Today we continued to explore San Jose. We got a tour guide, he’s an older local that had a small table set up in front of the theater and he offered us a walking tour. There are two different buses that can take you on tours around the city but with San Jose’s traffic we thought it was better if we walked around, besides everything was near by.
The national theater (shown above) has a coffee shop inside, they also sell juices, sandwiches, etc. We had coffee inside while we awaited for our tour guide. Outside the National Theater, you can purchase hand made crafts from the locals. There’s an older gentleman selling authentic Cuban cigars, including the famous cohiba…Fidel Castro’s preferred brand.
Our tour guide arrived and we initiated our adventure on the streets of San Jose. He talked about Costa Rica’s history, which is intrinsically related to the rest of Central America.
There are lots of parks in San Jose, we saw people sitting down talking, sun bathing on the grass while reading a book. San Jose is surrounded with mountains and volcanoes, some of which you can see from the city.
This is the place where the Costa Rican flag was first erected, which by the way was inspired by the French flag.
Below you can appreciate San Jose’s cathedral. Costa Rica is mainly a Roman Catholic country. I was expecting a bigger cathedral, but I guess they built a bigger cathedral in Cartago, since at the time that was the capital city.
In the monument below, each woman represents one of the five Central American nations driving William Walker and his filibusters out. William Walker invaded and then proclaimed himself president of Nicaragua. Later he also attacked Costa Rica. He wished to make slaves out of Latin Americans and make colonies out of these countries. Crazy! At the end William Walker and his filibusters were defeated by a coalition of central american armies; he was executed in Honduras.
Costa Rica doesn’t have a military. The country was demilitarized back in 1948 after a civil war ended. However, they have commandos or special force units. The picture below shows the National Museum, this was the military barracks, it is a hefty building.
It was amusing to walk around San Jose, so many colorful buildings, so much history. Some travelers avoid San Jose altogether, we are glad we didn’t. Each capital city has its own charm, and San Jose is not different in that aspect. We had perfect temperature to walk around sunny and in the 70s. Plus it was really safe, lots of tourist serenely walked with their cameras on hand.
Today we headed out, we visited Poas Volcano National Park. It is located relatively close to San Jose, only one hour and half drive. Going up and coming down the volcano the views are amazing. We’re starting to understand why Costa Rica’s sobriquet is “The Switzerland of Central America”
You can drive up almost to the crater of the volcano. At the entrance there’s a big yellow building with a coffee shop, restrooms, and a souvenir store.
Poas volcano has two craters, from the entrance you have walk about 400 meters to get to the main crater. In a clear day you can see the sulfuric lake at the bottom, we were not lucky. We moved on to the second crater, this is more like a hike through an enchanted forest.
After a 30 min hike, we got to the second crater which is filled with rain water. Again, we had no luck with the haze. Below is a picture of the Botos lake on clear day so you can see it.
On our way down, we stopped at a restaurant with an marvelous view of the central region. We were lucky enough to get a table next to the windows. The food as always was delectable. We had lunch, then coffee and desserts, we just didn’t want to leave, the scenery and the food were spectacular. Can you blame us?
Along the road, in the way to the volcano there are lots of vendors. They sell fresh cheese, sour cream, strawberries, blackberries, honey, etc. We stopped to get some honey, and I asked a woman if La Paz waterfall was nearby. She indicated that it was only 20 minutes away, so we headed that way.
There are so many little cute towns in the mountains, the weather is really pleasant, and the natural scenery is breathtaking!! I apprised my husband that we need move here and raised cows and chickens 🙂
We made it to La Paz waterfall. it’s right on the street next to a bridge. We parked on the edge of the streets, along with other cars. This is the free version of the waterfall, you can also go through some gardens and pay $40 USD per person but you would only see the waterfall from the top down.
We went down all the way to the bottom of the waterfall. It’s a quick hike. I think La Fortuna waterfall is larger, but La Paz is just as beautiful.
Back in the city, we decided to visit San Pedro Mall. It was bigger than we expected. Three levels of multiple stores with two food courts, and a tall green Christmas tree in the middle. We discovered a place that sells pupusas, and pollo campero. As well as a kiosk that offers green mango with salt and lemon…..this is heaven!!
- Ticos really enjoyed bullfighting. There are bullrings all over the country. Multiple men get into the rings with one single bull. Undeniable Spanish legacy.
- Natilla in Costa Rica is sour cream. In El Salvador we called it “cream” but cream for them is another dairy by product.