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Throughout its 51,000 square kilometers (19,700 square miles), this country, known as the 'Central American Switzerland', demonstrates why it is one of the 20 most biodiverse destinations in the world. The essence of its diversity manifests through the four elements: the scorching sun that covers its beaches, the air in its forests and jungles, the waters of its seas and rivers, and the land of its mountains, forests and jungles.
The song of the congos, limpets and toucans alerts visitors that they are arriving to the Ballena National Marine Park in the South Pacific of Costa Rica. Ahead, the impressive tombolo of Punta Uvita, a 'tongue' of earth and sand, little more than a hundred meters long (330 feet), that goes into the ocean evoking the shape of a whale's tail.
This landscape is a prelude to the Osa canton in Puntarenas, six hours from San José. One of the areas that has been positioned in recent years as a preferred tourist destination thanks to its 1,936 square kilometers (747.4 square miles) of rivers, mangroves, forests and islands. Dominical, one of the outstanding beaches in this canton, used to be a fishing village and is now recognized as a surfing destination.
Another location that can’t be missed in the South Pacific is Drake Bay, discovered in 1579 by the British pirate Sir Francis Drake. This place can only be reached by air or through the Sierpe River, habitat of crocodiles and limpets, among a dozen exotic species.
In the Isla del Caño Biological Reserve, snorkeling, diving and kayaking are practiced. Sighting of dolphins and especially humpback whales is also common. These last ones come to mate between July and November in the warm waters of Costa Rica.
To undertake guided excursions, another option is the Corcovado National Park: 42,000 protected hectares where sloth bears, jaguars, deer, tapirs, macaws, squirrel monkeys, snakes and 40 species of fish reside.
El canto de los congos, lapas y tucanes avisa la llegada al Parque Nacional Marino Ballena, en el Pacífico sur de Costa Rica. Al frente, el impresionante tómbolo de Punta Uvita, una ‘lengua’ de tierra y arena de poco más de cien metros de largo que se adentra en el océano, evoca la forma de la cola de una ballena.
Ese cuadro es la antesala al cantón de Osa en Puntarenas, a seis horas de San José. Una de las zonas que se ha posicionado en los últimos años como destino turístico preferido gracias a sus 1.936 kilómetros cuadrados de ríos, manglares, bosques e islas. Dominical, una de las playas destacadas de este cantón, solía ser una villa de pescadores y ahora es reconocida como destino de surf.
Otro destino imperdible es Bahía Drake —descubierta en 1579 por el pirata británico Sir Francis Drake—, en el Pacífico sur. Allí solo se puede llegar por aire o por el río Sierpe, a través del hábitat de cocodrilos y lapas, entre otra decena de especies exóticas.
En la reserva biológica Isla del caño se practica snorkel, buceo y kayak. También es común el avistamiento de delfines y, especialmente, de ballenas jorobadas que llegan a aparearse entre julio y noviembre a las cálidas aguas de Costa Rica.
Para emprender excursiones guiadas otra opción es el Parque Nacional Corcovado: 42 mil hectáreas protegidas, en las que residen osos perezosos, jaguares, venados, tapires, guacamayas, monos ardillas, serpientes y 40 especies de peces.
Three hours north of San José, also in the Pacific, you can find the province of Guanacaste. Easily accessible by air, sea and land, its beaches have become popular for its tropical beauty. Among the most visited are Playa Hermosa, Playas del Coco, Papagayo, Tambor, Conchal, Tamarindo, Flamingo, and Sámara.
There is also Punta Islita, a crescent-shaped inlet that has become a very attractive destination for Hollywood celebrities, as well as an ideal place for newlyweds.
The coasts of Nandayure, Hojancha, Nicoya and Santa Cruz—also in this province—house paradisiacal locations such as Punta Coyote, recommended for boat rides through its calm waters; Corozalito, a 750-meter (2,460-feet) long beach where the olive ridleys come to spawn; and Playa Garza, ideal for sport fishing.
