Two friends are headed to Costa Rica this summer. While they will join a tour, they have a couple of days in San Jose before the tour begins. I promised them I would suggest a few places they might enjoy, El Mercado, the downtown market, the National Theatre, and the precolonial museum which is full of pre-Columbian gold and other ancient artifacts. It remains my favorite but security there is tight. To get in, you must surrender just about everything but your clothes. You get a locker in which to place your valuables; the key to the locker is about all you can take with you. As a consequence, no photos. They do have a gift shop with quality items of all sorts including copies of many of the artifacts and jewelry.
Much of the downtown area is foot traffic only. Vendors sell various goods on the street, you can wander El Mercado, in which various stalls for goods and food are located, and tour the National Theatre. Inside the National Theatre next to the main lobby area is a lovely little restaurant, the perfect place for lunch. The following are photos I took in the National Theatre about one and one-half years ago.
The first photo below is the highway from the airport into San Jose and the second shows a typical downtown pedestrian only area.
I have been to Costa Rica in what in the US is summer and also at Christmastime. Summer here is their rainy season so if you go then, be prepared for rain, sometimes a lot of it. It is sort of a joke that on the east side of the main mountain chain, it is always the rainy season. However, I have been there when it did not rain. Take a sturdy, easy to lug around slicker with a hood because sooner or later it will rain.
The huge advantages of going this time of year are a lot fewer tourists and it is considerably cheaper.