17-foot-tall Japanese Friendship Bell in the city's Civic Center. In addition to its modest diversity of Asian-based businesses, the mall boasts Asian cuisine, such as Japanese and Korean, at the food court and Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Korean shops on the ground floor. If you need further Japanese-style Japanese (including Japanese car and motorcycle) entertainment and souvenir stores, as well as tasty regional foods, you can also visit these stores located in the mall:

Yerba Buena Gardens

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Yerba Buena Gardens: en.wikipedia.org

Located near San Francisco, the private garden includes dramatic wooded grounds as well as a 26-meter-high waterfall and pools filled with koi carp. It is located in an area where botanical gardens have long flourished, making it an important area for research on these plant species. Not surprisingly, Yerba Buena Gardens has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The gardens are open for public view daily, with guided tours held at 10 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm.

Santa Clara Cathedral

Photo of Santa Clara Valley
Santa Clara Valley: en.wikipedia.org

After having survived centuries of earthquakes, Santa Clara Cathedral was destroyed in the most recent, which occurred on March 19, 1989. The cathedral was rebuilt, starting in 1994 and ending in 2000. With nearly 25,000 tons of copper, gold, and silver, which was used in the construction, the Cathedral of Santa Clara is among the largest and heaviest churches in the world. It has survived earthquakes and is the only church built with a gilded dome that has been approved by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest.

Exploratorium

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Exploratorium: en.wikipedia.org

The Exploratorium is a hands-on museum located on Pier 15 at the end of the breakwater in San Francisco Bay in the heart of the museum district. An expansive science center, the Exploratorium is a collection of interactive and fun activities designed to encourage interest in science, technology and innovation, and to draw visitors into an interactive learning environment. As well as the interactive displays and hands-on activities, there is also a main exhibition hall with changing exhibits, as well as a 30-seat theater showing environmental documentaries.

Cable Car Museum

Photo of San Francisco Cable Car Museum
San Francisco Cable Car Museum: en.wikipedia.org

This museum is devoted to the cable cars that travel up San Pedro Hill in San José, and also includes cars that travel along roads, by car, and along rivers. The museum holds several vehicles that have a vast history. It also hosts a number of events, including a gondola festival, which includes traditional Costa Rican music and dancing.

Silicon Valley Museum

Photo of Downtown San Jose
Downtown San Jose: en.wikipedia.org

Stocked with more than 10,000 exhibits, including aircrafts, vintage cars and household appliances, this is a hands-on exhibit with a truly informative display. Also on show are historic technologies used by scientists who pioneered the study of space, and historic movies that captured the excitement of the'space race'. Kids will love the high-tech games, 3D movies and 10-screen 3D theater. There is also a wall of space helmets and a space capsule designed by the team who sent Alan Shepard to the moon. If you prefer your souvenirs to be more traditional, a selection of postcards, artwork and prints are available in the Gift Shop.

Great America

Photo of California's Great America
California's Great America: en.wikipedia.org

Just a few hours from downtown San Francisco lies the charming suburban oasis of Great America, known for its day-long shopping extravaganzas, roller coasters, scenic amusement parks and petting zoos. Once home to the San Jose Zoo, Great America underwent an extensive and spectacular expansion, adding five major entertainment and amusement parks. Here is the real amusement park, a respite from the rest of the world and a sure bet for fun and entertainment.