¡Bienvenidos! Downtown San José, Costa Rica

Trip Start Sep 13, 2011
Trip End Sep 22, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Don Carlos San Jose
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Las Orquideas - San Jose

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of San Jose,
Tuesday, September 13, 2011

We arrived at Juan Santamaria airport Tuesday night, and after being bombarded by local taxi drivers trying relentlessly to scam tourists out of their money, we eventually made it to our hotel in the historical section of downtown San Jose (I always thought 'alto' meant stop in Spanish, but it seems that Costa Rican stop signs are more of a suggestion than a rule... had a bit of a rough ride!) The hotel we were staying at the first night was pretty nice. We checked in and enjoyed our free welcome drinks at Cafe Amon (part of Don Carlos); my guaro sour was made with Costa Rican cane alcohol, cacique. Since it was already dark outside when we arrived in San Jose, and the city can be a bit sketchy at night (I'd read before leaving for the trip), we grabbed dinner at one of the first places we found- El Morazan, a bar/restaurant nearby. One flauta, one arroz con camarones, and a few Imperiales (Costa Rica beer) later, we headed back to our hotel for some sleep before starting our real tourist-ing the next day.

We weren't scheduled to meet with our GAP tour group until 6p on Wednesday, so we pretty much had the whole day to explore San Jose. The city turned out to be close to what I had anticipated; a bit run down, fairly dirty, replete with countless uneven one-way roads, and very Mexico-ish (compared to the few places I've been in Mexico). I learned pretty quickly that I really should have brushed up on my Spanish skills a lot more before the trip!

We spent some time at the Museo del Oro (pre-Columbian gold) and the Museo Numismatica (Costa Rican currency). We walked around downtown pretty much all morning/afternoon, stopping to check out places like the Teatro Nacional and Mercado Central (where we had a really tasty and inexpensive "tipical" Costa Rican lunch at one of the "sodas" there). We also got our first glimpse of non-city Costa Rica when we explored the Parque Zoologico Nacional Simon Bolivar (after almost not being able to find the zoo's entrance!) It was a good thing a friendly local Tican helped us to the entrance; we saw a lot of cool animals that unbeknownst to us at the time would not be seen by us again on our trip (Tican animals like to hide when you're looking for them in the wild, it turns out!). Probably my favorite animal at the zoo was the Leopard; it came over to us when we approached its cage, and while it paced around in front of us, it kept meowing and making many "Kona-like" noises. (Naturally, we talked back to him in our best Leopard).

Later that night we were scheduled to meet up with the 13 other people (and our Tico guide) that would be joining us on our "Costa Rica Quest" tour. We had to relocate; our first night of the tour officially began at the Las Orquideas hotel/hostel, whose official address was "75 meters east of the automercado". (Needless to say this would be problematic for getting a taxi ride back at a later point in the trip...) Las Orquideas wasn't exactly as nice as Don Carlos had been, but it wasn't terrible. (I hadn't been expecting a four star or anything, considering the other lodgings I'd experienced during past GAP tours). Anyway, we killed some time at nearby Rio (restaurant/bar that seemed to be popular with locals for watching futbol). I discovered the amazing [Brazilian] Caipiri˝a, which reminded me of a margarita- cachaša (sugar cane rum), sugar, and a ton of limes. 

Back at Las Orquideas, we met our tour-mates and kicked off the tour with dinner at Sofia Restaurante Mediterraneo. I found it a bit odd that our tour guide would take us to a non-Tican, Mediterranean joint for our first group meal in Costa Rica, but no one else seemed to mind. (I didn't mind either when I finally was served my carpaccio de atun y marlin). Our guide and some tour-mates decided to check out reggae night at Las Orquideas, but we wisely headed to bed since the next day was going to be an early one; we were scheduled to leave at 730a for La Fortuna.

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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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