Where to Stay in San Jose 🇨🇷, Costa Rica: Top 5 Areas

Updated on June 24, 2024
by Alex Miller

Wondering where to stay in San José, the vibrant capital city of Costa Rica? From the lively downtown area with its historical landmarks to trendy districts like Barrio Escalante known for its amazing nightlife scene or upscale charm of Escazu, there’s something for everyone! The city is also conveniently located just minutes from the airport, making it a great base for exploring Costa Rica’s natural wonders.

Whether you want to visit the nearby volcanoes, relax on the beaches of Bocas del Toro, or immerse yourself in the local culture, savor traditional Costa Rican chicharron at the Central Market, San Jose is the perfect jumping-off point for your adventures!

Our Pick of the Best Hotels in San Jose

Quick Guide to the Best Places to Stay in San Jose

  • 👀 For the First Time: Downtown San José
  • 👪 For Families: La Sabana
  • 🛍️ For Shopping: Escazu
  •  🕊 For Nightlife: Barrio Escalante
  • 🎭 For Culture & Budget Travelers: San Pedro
  • 🍃 For Nature Lovers & Adventures: La Sabana

1. Downtown San Jose: Best Place for First-Time Visitors 👀

🏛️ Must-See Attractions: Downtown San Jose, also known as El Centro or Chepe, is the cultural heart of Costa Rica’s capital city. As a first-time visitor, I recommend staying in this lively area to be within walking distance of top attractions:

  • National Theater: Marvel at this architectural gem dating back to the 1890s, considered San Jose’s most remarkable building.
  • Pre-Columbian Gold Museum: Explore over 1,500 fascinating pre-Columbian gold artifacts on display.
  • Central Market: Immerse yourself in the vibrant sights, sounds, and smells of this lively market, perfect for souvenir shopping and trying traditional Costa Rican dishes.

🍽️ Culinary Delights: Downtown San Jose is a foodie’s paradise, offering a diverse range of dining options from casual sodas (traditional restaurants) to upscale eateries. Don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in Costa Rica’s famous street food.

  • Gallo Pinto: Start your day with this classic breakfast of rice, beans, cilantro, and onions.
  • Casado: A hearty lunch plate featuring rice, black beans, plantains, salad, and your choice of meat or fish.
  • Patacones: Twice-fried smashed plantain patties, often served as a side or appetizer.
  • Ceviche: Fresh seafood “cooked” in citrus juices, a refreshing and flavorful dish.

🥘 Local Flavors: The pedestrian Avenida Central is lined with an array of restaurants and cafes where you can savor authentic taditional cuisine. Don’t miss out on a cup of locally-grown coffee.

🚗 Getting Around: While downtown San Jose is very walkable, you’ll find it easy to hail a taxi or use ride-sharing apps to explore other parts of the city. Many hotels also offer airport shuttle services from Juan Santamaría International Airport.

💡 Insider Tip: For a break from the city bustle, head to the tranquil La Sabana Metropolitan Park, just a short distance away. This lush green oasis is perfect for a morning jog or picnic lunch.

Where to Stay in Downtown San Jose?

⭐ Best Luxury Hotels

  • Gran Costa Rica – This historic hotel, located in the heart of downtown San José, offers luxurious rooms with modern amenities. Enjoy the terrace with stunning city views and dine at the restaurant serving gourmet traditional cuisine.
  • Grano de Oro – A Victorian mansion turned boutique hotel, Grano de Oro combines old-world charm with modern luxury. Relax in the lush garden courtyard or indulge in the jacuzzi.
  • Real Intercontinental – Located close to the city center, this upscale hotel features spacious rooms, a pool, and a full-service spa. The restaurants offer a variety of international and local dishes.