The area of Guanacaste, located on the border with Nicaragua, is equally charming. In Bahia Salinas, followers of water sports such as windsurfing and kite surfing take advantage of the strong winds that blow between November and March, forming large sand dunes. There is also boat rental in Bolanos Island, a sanctuary for bird watching.
Costa Rica's Caribbean region paints a picture of houses anchored on wooden bases to circumvent the floods, and an Afro-Caribbean atmosphere in which the calypso and the reggae reign. There, the Cahuita National Park (with a beach rich in coral reefs and white sand), and the beaches of Puerto Vargas, Cocles, Punta Uva and Manzanillo (the latter abundant in vegetation) stand out.
In the Costa Rican Caribbean it is easy to find hundreds of foreigners, especially Europeans, who left their homeland to rebuild their lives on this end of the planet. Many of them own local hotels, cabins and restaurants, especially in Puerto Viejo, 217 kilometers (134 miles) northeast of San José.
To the east of Limón—the province in which Puerto Viejo is located—you can find Tortuguero National Park, known for its multiple channels and its tropical rain forest. Called the 'Amazon of Costa Rica', this reserve is home to different species of hawksbill, leatherback and green turtles, which find in this ecosystem the best place for spawning between July and October.
The mountainous topography of the 'ticos' (as the people from this land are commonly known) also has a special charm. The Arenal volcano, in La Fortuna de San Carlos, for example, has a perfect conical shape, remains active and spits fire like a dragon on clear nights. In its surroundings, the hot springs have turned the area into a natural spa.
Cerro Chirripó is the highest peak in Costa Rica, with 3,819 meters above sea level. Located in the Talamanca mountain range, it is surrounded by a varied wetland, cloud forest and humid vegetation. From the top, you can really seize the splendor of the country's territory, while simultaneously looking at the two oceans that bathe it.
There are also walks around the country's volcanoes. The Poás, in the province of Alajuela, has a crater 1,320 meters (0.8 miles) in diameter, and paths abundant in moss, ferns, bromeliads and orchids. There is also Río Celeste, in the Tenorio Volcano National Park, located in the Guanacaste Volcanic Mountain Range, whose turquoise color is due to the chemical reaction between the minerals of the massif and the river water.
For fans of rafting and other adventure sports, Costa Rica offers large rivers such as Reventazón, Pacuare, General, Sarapiquí, Naranjo, Savegre and Corobicí.
Monteverde, located in Puntarenas, deserves a whole chapter in the book of Costa Rica's mountains. Until mid-20th century, this area belonged to a few peasant families and a small group of Quaker Americans, but it now offers a number of alternatives to practice eco-tourism.
Small and rustic cabins converge with five star hotels in this 4,000-hectare green lung that is part of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, where about 100 species of mammals and 400 birds live.
Plans in the reserve include guided trail tours, bird watching, frog, butterfly and snake farms, and a train that runs deep into the forest. In addition, you can find numerous alternatives for canopy, a magnificent cable car and towering suspension bridges from where you can see the treetops, horseback riding, 'trapiche' tours, coffee warehouses (places where the fruit is transformed into processed grain) and artisanal cheese factories.
There was a time when people did not want to live in San José. In the days of its birth, in May 1737 (its foundation became official in 1848) water was scarce; an irrigation system was necessary to ensure that today this city of 330,581 people, with more than three million living in the metropolitan area exists. But it is not just a matter of people: this is a city that stands out in the region for its infrastructure, its quality of life and its economy. That is why the University of Loughborough (United Kingdom) calls it a global gamma city.
In 2017, San José was visited by 1,740,000 tourists, who spent approximately 1,160 million dollars, according to the Annual Index of Global Destination Cities. It is the sixth most important tourist destination in Latin America and, according to the Mercer's Quality of Living Surveys studio, is the second Central American city with the best quality of life.
The Jade Museum (the best collection of its kind with 2,500 pieces), the Central Market (founded in 1880) and the 'sodas' (traditional restaurants) that give out a smell of gallo pinto (mix of rice with black beans, pieces of meat, ripe plantain and fried egg) in the mornings, are icons of the city.
