San José, Costa Rica

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San José
San Jose under construction.jpg
Edificio Correos. Edificio Herdocia. San Jose. Costa Rica.JPG
Juan Mora Fernandez statue in San Jose.JPG
National Theatre of Costa Rica - 3.jpg
Museo de los Ninos, San Jose, Costa Rica.JPG
Images, from top down, left to right: San José skyline, Chinatown, Central Avenue, Herdocia Building, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, the Juan Mora Fernández statue, the Garabito, inside view of the National Theatre of Costa Rica, the Costa Rican Center of Science and Culture.
Bandera de San Jose (Costa Rica).svg
Blason de San Jose (Costa Rica).svg
Coat of arms
Ad Meliora  (Latin)
"Towards better things"
San Jose, Costa Rica - City map.png
San José and surrounding area
Costa Rica location map.svg
Red pog.svg
San José
Location of San José within Costa Rica
Coordinates: 9°56′N84°5′W / 9.933°N 84.083°W / 9.933; -84.083 Coordinates: 9°56′N84°5′W / 9.933°N 84.083°W / 9.933; -84.083
Country Costa Rica
Province San José
Canton San José
Founded ca. 1739
Capital as of16 May 1823
Boroughs8 districts
   Mayor Johnny Araya Monge (PASJ)
   City and municipality 44.62 km2 (17.23 sq mi)
2,044 km2 (789 sq mi)
1,172 m (3,845 ft)
   City and municipality 333,288
  Density6,455.71/km2 (16,720.2/sq mi)
1,543,000 (March 2,013) [1]
  Metro density1,056.2/km2 (2,736/sq mi)
Time zone UTC-6 (CST)
Postal Code
Area code(s) + 506
HDI 0.923 – Very High [2]
Climate Aw
Stone sphere created by the Diquis culture in the courtyard of the National Museum of Costa Rica. The sphere is the icon of the country's cultural identity. Stone sphere.jpg
Stone sphere created by the Diquis culture in the courtyard of the National Museum of Costa Rica. The sphere is the icon of the country's cultural identity.
San Jose from the International Space Station San Jose, Costa Rica Astronaut Image.jpg
San José from the International Space Station

San José (Spanish:  [saŋ xoˈse] ; literally meaning "Saint Joseph") is the capital and largest city of Costa Rica. Located in the mid-west of the Central Valley, San José is the seat of national government, the focal point of political and economic activity, and the major transportation hub of this Central American nation. The population of San José Canton was 288,054 in 2011, [3] and San José’s municipal land area measures 44.2 square kilometers (17.2 square miles), and an estimated 333,980 residents in 2015. [4] The metropolitan area stretches beyond the canton limits and has an estimated population of over 2 million in 2017. [5] The city is named in honor of Joseph of Nazareth.

Costa Rica country in Central America

Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 5 million in a land area of 51,060 square kilometers. An estimated 333,980 people live in the capital and largest city, San José with around 2 million people in the surrounding metropolitan area.

Costa Rican Central Valley plateau and a geographic region of central Costa Rica

The Central Valley is a plateau and a geographic region of central Costa Rica. The land in the valley is a relative plain, despite being surrounded by several mountains and volcanos, the latter part of the Central Range. The region houses almost three quarters of Costa Ricans, and includes the capital and most populous city, San José. The valley is shared among the provinces of Alajuela, Heredia, San José and Cartago. The region occupies an area of 11,366 km², more than a fifth of the country, and is drained by the Tárcoles River on the west side and by the Reventazón River on the east side.

Central America central geographic region of the Americas

Central America is located on the southern tip of North America, or is sometimes defined as a subcontinent of the Americas, bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The combined population of Central America has been estimated to be 41,739,000 and 42,688,190.


Though few people live in the city center, it is the most important working area[ when defined as? ] of the country, which brings in more than a million people daily. According to studies on Latin America, San José is one of the safest and least violent cities in the region. [6] In 2006, the city was appointed Ibero-American Capital of Culture.

San José is the sixth-most important destination in Latin America, according to The MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index 2012. San José ranked 15th in the world’s fastest-growing destination cities by visitor cross-border spending. [7]


The population of San José grew during the eighteenth-century colonization planning, which was different from the traditional foundation plans of Spanish cities in the continent of Central America.

