Back in 2017 my wife and I had our lives turned upside down when we traveled to Costa Rica to adopt our three children. We went from a couple to a family of five overnight. It has been quite the transition over the past two years! We spent a long seven weeks in San Jose, Costa Rica, where we had to wait during almost the entire adoption process. This meant we had a lot of time on our hands with the kids. A lot. Finding things to do in San Jose was a must.
People typically don’t think of San Jose as a destination when they travel to Costa Rica, instead opting for much more lovely locations: Arenal, Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, and the beaches of Guanacaste. And these are certainly much better choices than the county capital. But if you ever find yourself in the capital with your young ones, there are certainly some things you can do to pass the time. Here are five great things to do in San Jose, Costa Rica with kids:
Museo de los Niños
This Costa Rica children’s museum is actually quite the place. It’s extremely cheap, and it is located in an old jail that looks like a castle. If that isn’t enough to spark your interest, there is plenty inside that will.
From earth science to spacefaring, from natural history to Costa Rican history, Museo de los Niños has a good number of interactive exhibits. Beyond the educational content, there are plenty of other sections that are simply fun. We visited with our kids while passing the weeks before our adoption was finalized, and they had a great time.
The “green fair” is a Saturday morning opportunity to get out and enjoy some great organic, sustainably-grown food in the Costa Rican capital. Whether you’re looking for fresh fruits and vegetables for the week at this farmer’s market, or want to sample some of the freshly cooked items, it’s a great enjoyment. Feria Verde is located at Polideportivo Aranjuez Park in central San Jose, and runs from 7:00 AM to 12:30 PM every Saturday.
Parque de la Paz
This park in central San Jose is a favorite of my daughter. We went twice during our time in the country, enjoying kite flying (cheap kites are sold at the park), playing on the playground or kicking a soccer ball. There are a couple other parks in the Costa Rican capital, but we preferred Parque de la Paz above the others.
One of the best features is the hill. Not only do you get lovely views of the central valley all around you, but sliding down on cardboard is fun as well. It’s great, simple fun. If you don’t have much else planned, a day at the park could be perfect. Parque Sabana (which was actually a short walk from our hotel) is a lot larger, but we preferred Parque de la Paz.
SkyJump and TerraMall
SkyJump is an indoor trampoline park located a little ways outside San Jose. A bit mundane? It wasn’t for us. I’d never been to one. Heck, I’d never even heard there was such a thing. But I am sure there are many more all over the place, including the U.S. If you’re looking to let your kids blow off some steam, it’s a great place to go for an hour or two. I can’t find any info on this, but one day per week there was a steep discount (I think it was Tuesday). We just happened to come on that day. If you can, call ahead and see if there are cheaper days.
This is a two-for-one deal in the list, though. On your way back into the city, a stop at the mall in Escazú is an easy detour. You might be thinking why you should bother visiting a mall while on vacation. But Multiplaza Mall is quite the mall. Like I said, there also isn’t a whole lot in San Jose for spending days on end like we were, so a visit to the mall could be a welcome diversion.
Cataratas de la Paz
This is a bit of a trek from San Jose, but it is an easy day trip, as opposed to some other locales. The drive to Cataratas de la Paz takes you along winding mountain roads once you leave the valley cities of San Jose and Heredia. It’s about 90 minutes from central San Jose, depending on both the traffic and how fast you drive. Both of those are highly variable.
But it is worth the time and distance. You don’t need more than 3-5 hours to enjoy the waterfalls and mini-zoo they have there. Cataratas de la Paz is a bit pricey, however, especially for tourists. There is a different tourist price than the one for Costa Rican citizens. The foreigner price is $45 for adults and $29 for kids. There is an optional add-on buffet that costs $14 for adults and $8 for kids. Our kids received the Costa Rican national price, and it still cost us about $200 for the day for our family of five, including lunch. But the waterfalls are quite beautiful, and the kids had a fantastic time seeing the animals.
While other parts of Costa Rica are more scenic and appealing to foreign tourists, if you happen to be in the capital for a few days (or simply want to check it out), these are some things to do in San Jose. We were there for a very long seven weeks. By the end, we were quite ready to get home. But these are a few of the things we did to pass the time.