🏨 Best Mid-Range Hotels

  • Park Inn San José – This modern hotel offers comfortable rooms with cable TV. Enjoy the swimming pool, and restaurant serving international cuisine.
  • Hilton Garden Inn San José La Sabana – Located near La Sabana Park, this hotel features contemporary rooms, a pool, and a fitness center. The restaurant offers a variety of dining options.
  • Wyndham Garden San José Escazú – This hotel offers spacious rooms with modern amenities, including cable TV. Enjoy the pool, and a restaurant.

🛏️ Best Budget Hotels

  • Sleep Inn San José Downtown – Located in the heart of downtown San José, this budget-friendly hotel offers comfortable rooms with free Wi-Fi, and a restaurant.
  • Holiday Inn Express San José Airport – This hotel offers clean and comfortable rooms with modern amenities, including free Wi-Fi and a private bathroom. Guests can enjoy the pool and complimentary breakfast.
  • Eco Stay – This eco-hostel features concierge services, allergy-free rooms, a garden, free WiFi throughout the property, and a balkony. Boasting family rooms, this property also provides guests with a barbecue.

2. Barrio Escalante: Trendy Neighborhood for Nightlife Enthusiasts🍻

🍷 Wine & Dine: The tree-lined streets are dotted with cozy bistros, trendy eateries, and lively bars. Don’t miss these local hotspots:

  • El Patio del Balmoral: A laidback courtyard bar with tasty tapas and craft cocktails, perfect for a night out exploring the area.
  • Antik Brewpub: Sip on house-brewed beers at this rustic-chic microbrewery, one of the top places to eat in this area.
  • Azucar Lounge: A swanky spot for sipping creative cocktails and dancing to live DJs, ideal for those wanting to stay near the action.

🕺 Party Central: As the sun goes down, this place truly comes alive. The area’s bars and clubs keep the party going until the early hours. Some local favorites include:

  • El Cuartelito: This lively salsa club gets packed with hip crowds dancing to live salsa bands, perfect for a night of exploring the local life.
  • Antik Lounge: Groove to electronic beats at this underground club with an industrial-chic vibe.

🚶‍♀️ Explore on Foot: One of the best things about this neighborhood is its walkability. Stroll the leafy streets, popping into bars and restaurants that catch your eye. The compact area makes it easy to hop from spot to spot, ideal for those wanting to explore the city on foot.

💡 Insider Tip: For a break from the bar-hopping, check out the Feria Verde organic farmers market on Saturdays. It’s a great place to mingle with locals and sample fresh produce and artisanal goods, offering a taste of traditional flavors like chicharrón.

Where to Stay in Barrio Escalante?

⭐ Best Luxury Hotels

  • Barceló San José – This classic hotel is located in a quiet area of San José, 3 km from the city centre. It offers a pool, tennis court, and complimentary WiFi connection and shuttle to and from the airport, which must be booked 36 hours in advance. The air-conditioned rooms feature carpeted floors, flat-screen TVs, and views of the city or mountains. Each one comes with a coffee maker and minibar.
  • Hilton Cariari DoubleTree San Jose - Costa Rica – Featuring a swimming pool surrounded by a garden and luxurious facilities, this hotel offers a casino and a beauty salon. The lobby boasts an impressive chandelier and marble floors in full 5-star fashion. There is also a fitness centre, a gift shop with local crafts and souvenirs, and a handy ATM. All rooms have dark wood furniture, flat-screen TVs with cable, and a seating area.
  • Real InterContinental Costa Rica at Multiplaza Mall – Located close to the city center, this upscale hotel features spacious rooms, a pool, and a full-service spa. The restaurants offer a variety of international and local dishes.