It is also a place to invest: strategy firm Euromonitor International chose it as one of the 17 emerging cities in the world for its economy and, after evaluating 50 dynamic cities in terms of economy, infrastructure, GDP and employment, the Urban Competitiveness Index designated it in 2016 as the second best in Central America to do business.
San José (where the national army was abolished, making Costa Rica one of the few countries in the world without armed forces) is also the headquarters of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights: the multilateral body that monitors the protection of human rights in the continent.
In terms of environment and sustainability, San José also stands out. In 2015, The World Health Organization considered it the fourth city with the cleanest air in Latin America.
In San José de Costa Rica there is plenty of room for green. The city has 1,532 ecological points distributed among parks, squares, sports complexes, forests, tacotales (uncultivated lands) and gardens, which represent 23.6% of its surface. To protect these sites, social initiatives such as Río Urbano and Amigos del Torres have emerged: they seek to raise awareness among the population about the importance of preserving water sources, ecological corridors, fauna and flora.
A Japanese legend says that an elderly couple found a giant peach floating in a river. Upon rescuing it, they discovered that inside the fruit there was a baby, who was called Momotaro and grew up to be a hero accompanied by a dog, a monkey and a pheasant.
A statue of this character and his animal helpers is located in Okayama Park: a public space of 7,709 square meters (9,220 square yards) that honors thirty years of brotherhood between San José and the Japanese city of Okayama. The place was designed by the Costa Rican architect Mayela Fallas (inspired by the feng shui gardening precepts) and inaugurated in 2002.
Since 1873, this space has been a meeting point for the people of San José. With 720,000 square meters (72 hectares), it is the largest park in the city and its nearly 6,500 trees (between exotic species such as cypress and pine, and native trees such as fig and yellow bark) have popularized it as a green lung.
It has an artificial lake of 30,000 square meters (3 hectares), tennis courts, football, basketball, baseball, beach volleyball and two swimming pools. Every week, around 30,000 people visit the park. The Museum of Costa Rican Art, considered historical and architectural patrimony of the city, is not too far away.
Between 1855 and 1857, invading troops under the command of the American William Walker tried to conquer the Central American nations to overthrow their governments. In the center of this park is the National Monument of Costa Rica, a sculpture in honor of the victory over the invaders that was made in France by Louis-Robert Carrier-Belleuse and unveiled in the city in 1895. The park is part of an initiative carried out by the municipality of the city to recover public spaces for the enjoyment of its citizens. Here, visitors will find green paths, gardens and a pond.
This 70,000-square meter (7-hectare) park was inaugurated on July 24th, 1921, on the birthday of Simón Bolívar, one of the leaders of the Latin American independence, as a tribute to his deeds.
It is part of the Botanic Gardens Conservation International association, which aggregates around 500 botanical gardens in 99 countries. Also on this site is one of the few wetlands that survive in the city; a habitat for plant species such as bijao, paraguita and laurel, and animals such as tree frogs, turtles and herons.
1,239 endemic species of butterflies crosses the Costa Rican sky and its tropical forests like a multicolored avalanche. The Spirogyra reserve, between trails and gardens, is the home of about 30 species of these insects, such as the heliconius erato, the owl butterfly and the red spotted butterfly. Due to its proximity to the Torre River, hummingbird species such as the colicolorado and small amphibians are also observed here.
Follow the route in Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/ZjkU9k8PRo52
The constant opening of new bars and the competitive spirit of the beverage sector are boosting San José's nightlife. According to Natalia Díaz, reviewer of cocktails and bars for the Tico Times, "This is due to a revaluation of the local identity. New unique drinks are created with Tico products such as fruits (pitahaya or dragonfruit, for example) and even coffee."
This bar's specialty is Kombucha: a fermented drink that is obtained from tea mushrooms (also known as the 'Chinese mushroom'). Thanks to this liquor and its beer, the site proclaims itself as the house of ferment. Other drinks offered here are the Ginbucha (a gin and tonic with a hop tea base and hibiscus flower petals) and a Margarita mixed with lavender Kombucha lemonade. On Thursdays, the night is usually sparked by live music shows.
