Costa Rica Study Abroad: San José

USAC took us to San José this past Friday for a day trip.  We only had a handful of hours there since we left Puntarenas at 8am, arrived in San José around 10am and then left San Jose around 2:30.  Our time was short because they wanted to make sure we left San José before traffic picked up. Quite a few people were headed from San José to Puntarenas for New Years.  It took awhile to get out of the city when we left, so that was probably a good call by our program!

Interestingly, USAC did not advertise the San José trip to us before we arrived at our orientation in Costa Rica.  It was a pleasant surprise, but it would have been nice to know about the excursion earlier.  Perhaps this is just an example of the go-with-the-flow culture here in Costa Rica.

Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica

The main sight we saw in San José was the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica (the National Theater of Costa Rica).  It’s a gorgeous 19th century building that is still an active theater, but also functions as a museum.

Advanced Spanish II class outside el Teatro Nacional

Apparently my class (there are only four of us) were the only once to take advantage of a guided tour. Our guide spoke extremely clear Spanish so it was more-or-less possible to follow what he was saying.

The theater  is a combination of different architecture styles including neo-classical, and baroque.  Apparently the main statue on top of the building was replicated and then moved inside in order to protect.  I can’t imagine how they managed to move the statue inside and to the second floor!  Maybe they were able to bring it in through a window so that they didn’t have to transport it up the stairs.

The theater seats 1,000 people which is sufficient for a country of only 4.8 million people.

The theater’s foyer

Lunch and Wandering

We pretty much stuck to the main street near el Teatro Nacional during our trip since there wasn’t a lot of time before we had to meet at el Museo Nacional (the National Museum).

We grabbed lunch at El Patio del Balmural where we were served by an Italian man that can speak Italian, English, and Spanish! At first we were worried that we had chosen a place typically frequented by people from the U.S., but were relieved to see the teachers from our program choose the same restaurant.

After lunch we went to El Mercado Nacional de Artesanías. It was really just a ton of shops geared towards tourists that lined a entire block.  The venders would call out to us, asking us to enter their stand, sometimes in English and sometimes in Spanish.  They weren’t as bad as the vendors in Athens, Greece who are quite agressive when they try to get you to buy something.  The market had decent prices, though, so I ended up buying a little bag to use as a purse for the rest of my time here.


We headed to el Museo Nacional after we were done shopping, even though we still had 45-30 minutes before the buses would leave.  Unfortunately, the museum was closed for the holidays (the next day was New Year’s Eve).  All we could do was admire it from outside.

Museo Nacional

However, I’m glad we arrived so early because we ran into our teacher who took us to el Barrio Chino which means the Chinese Neigborhood.  However, it’s more of a street than a neighborhood and we didn’t see many Chinese people.  We passed through there on our way to POPS for ice cream..  I got a Brownie Dinamita milkshake and it was delicious!

Barrio Chino en San Jose

It was a fast trip, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to see San José!  El Teatro Nacional alone is worth a day trip, and I am sure the museums are great as well.



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