🏨 Best Mid-Range Hotels

  • Plaza Real Hotel – This modern hotel offers stunning volcano views “from the cafeteria” and full leisure facilities. These include a wellness spa and gym, while Wi-Fi and parking are free of charge. Rooms have classic interiors with contemporary artwork and wooden floors. All are air-conditioned, while some offer fully equipped kitchens and dining areas, and a balcony.
  • Sleep Inn San José Downtown – Offering a casino, gym and free WiFi zone, this modern hotel is situated opposite España Park and the Modern Art Museum. The air-conditioned rooms include a microwave, fridge and coffee maker. Cable TV and a safe are included.
  • Hotel Isla Verde – This luxurious hotel boasts a restaurant, a fitness room, free Wi-Fi and a free shuttle service to Tobías Bolaños Airport. Rooms here will provide you with air conditioning, cable TV, a safety deposit box and a wardrobe, Deluxe rooms also feature orthopedic mattresses, modern flat-screen TVs and coffee makers with free gourmet coffee.

🛏️ Best Budget Hotels

  • Apartaestudio La Capital San José – This aparthotel is 37 km from Ujarras Ruins and 48 km from Irazú Volcano. Free WiFi is available throughout the property and La Sabana Park is 3.5 km away. The air-conditioned aparthotel is composed of 1 separate bedroom, a fully equipped kitchen with a microwave and a fridge, and 1 bathroom. Towels and bed linen are featured in the aparthotel. The accommodation is non-smoking.
  • Holiday Inn Express San Jose Forum – This spacious aparthotel provides free private parking and a 24-hour front desk. It comes with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, bed linen, towels, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a dining area, a fully equipped kitchen, and a balkony with mountain views. This aparthotel also features a patio that doubles up as an outdoor dining area. The accommodation is non-smoking.
  • Alameda Cariari – This hotel features a swimming pool, free WiFi access and a tour desk. Each air-conditioned room here will provide you with a cable TV, a minibar and a view of the property’s garden. At Alameda Cariari you will find a garden, a balkony and a shared kitchen. Other facilities include business facilities, a shared lounge and an array of outdoor activities such as golfing.

3. San Pedro: Best Place for Students 🎓

🎓 Student Central: San Pedro is the lively student hub of San Jose, home to the University of Costa Rica. This vibrant neighborhood offers an energetic atmosphere, affordable dining, bars, and nightlife along “Calle de la Amargura”.

🍻 Bar Hopping: The area’s casual bars and pubs are popular hangouts for students and locals alike. Don’t miss these lively spots:

  • Cuartel de la Boca del Monte: A classic San Pedro bar with a fun, rowdy vibe and cheap drinks.
  • Wilk Saloon: This western-themed saloon serves up cold beers and hosts live music acts.
  • Antik Brew Pub: Sip on house-brewed craft beers at this trendy microbrewery.

🥘 Cheap Eats: San Pedro is a budget-friendly area with plenty of affordable eateries catering to students. Refuel at these local favorites:

  • Soda Tapia: A no-frills traditional soda serving up hearty casados (meal plates).
  • Arrachera House: Savor delicious Mexican fare like tacos and burritos.
  • Pops Ice Cream: Cool off with creative ice cream flavors at this popular dessert spot.

🚴‍♀️ Explore by Bike: San Pedro is very bike-friendly, with dedicated cycling lanes. Rent a bike to easily get around the neighborhood and nearby areas like the university campus.

💡 Insider Tip: Check out the Feria Verde farmers market on Saturdays for fresh produce, street food, and a lively atmosphere. It’s a great spot to experience local culture.

Where to Stay in San Pedro?

⭐ Best Luxury Hotels

  • Signia by Hilton San Jose – This luxury hotel boasts a swimming pool, 2 restaurants and 1 bar. Each room also offers a marble bathroom with walk-in shower, separate bathtub and bathrobes. Guests can also use the gym. A conference centre is available for business guests.
  • Hotel Presidente – Located in the heart of San Jose, this upscale hotel boasts spacious rooms with city views, a pool, and a well-equipped fitness area. The restaurant serves delicious Costa Rican and international cuisine.
  • Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen – Set on a 30-acre coffee plantation, this luxurious hacienda-style resort offers beautifully appointed rooms, a lagoon-style pool, a spa, and multiple dining options. Enjoy the lush gardens and stunning mountain views.