This is the place where Isaac Montero, Diageo World Class Competition 2018 winner of the Best Bartender Award in Costa Rica, works. Improvisation is part of the spirit of the place: customers can name a flavor or an emotion and Montero will give them a drink under these specifications.
Some of the most popular drinks on the menu are the Bendita calavera, a tequila-based drink served in a ceramic skull, with light touches of pink pepper and pasilla chili, and smoked with rosemary sprigs; or the Skull fashion: a variation of the typical American whiskey, accompanied with cocoa and blackberry syrup.
To visit Bebedero is, first and foremost, to enter one of the architectural landmarks of the city: the building where the bar is located (the Steinvorth, of modernist inspiration) was built in 1907 by the Italian architect Francesco Tenca Pedrazzini and is considered part of the city's heritage.
The second thing that stands out when you visit the bar is its drinks, such as a classic Martini or a Negroni, as well as the chance to create your own cocktail (which can also be non-alcoholic) with the help of the local bartender.
The philosophy of the place is that classic will always be good. That's why its cocktails, more than a show and an experimentation, seek to offer known experiences with the best possible ingredients: high quality liquors and the freshest agricultural products, harvested from local farms.
Among the drinks at the bar you can find the Moscow Mule (vodka with ginger beer, lemon and mint) and the traditional Martini and Gin and Tonic. Since it started in 2016 as a clandestine restaurant, in addition to the cocktails the place is also known for its dishes, such as the meatballs in natural tomato sauce and the homemade pate with macadamia.
This brewery has been recognized on several occasions during the Copas Cervezas de América competition: in 2015 it received a bronze medal for its Mascarada beer; in 2016, a silver medal for its Funky Joseph (a saison of mixed fermentation); and in 2017, the gold medal for the Botánica (a saison with tamarind).
Founded in 2013, its 100% Costa Rican, as the products of its ferments come from national soil, mostly highlighting the use of fruits in its preparations. Another house flavor is Coffee Oatmeal, a coffee-scented drink that pays homage to one of the country's flagship products.
In San José there are 146 buildings considered world heritage sites because of their historical and cultural relevance. In these places, milestones such as the country's independence, the emergence of the fine arts in Costa Rica and the consolidation of national telecommunications were set in motion. This is a trip through the memory of the city in five stops.
The building that protects the art of Costa Rica could be considered, in itself, a work of art: it was the control tower of the first international airport in the country (which operated there from 1958 to 1977).
Opened on May 3d, 1978, the museum has the largest collection of Costa Rican art in the country: 1,700 works that trace a chronological journey through national art from the 19th century to the present by artists such as Jorge Gallardo, Francisco Amighetti Ruíz and Olger Villegas.
In addition, it has an international collection in which 560 pieces by artists like Rodolfo Abularach, Ludwig Arnold and Carlos Cruz-Diez are exhibited. The Museum also guards the legacy of the sculptor, painter and draftsman Juan Manuel Sánchez, whose family donated 4,000 of his works.
A series of earthquakes between 1822 and 1888 frustrated the citizens' wishes to have a church in the Hospital district; again and again, the telluric fury brought down the facades. This temple in particular, after the last earthquake, was in ruins for six years until 1894, when the building that exists today was planned: three naves (the main one reaches up to 15 meters / 49.2 feet), a single tower and a facade of German neo-Gothic inspiration.
Inside there are paintings by the Italian artist Adriano Arié, three stained glass windows alluding to the apparitions of the Virgin of Mercy to the founders of her cult, and a representation of the crucifixion of Christ by the Costa Rican sculptor Manuel María Zúñiga, for which his own body was a model for the carving of the torture of Jesus.