Founded in 1736 by order of Cabildo de León, its objective was to concentrate the scattered inhabitants of the Aserrí Valley [8] . De León thus ordered the construction of a chapel near the area known as La Boca del Monte which was completed a year later. That year St. Joseph was chosen as parish patron, hence its current name. The chapel, which was very modest, was erected with help from the church of Cartago.

<i>Cabildo</i> (council) Spanish colonial, and early post-colonial, administrative council which governed a municipality

A cabildo or ayuntamiento was a Spanish colonial, and early post-colonial, administrative council which governed a municipality. Cabildos were sometimes appointed, sometimes elected; but they were considered to be representative of all land-owning heads of household (vecinos). The colonial cabildo was essentially the same as the one developed in medieval Castile.

Unlike neighboring Cartago San José was not founded by formal decree and thus lacked a city government. It was not until the enactment of the Constitution of Cádiz in 1812 when San José had its first city government. On the 18th of October 1813, the area was first defined as a city by presbyter Florencio del Castillo, on behalf of the Spanish government, title which was then lost in 1814 when Ferdinand VII of Spain annulled the proceedings of the courts. The municipal government was restored in 1820 along with the title of city and in 1823 San José became the capital of Costa Rica [9] [10] . This makes San José is one of the youngest capital cities in Latin America by year of conception.

Ferdinand VII of Spain King of Spain

Ferdinand VII was twice King of Spain: in 1808 and again from 1813 to his death. He was known to his supporters as the Desired and to his detractors as the Felon King. After being overthrown by Napoleon in 1808 he linked his monarchy to counter-revolution and reactionary policies that produced a deep rift in Spain between his forces on the right and liberals on the left. Back in power in 1814, he reestablished the absolutist monarchy and rejected the liberal constitution of 1812. A revolt in 1820 led by Rafael de Riego forced him to restore the constitution thus beginning the Liberal Triennium: a three year period of liberal rule. In 1823 the Congress of Verona authorized a successful French intervention restoring him to absolute power for the second time. He suppressed the liberal press from 1814 to 1833 and jailed many of its editors and writers. Under his rule, Spain lost nearly all of its American possessions, and the country entered into civil war on his death.

Latin America Region of the Americas where Romance languages are primarily spoken

Latin America is a group of countries and dependencies in the Western Hemisphere where Romance languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, and French are predominantly spoken; it is broader than the terms Ibero-America or Hispanic America. The term "Latin America" was first used in an 1856 conference with the title "Initiative of the America. Idea for a Federal Congress of the Republics", by the Chilean politician Francisco Bilbao. The term was used also by Napoleon III's French government in the 1860s as Amérique latine to consider French-speaking territories in the Americas, along with the larger group of countries where Spanish and Portuguese languages prevailed, including the Spanish-speaking portions of the United States Today, areas of Canada and the United States where Spanish, Portuguese and French are predominant are typically not included in definitions of Latin America.

Population and economic growth were spurred by improvements in access to water and the installment of the Tobacco Factory in 1782. The accumulation of capital brought by tobacco plantations allowed the city to economically surpass neighboring provinces [11] .

The first modern urban neighborhood carries the name of his founder, the French coffee entrepreneur Monsieur Amon, and was created in the late 19th century, in line with Belle Époque contemporary architecture. Barrio Amon, as well as the National Theatre, remain symbols of the so-called Costa Rican coffee golden age.

Today San José is a modern city with bustling commerce and brisk expressions of art and architecture. Spurred by the country's improved tourism industry, it is a significant destination and stopover for foreign visitors. [12]

San José exerts a strong influence because of its proximity to other cities (Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago) and the country's demographic assemblage in the Central Valley. [13]


Costa Rica has developed high education levels. As of 2011 97.6% of the population over 10 was literate [14] , 96% of children aged 6-11 attend primary school and 71% of students of high-school age attend high-school [15] . The country as a whole has the highest education levels in Central America and one of the best in Latin America. This is especially true for San José, the nation's educational hub home to a large number of public and private universities. [16]

University of Santo Tomas, the first university of Costa Rica was established here in 1843 [17] . That institution maintained close ties with the Roman Catholic Church and was closed in 1888 by the progressive and anti-clerical government of President Bernardo Soto Alfaro as part of a campaign to modernize public education. The schools of law, agronomy, fine arts, and pharmacy continued to operate independently, but Costa Rica had no university proper until 1940, when those four schools were re-united to establish the modern University of Costa Rica (UCR), during the reformist administration of President Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia.