🏨 Best Mid-Range Hotels

  • Parque del Lago Boutique Hotel – This beautiful hotel, overlooking La Sabana Park, offers comfortable rooms with modern decor, a rooftop terrace with city views, and a cozy lounge area. Enjoy the complimentary breakfast and personalized service.
  • Hotel Autentico – This eco-friendly hotel features rustic-chic rooms with locally crafted furnishings, a beautiful garden, and a restaurant serving organic cuisine. The friendly staff and relaxed atmosphere make for a pleasant stay.
  • Posada El Quijote – Located in a quiet residential area, this charming posada offers simple but comfortable rooms, a lovely garden, and a homey atmosphere. Enjoy the complimentary breakfast and easy access to nearby attractions.

🛏️ Best Budget Hotels

  • Apartotel Tairona – This recently renovated aparthotel situated in San Pedro, and offers a sun terrace, a 24-hour front desk, and free WiFi is available throughout the property. The units are equipped with a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a kitchen, a dining area, a safety deposit box and a bathroom with a walk-in shower, a hair dryer and free toiletries. A microwave, a fridge and stovetop are also provided, as well as a coffee machine.
  • Stray Cat Hostel – This quirky and artistic hostel features unique themed rooms, a lounge area, and a small garden. Enjoy the laid-back vibe, complimentary breakfast, and easy access to nearby bars and restaurants.
  • Casa 69 – Set in a renovated historic building, this budget-friendly hotel offers simple but clean rooms, a communal kitchen, and a rooftop terrace with city views. Enjoy the central location and helpful staff.

4. La Sabana: Quiet Oasis Near the City 🌳

🌳 Green Retreat: La Sabana is a tranquil oasis in the heart of San Jose, centered around the sprawling Parque Metropolitano La Sabana. This leafy district offers a welcome escape from the city bustle while still being conveniently located near the airport and downtown area.

🏞️ Park Perfection:

  • Parque Metropolitano: This massive 72-hectare park is the “green lung” of San Jose, with walking trails, lakes, and abundant wildlife like butterflies and iguanas – a perfect spot for a day of exploring nature.
  • Museo de Arte Costarricense: Explore the largest art museum, located right in the park.
  • Weekend Art Fair: On Saturdays and Sundays, an outdoor art fair takes over the park’s walkways, offering a glimpse into the local art scene.

☕ Cafe Culture: Grab a cup of coffee or bite to eat at one of the trendy cafes and restaurants lining the streets around the park. Some local favorites:

  • Cafe Rojo: A charming spot for excellent coffee and light bites, perfect for a little peace and quiet.
  • Taco Bar: Savor delicious tacos and Mexican fare on their outdoor patio, a great option if you’re looking for places to eat in La Sabana.

🚗 Well-Connected: La Sabana’s location just off the Prospero Fernandez highway makes it easily accessible from downtown San Jose as well as Juan Santamaria International Airport. Many hotels in the area, like the Gran Hotel Costa Rica, offer airport shuttle service for added convenience.

💪 Active Pursuits: In addition to the park’s walking trails, La Sabana offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. Take a dip in the outdoor swimming pool at one of the local hotels, or book a fitness centre day pass to stay active during your stay.

💡 Insider Tip: Pack a picnic and spend a lazy afternoon relaxing on the grassy expanses of Parque Metropolitano. It’s the perfect way to recharge in this peaceful district, away from the noise of downtown San Jose.

Where to Stay in La Sabana?