Until 1880 the city's trade was done in the street. Therefore, as part of the urban plan of San José, this place was opened to group merchants. Today the market has 200 stores offering fruits, vegetables and meats, but also handicrafts such as clay pots, bags of cabuya (rope made with the maguey fiber), jícaros (bowls that are carved in the fruits of the tree of the same name) and souvenirs that recall emblematic places of the city such as the Nuestra Señora de la Merced Church.
In this place, typical dishes like the gallo pinto (rice mixed with black beans, pieces of meat, ripe plantain and fried egg) are sold in the sodas (stalls that sell popular gastronomy). In addition, here you will find El Gran Vicio, the oldest bar in the city that was founded, just like the market, in 1880.
This architectural piece from 1897 is one of the national prides; its long list of titles is quite remarkable: it was declared a national monument and part of the nation's patrimony (1965), an institution worthy of the Costa Rican arts (1999) and a patriotic symbol (2018).
Its construction lasted six years and many of its materials were imported (such as Belgian iron pieces, French glasses and Italian marbles). In its rooms there are works of art such as Alegoría del café y el banano by Aleardo Villa, and the sculpture Los héroes de la miseria by Juan Ramón Bonilla. To one side, located underground beneath Plaza de la Cultura, is the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum: a collection of 1,600 gold figures and about 1,200 ceramic and carved stone objects.
In the 19th century, it was vitally important for the country to interconnect its capital with the rest of the regions and to consolidate the Costa Rican telecommunications. Therefore, between 1914 and 1917, the Correos y Telégrafos de Costa Rica was built under the direction and design of the Catalan architect Luis Llach. Today, this French-inspired neoclassical building is the location of the postcard, telegraph and philatelic museum of San José, founded in 1985 to tell the history of telecommunications in the country. It displays historical pieces such as telegraphs, telephones (visitors can use two telephones from 1932 to experience what it was like to make a call at that time) and stamps such as the first one in the country, created in 1863.
Follow the route in Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/ZjkU9k8PRo52
Every year, from June to October, sea turtles arrive—some from far away—to spawn on the black sand beaches of the northwestern coast of Costa Rica.
They do it in the Tortuguero National Park, one of the most remote parks from the capital, and the preferred spawning place for the green sea turtle (chelonia mydas), an endangered species. This turtle can measure a meter and a half (5 feet); it feeds on seagrass and lives mostly submerged, leaving the beach one day a year to lay its eggs in a deep hole in the sand.
The Park has 31,000 hectares on land and 50,000 on sea; it is composed of an intricate network of lagoons, islands and jungle only accessible by water. From the port of Mohín, in the province of Limón, the communal boat enters a wide river flanked by a tropical forest that seems sculpted in tourmaline, jade and emerald. From time to time the captain turns off the engine to enjoy the silence of the forest, broken at times by the melodic repertoire of hundreds of birds (there are about 400 species of birds in the area).
Tortuguero protects several endangered mammals, such as the jaguar, the ocelot, the tapir, the manatee, the tolomuco—similar to the ferret—, the sloth and three species of monkeys (congo, cariblanca and spider). Among the amphibians there are about 60 species of frogs and toads such as the calf frog, which produces a toxic secretion if it feels threatened, the reticulated glass frog, whose internal organs are visible through its transparent skin, and the poisonous frog or red toad of toxic skin.
After 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) the boat docks at El Muellecito, in the town of Tortuguero. It is a town with a handful of pedestrian streets, 750 people, and tiny colorful houses. The natives are a mixture of 'ticos' (mostly Afro-Caribbean), Nicaraguans, indigenous people and some expatriates from the rest of the world. Their nights smell of salty air mixed with the aroma of rondón and the rice & beans. The town sounds like calypso and reggae.
The best time to see the spawning show is at night. During the process, volunteers from the NGO Liga para la Supervivencia de las Tortugas Marinas monitor the coast with red light lanterns. People must be accompanied by a guide and wait for the signal of one of the volunteers to approach. When this happens, you can see how the first green turtle takes its heavy body out of the water: its carapace measures a little over a meter (3 feet) and is only vulnerable on land to the jaguar’s strength.
