San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica's capital San José the next big tourist destination?

Costa Rica’s Tourism Board wants visitors to spend time not just at the country’s beaches and national parks, but in its capital city San José.

The Tourism Board is launching a strategy that “aims to make San José a cultural and gastronomic attraction,” the board’s director of promotion, Ireth Rodríguez Villalobos, said Monday.

The strategy is part of tourism policies outlined by President Luis Guillermo Solís, who last year signed an executive decree declaring “of public and national interest the tourism development of downtown San José.” The decree was published in the official newspaper La Gaceta on Monday and takes effect this week.

It’s main goal is to promote San José’s downtown among both local and international tourists through brochures, maps, guides, videos and websites.

They all will advertise the capital’s historic buildings, museums and galleries, as well as the many gastronomic options located between 7th Avenue and 10th Avenue and 9th Street and 12th Street in central San José.

In addition to promoting the area’s urban attractions, such as the National Theater, historic post office, National Museum and Gold Museum, the Tourism Board also will promote several surrounding neighborhoods, including Amón, Otoya, Aranjuez and Pitahaya, where visitors can check out historic buildings and antique houses.

The tourism board plans to keep promoting current touristic activities such as walking and train tours through the city’s main attractions. It will also support private initiatives like Art City Tour, ChepeCletas and bus tours by Costa Rica City Square Tour.

The government also plans to host tourism and cultural fairs, and boost promotion on the web, through social networks and at information offices downtown, Rodríguez said.

Among its main challenges, officials will have to work to make tourists feel comfortable and safe walking the capital’s streets.

They’ve already made one move: the Tourism Board’s director of tourist services, Víctor Ramírez Montero, said the board recently moved the Tourist Police headquarters to new facilities within the promoted area and added 49 police officers, two police cars, six motorcycles and ten bicycles for patrolling downtown.

Currently board officials are in negotiations with San José’s municipal tourism department to coordinate the creation of a new information, assistance and tourist protection center, Ramírez said. Plans also include campaigns on mass and social media asking people to avoid littering and keep the city clean, he added.

According to data from the Tourism Board, some 1.3 million tourists stay at least one night in the Central Valley each year, usually prior to moving to other destinations across the country.

Click here to download a PDF version of one of the brochures the Tourism Board will provide at their information offices.

Contact L. Arias at

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Marvelous Marv

As for San Jose, it’s going to take a lot more than maps, brochures and more police to entice tourists to spend time there. With a few exceptions, the hotel stock in San Jose isn’t up to par for tourists. The sidewalks are broken. The streetscape in general is nondescript and uninteresting. Bus fumes pollute the streets. Street vendors pecking out a living aren’t the problem. The city has been damaged for more than 75 years in the name of progress. What is needed:
Encourage more 4 or 5 star B&Bs in the historic districts targeted.
Encourage people to live in these districts with quality housing to support neighborhood restaurants, clubs or bars.
Improve the streetscape…NG or electric buses, tree planting, building painting, historic preservation
In general, each neighborhood needs to be renovated with a critical mass of housing, hotel rooms, offices, venues, beauty and security. Then move to connect these neighborhoods through further re-development. One has to give the middle class and the tourist reasons to live or stay downtown and the reason is a positive urban experience which the city lacks now.

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Ken Morris

Good to see someone who thinks about cities the way I do. Yep, the challenge is a neighborhood by neighborhood one of giving the middle class a reason to live in San José, and that involves the mixed use etc. that you mention.

Of course, it’s weird that the justification has to be attracting tourists, since you’d think that Ticos would want a good city for its own sake, but then again good cities attract tourists as well.

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Marvelous Marv

Gracias el Señor Carlos Ted Cruz. Shame on you.

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Try and remember that the poverty level in the city is horrific. These street vendors are doing all they can to put food on their tables. I do agree there should be plenty of jobs available in the public works for beautification of the city. There are plenty of people willing to work an honest day to better their lives as well as their city. There is millions of dollars of repairs that need to be made but the problem is there is no money for it. What are we going to do, just keep taking money from China. The misappropriation of government funds is a huge problem in why we cannot get things done. The money keeps gong into the pockets of the rich instead of enriching the country.

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I have a strategy to “save” this pathetic excuse for a capital city. It is truly sad when Ticos bad mouth their own capital city!

* Permanently remove ALL sidewalk vendors, confiscate their untaxed goods, if necessary, they are one of the WORST aspects of downtown San Jose!
* Repair sidewalks, make them passable, without threat of a twisted ankle, or worse!
* Teach the Fuerza Publica officers how to interact with foreign visitors, to offer assistance… to be FRIENDLY!
* Setup roving maintenance crews to pickup trash, empty public trash bins and sweep gutters, every day, and throughout the day!

These are just a few of my personal favorites, in the interest of a better San Jose!

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You took those words out of my head!!! I was just thinking about writing a very similar comment!!! One would think, with the high unemployment in Costa Rica, that all this would be a piece of cake!! Those Ticos don’t want to get their hands dirty should never complain about the Nicas who are doing all the dirty work.

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Carlos CalvoCarlos

About time you guys. COSTARICENSES are great. Get the NICAS out.

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