⭐ Best Luxury Hotels

  • Sheraton San Jose Hotel, Costa Rica – This modern hotel features a casino, free Wi-Fi and a 24-hour fitness room. Guests enjoy several restaurants and bars and an outdoor swimming pool. Each air-conditioned room includes modern décor, a flat-screen TV with cable channels and a comfortable seating area.
  • Parque del Lago Boutique Hotel – This hotel features an on-site restaurant, free WiFi access and facilities to host meetings and banquets. The modern and fully appointed rooms are air conditioned, plus they feature flat-screen TV, safe and a bathroom that includes a hairdryer. The restaurant serves breakfast.
  • Hyatt Place San Jose Pinares – This modern hotel offers comfortable rooms with separate living areas, and a pool. Enjoy the complimentary breakfast and the convenient location near La Sabana Park. The friendly staff and relaxed atmosphere make for a pleasant stay.

🏨 Best Mid-Range Hotels

  • Hotel Novo – This stylish hotel is located next to La Sabana Park, offering bright and spacious rooms, a restaurant, free WiFi and a 24-hour front desk. Each room here is air-conditioned and includes a desk, safety-deposit box and a satellite TV. At Hotel Novo you will find a bar, while other dining options can be found within 500 metres.
  • Altos de la Sabana – Situated near La Sabana Park, this 3-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a bathroom. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk, a tour desk and luggage storage for guests. The rooms are equipped with a wardrobe. Rooms come with a desk and a flat-screen TV, and some rooms have a balcony.
  • Hilton San Jose La Sabana – This modern hotel offers comfortable rooms, a restaurant, as well as a sauna and an indoor pool. The accommodation offers a 24-hour front desk, room service and currency exchange for guests. All rooms have air conditioning, a desk and a flat-screen TV, and some units at the hotel have a balcony. All guest rooms feature a safety deposit box.

🛏️ Best Budget Hotels

  • Barceló Palma Real – This budget-friendly hotel offers simple but clean rooms, a casino, and a restaurant serving Costa Rican cuisine. Enjoy the hotel’s convenient location near La Sabana Park and the friendly staff. The hotel’s affordable rates make it a great choice for budget-conscious travelers.
  • Pura Vida Dream – Located near La Sabana Park, this guest house features basic rooms, a garden as well as free private parking for guests who drive. Featuring a private bathroom, units at the guest house also provide guests with free WiFi.
  • Casa Bellavista San Jose – This simple recently renovated guest house offers affordable rooms. Each unit comes with a wardrobe. With a bathroom equipped with a shower and free toiletries, units at the guest house also boast free WiFi.

5. Escazu: Upscale Suburb for Luxury 💎

💎 Upscale Oasis: Escazu is the Beverly Hills of Costa Rica – an upscale suburb just 5 miles from downtown San Jose. This posh area is known for its luxury shopping centers, high-end dining, and affluent residential neighborhoods, making it one of the best locations to stay in San Jose.

Escazu, San Jose
Escazu, San Jose
Escazu, San Jose
Escazu, San Jose
Escazu, San Jose
Escazu, San Jose
Escazu, San Jose
Escazu, San Jose

🛍️ Shopper’s Paradise:

  • Multiplaza Escazu: This massive mall has over 300 stores, from designer boutiques to home decor shops – a must-visit for shopping enthusiasts.
  • Avenida Escazu: Stroll this open-air lifestyle center lined with trendy cafes and art galleries.
  • Escazu Village: Explore this charming outdoor mall with upscale clothing stores and local artisan vendors.

🍽️ Gourmet Delights: Escazu’s dining scene is just as luxurious as its shopping. Don’t miss these standout spots:

  • La Posada de las Brujas: A charming restaurant serving up authentic Costa Rican cuisine like patacones (fried plantains).
  • El Novillo Alegre: This Argentinian steakhouse offers an elegant setting for a delicious steak dinner.
  • Feroz: An upscale grill house with creative cocktails made from local fruits and herbs.

🚗 Well-Connected: Despite its suburban feel, Escazu is conveniently located close to downtown San Jose and even closer to the airport. Many hotels like the Courtyard by Marriott offer airport shuttle service.