The pregnant female advances at a slow pace through the black sand, carrying a body that weighs 200 kilograms (441 pounds) out of water. She then crosses the beach to a nearby forest, safe from high tide, where she begins to dig several wells with her rear fins that she leaves uncovered: these are false holes to mislead predators (crabs and seagulls enjoy eating eggs and newborn turtles). The last hole, which she digs with great frenzy, is the definitive one.
Once the nest is done, the spawning begins. The turtle lays in there about 100 eggs the size of golf balls; then covers them with sand and tamps down the 'roof' of the burrow. Exhausted, the mother spends an hour in a kind of immobile trance. Then, she returns to the water, leaving in the sand a large trace of her heavy march, one that will soon disappear when the tide rises.
The other show that Tortuguero offers is that of birth. From some empty holes, you can see how dozens of little turtles are propelled, instinctively, in a race towards the sea. They have been underground for about 75 days and will not return to the beach for five years to spawn for the first time, as long as they survive predators in open waters. Statistically, only one in a thousand will ever reproduce.
Costa Rica has dedicated 26% of its 51,000 kilometers (31,690 miles) to natural reserves and national parks, which has made it an ideal destination for ecotourism. However, this isn’t its only charm. For the most demanding gourmets there is also a worthy offer, and the best thing is that it can be found without leaving the 'tica' capital.
Although in San José the gastronomic variety can be seen almost around every corner, there are two sectors that encompass much of the city's appeal for lovers of luxury cuisine. This is the sector of Escazú, at the western end of the city, and the Escalante neighborhood, in the center-east, also known as the Paseo Gastronómico La Luz.
Escazú has two main sectors: Old Colonial and San Rafael. The first is more traditional and its gastronomic offer is centered on typical food, with dishes such as chifrijo (a dish made with pork, rice, beans and pico de gallo).
In San Rafael, on the other hand, you can find the offer of international restaurants and haute cuisine in the city. Sites like Di Bartolo, based on traditional Italian food rescued by its chef Carlo Di Bartolo; Terruño, which is inspired by the classic parrilla bars of Buenos Aires; and Taj Mahal, a restaurant founded by a Canadian entrepreneur son of Indian parents, which offers Northern-Indian cuisine, stand out in this global offer of flavors.
In Escazú there are also fusion cuisine restaurants that are part of luxury hotels in San José. The Muse, for example, belongs to the Beacon Hotel Boutique, and has glass walls so diners can see the chef in his kitchen. 8tavo Rooftop, the restaurant bar at the Sheraton Hotel, is also an option: it has a panoramic view of the city with its floor-to-ceiling windows.
El Mestizo square, also in this district, takes the global trend of fusion cuisine in which several concepts (or tables) share the same space, and gives diners luxury menus accompanied by cultural offerings. The Mestizo has a dozen tables in its 500 square meters (598 square yards), which take advantage of the hanging garden of one of its walls to plant spices that they use in their preparations.
Chocolate is also a frequent choice for demanding palates in Escazú; this comes as no surprise, since it is one of the country’s most traditional products (even more than coffee). Chocolate Sibü, in Itskatzu Square, offers a variety of handmade chocolates, and even a tasting tour of the product.
The Escalante neighborhood is not far behind in its offer for gourmets. In this district there are 80 restaurants that range from signature cuisine to bars and pubs. There are cavas such as Blancos y Tintos, which offer tastings of international wines, but also places like Furca that adapt to the 'foodies' trends, such as the 'farm-to-table' movement.
Another example of this trend, also in Escalante, is the Al Mercat restaurant, near the Calderón Guardia Museum. José Pablo González, owner and chef, applies his talent developed in France, using Costa Rican elements such as chayote, radish and creole corn.
In this district, the offer of origin coffee also stands out. Patria Café and Lounge offer 'chorreado' black coffee or served on a Chemex, accompanied by a traditional 'gatico' sweet. In the district there is also the Cafeoteca, which offers not only coffee varieties of Costa Rican origin, but also tastings in which you can learn the traditional artisan production process.
Barrio Escalante is considered a main gastronomic corridor due to its restaurants that offer typical food or dishes that mix local ingredients (such as beans, yuca and cilantro) with foreign flavors. In addition, here you can enjoy cooking events such as the La Luz Gastronomic Festival, which gathers around 20 culinary venues, as well as music and circus shows. Traditional flavors of the city are easily found in small restaurants known as 'sodas'. The Central Market, founded in 1880 and considered a cultural heritage of San José for its preservation of national customs, has many of these famous stalls.
In 2012, Lalay Flores-Estrada was a newly graduated chef who sought to break through. Despite not knowing specifically what she wanted to do, she was very clear about her interest in eating healthy food. "I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 18 years old. I started selling vegetarian snacks door to door while in college," she says. However, one day while going to the yoga studio where she practiced, the owner of the place saw her dressed as a chef and asked if she would like to set up a restaurant there.
"It took me less than ten seconds to say yes," says Lalay, laughing. This is how Árbol de Seda was born: a vegetarian restaurant in the Escalante neighborhood that seeks to have 100% natural, pesticide-free and produced by small farmers. During the early days of Árbol de Seda, meat was also part of the menu ("I was afraid of jumping into the vegetarianism bandwagon and failing," explains Lalay); however, today none of its dishes contains animal protein. Some of the most popular dishes on the menu are the 'cuatro por cuatro' bread (artisanal bread filled with four types of mushrooms, four types of cheeses, white wine, walnuts and chives), the Caribbean sollofrijo (rice and beans, patacones, pico de gallo with avocado and soy chicken) and the falafel wrap with roasted vegetables.
Location: Calle 47 # 43-47
José Pablo González, the chef at Al Mercat, defines Costa Rica as "an edible country": a nation with every climate, a diversity of habitats and coastline in two oceans where you can enjoy a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, greens, fish and seafood. The restaurant was born four years ago as a way to explore the Costa Rican cuisine and its ingredients: most of the products come from markets known as “ferias del agricultor”, which bring together producers from all over the country. However, the restaurant is self-sustainable, since José Pablo and his family founded a one-hectare farm (in Tirrases, Curibat) where they grow vegetables such as beans and chayote.
They also have a greenhouse of 3,000 square meters (0.3 hectares) in which they grow products both for Al Mercat and for other restaurants. "But the farm is not only a place to grow food: here we also do tours in which we teach university students, tourists or anybody about the culture of agriculture, balanced food and flavors," explains José Pablo. Some of the dishes offered by the restaurant are the hot shrimp ceviche (turmeric and palm hearts with avocado cream, onion, cilantro and corn chips) or the grilled chorizo (homemade tortilla with purple cabbage and tarragon salad, guacamole, pickled onions and cilantro).
The house in which it operates was built in 1942. However, two years ago, when it was remodeled to become a restaurant, sheets of newspapers and magazines from the 40s were found within the walls as masonry. "[This was] a discovery that moved us a lot. Many of these pieces were carefully removed and displayed on the walls as art," explains Luciano Lofeudo, Isolina's chef: an Argentinian man who traveled through Peru, Brazil and Mexico before arriving in Costa Rica.
"My inspiration comes from observing the way people eat in Latin America, as well as my own family heritage (half Italian, half Polish)," he says. At Isolina the menu changes every day. Its gastronomic philosophy is that they want to maintain the element if surprise, but also be environmentally responsible. They only use seasonal vegetables, tubers, grains and proteins; therefore, each experience will always be different from the previous one. Luciano’s favorite dish is the pickled sardines, accompanied by laminated fennel, bitter cocoa beans and nasturtium flowers.
For five years José Pablo studied to become a lawyer. He was about to graduate when he decided to change his career: his passion for gastronomy took him to France, to Le Cordon Bleu, to become a chef. After five years in this country, upon returning to Costa Rica, he decided to create Al Mercat, a restaurant that rescues the typical flavors of his country by using local ingredients such as achiotes, beans, yucas and fine herbs that José Pablo himself grows in a family farm.