💡 Insider Tip: For a taste of local culture, check out the lively Oxcart Festival held in Escazu each March. This colorful parade celebrates oxcart tradition with music, dancing, and beautifully decorated carts.

Where to Stay in Escazu?

⭐ Best Luxury Hotels

  • Grand Tara Hotel & Events – This luxury 5-star hotel provides accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, a swimming pool and a garden. With free WiFi, it offers room service, a shared lounge and a hot tub. Every room comes with a wardrobe, and a flat-screen TV. Each room has a coffee machine, while some rooms here will provide you with a kitchen with a dishwasher, a microwave and a fridge.
  • Courtyard by Marriott San Jose Escazu – Located in the heart of Escazu, this modern hotel features spacious rooms with contemporary decor, a pool, and a well-equipped fitness room. The on-site restaurant serves delicious international cuisine, and the bar is perfect for unwinding after a busy day.
  • Residence Inn by Marriott San Jose Escazu – This all-suite hotel offers comfortable and spacious accommodations with fully equipped kitchens, perfect for extended stays. Enjoy the complimentary breakfast, outdoor pool, and evening social events. The hotel’s prime location in Escazu provides easy access to shopping, dining, and entertainment options.

🏨 Best Mid-Range Hotels

  • Ramada Plaza Herradura – This expansive hotel features comfortable rooms, multiple restaurants, a large outdoor pool, and a casino. The hotel’s convention center makes it an ideal choice for business travelers, while leisure guests can enjoy the lush gardens and nearby golf course.
  • Wyndham Garden San Jose Escazu – Situated in the heart of Escazu, this hotel offers modern rooms with free Wi-Fi, an outdoor pool, and a fitness room. The on-site restaurant serves a variety of international dishes, and the hotel’s location provides easy access to nearby shops and restaurants.
  • Holiday Inn Express San Jose Airport – This contemporary hotel features comfortable rooms, complimentary breakfast, an outdoor pool, and a fitness room. The hotel’s proximity to the Forum Business Center and Momentum Pinares Mall makes it a convenient choice for both business and leisure travelers.

🛏️ Best Budget Hotels

  • Out of Bounds Boutique Hotel – This all-inclusive hotel offers simple but comfortable rooms, an outdoor pool, and a restaurant serving Costa Rican and international cuisine. The hotel’s affordable rates and convenient location make it a great choice for budget-conscious travelers.
  • Ester's Place – This budget guest house provides accommodation with a garden. All rooms boast a flat-screen TV with cable channels and a private bathroom. The accommodation offers a 24-hour front desk and a shared kitchen for guests.
  • Apartments Casa Lima B&B – This charming bed and breakfast offers comfortable rooms, a beautiful garden, and a homemade breakfast. The friendly owners and personalized service create a welcoming atmosphere, while the hotel’s location in Escazu provides a peaceful retreat from the city.

FAQs About Trip To San Jose

What Is The Best Area To Stay In San Jose?

Downtown San Jose, also known as El Centro or Chepe, is one of the best areas to stay. It’s the heart of the city, with many main attractions, historical sites, and the best hotels nearby.

How Is The Public Transportation In San Jose?

San Jose has a decent public transportation system, but many visitors find it easier to walk, take taxis, or use ride-sharing services to get around the city center and main areas.

Are There Any Outdoor Activities Near San Jose?

Yes, La Sabana Metropolitan Park is a great spot for outdoor activities like walking, jogging, and picnicking right in the city. Day trips to nearby volcanoes like Arenal are also popular.

Where Can I Find Authentic Costa Rican Cuisine?

For traditional dishes like casados and patacones, head to local sodas (casual restaurants) in neighborhoods like Downtown, San Pedro, and Escazu. The Central Market is also a great spot to sample street food.

Popular Attractions in San José?

San José boasts several must-see attractions, including the National Museum of Costa Rica and the Central Avenue. These sites offer a mix of historical and architectural sights that are perfect for any traveler.