In 2016, he was selected by the financial newspaper El Financiero as one of the 40 people under 40 with the greatest social, entrepreneurial and economic impact in Costa Rica.
Yuca is one of the native ingredients of the American continent: a tuber used in preparations such as soups, purées and, as in this case, for a ceviche.
For 4 servings
For the past 78 years, the National Symphony Orchestra has been a cultural symbol of San José, acclaimed in countries such as Mexico, Hungary, and the United States. In this concert, the orchestra (winner of the 2017 Latin Grammy for Best Classical Music Album) will be directed by the American Carl St. Clair and accompanied on the piano by the German Markus Groh.
Since it was first presented three years ago (every year in December) this show has been seen by around 20,000 people. Based on the literary universe that Lewis Carroll created in 1865, this show recreates the most famous passages of the book through two acts and with 80 dancers on stage.
From December 7th to 16th
La Traviata, an opera by the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, first premiered on March 6th, 1853. In this interpretation, directed by the French-Canadian Yannick Nézet-Séguin (winner of the National Performing Arts Award of Canada in 2005), the passages of the original story are recreated through three acts. The HD transmission will be from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Eugene O'neill Theater
The Pre-Columbian Gold Museum was founded in 1985 and has a collection of around 1,600 pieces of gold as well as 2,400 pieces of ceramics and stone of continental pre-Hispanic art. Its 2019 exhibition will allow visitors to learn about tools and utensils of the original peoples of America: you will be able to listen to recordings about indigenous stories and visit, through augmented reality, pre-Columbian settlements.
As of January 7th
Museums of the Central Bank of Costa Rica
This rock music festival promotes two elements: freedom of expression and cultural rights. That has been its philosophy since it was founded in 2006 as a meeting point for emerging artists and bands from the Los Santos de San José sector. The lineup has not yet been revealed and will be released throughout December.
Santa Maria de Dota
For five months you can admire 27 sculptures by the Costa Rican artist Jorge Jiménez Deredia in public spaces. In 2000, Jiménez Deredia became the first Latin American to have a sculpture in the St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. The works of Jiménez Deredia are a retrospective of his last 20 years of artistic creation, in which he has exhibited in cities such as Mexico City, Florence and Rome.
From February 20th to July 14th
Boulevard Avenida Central, Plaza de la Cultura and Plaza de la Democracia.
The Costa Rican artist Luciano Goizueta has exhibited in cities such as Buenos Aires, Bogotá, Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver and Shanghai. Metadata, his most recent artistic show, is a journey through his career in fifteen pieces of drawing, acrylic and assemblages made between 2014 and 2018. The exhibition is an interconnection of moments that glimpse the way in which the works were conceived. It is accompanied by photographs and personal objects of the artist.
During the month of March
Museum of Costa Rican Art
The last tour of the Spanish singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat is called Mediterráneo da Capo: a play on words between his album Mediterráneo (1971) and the Italian musical expression 'da Capo': back to the beginning. Thus, this show is a return to one of Serrat's most iconic albums. In the artist's most recent visit to San José you can sing songs like Lucía, Aquellas pequeñas cosas and Barquitos de papel.
Teatro Popular Mélico Salazar
After seven years of artistic silence, Mexican singer Luis Miguel launched the album México Por Siempre in 2017: a tribute to his country through 14 ranchera songs with which he won two Latin Grammy Awards in 2018. In his visit to San José, Luis Miguel will sing La fiesta del mariachi, which has reached the first places of sales in Mexico, the United States and Spain, as well as some of its most famous classics that include songs like La incondicional and La bikina.
Teatro Popular Mélico Salazar
Juan Santamaría Airport
The fares for each trip vary between 145 CRC (0.24 USD) and 465 CRC (0.77 USD).
First kilometer rate: 660 CRC (1.10 USD). Additional kilometer rate: 620 CRC (1.03 USD). First kilometer rate (airport): 980 CRC (1.63 USD).