The city's public education system is composed of pre-schools, elementary and high schools (from grades 7 to 11), which are located in all of the city's districts and are under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Education. Nevertheless, private institutions do exist within the city. These educational institutions range from pre-schools to universities. Most tend to be bilingual, teaching subjects in either French or English and Spanish, among other languages, apart from just teaching a certain language.


San José is one of Latin America's safer cities. As of 19 June 2012, both city and nation reduced their crime indices considerably.[ timeframe? ] Nationwide, crime was reduced from 12.5 to 9.5 incidents per 100,000 inhabitants.

In 2012, new police equipment was issued by the government, and the security budget was increased. President Laura Chinchilla's government has donated vehicles and other equipment to the police department on at least two occasions. [18]

The city's greater metropolitan area (in Los Yoses, San Pedro) also serves as the headquarters of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.


The capital is made up of 5 districts (distritos): Catedral, Carmen, Hospital, Mata Redonda, Merced. And three districts partially: Pavas, Uruca, Zapote.


San José has several internal transportation networks that connect the city districts and metropolitan area; as well as national transportation networks that connect the city to other parts of Costa Rica.

San José is currently undergoing modernization in transportation. The current mayor, Johnny" Boss Tweed" Araya, has announced the establishment of an urban tramway system that will, in its first phase, cover the central core of the city going from west to east. This entire plan was announced and publicly presented on February 2011 by the city mayor and Costa Rican President, Laura Chinchilla.

On 27 September 2012, San José disclosed plans to install its first street signs, about 22,000 signs and plaques. It is estimated that the lack of proper street names for directions causes the loss of $720 million a year by the Inter-American Development Bank in 2008, due to undelivered, returned or re-sent mail. [19]


Private bus companies connect different areas of the city with each other and the suburbs. Services to other parts of the country are provided by other private companies which have stations or stops spread all over the city centre. There are also bus services between Juan Santamaría International Airport and downtown San José.


The Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles , or the state owned railway institute, is in charge of all of Costa Rica's railways. In 2004, this institution began work on the establishment of an inter-urban railway network. This network would connect Tibás, Heredia, San Antonio de Belén, Pavas, San Pedro de Montes de Oca, Sabanilla, and Curridabat, among other locations.

There are current plans to expand this inter-urban railway system into Cartago, Alajuela, and the Juan Santamaría International Airport.

Trains run to Heredia from Estación Atlantico and San Antonio de Belen and from Estación Pacifico. [20]


San José public taxi services complement the urban transportation network. Taxis are characterized by their red color and belong to registered cooperatives. There are other taxi services which do not belong to the registered system, there are also taxis from the airport that are usually orange.

The car-sharing company Uber has entered Costa Rica, but the government has stated that is allowed to operate. Despite repeated clashes with and strikes from taxi drivers due to unfair competition claims, the company has continued to operate in the country.


The city is serviced by Juan Santamaría International Airport ( IATA : SJO, ICAO : MROC), 23 km (14 mi) west of downtown, in the city of Alajuela, which is one of the busiest airports in Central America. In 2010, Juan Santamaría International Airport received 4.3 million passengers, most of them from international flights. In 2011, the airport was named the 3rd Best Airport in Latin America/Caribbean from the Airport Service Quality Awards by Airports Council International. [21]

The airport is undergoing a modernization plan, which is expected to be brief. The previous remodeling done to the airport cost around $7 million.

Another important airport in San José is Tobías Bolaños International Airport ( IATA : SYQ, ICAO : MRPV). It is located 8 km (5 mi) north-east of the city proper and 11 km (7 mi) south-east of Juan Santamaría International Airport.


The city's major football club is Deportivo Saprissa, who won a record 33 league titles. They play their home games at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá, which is located in Tibas. Another top-level club, Universidad, play at the Estadio Ecológio.

San José hosted the 2015 FIBA COCABA Championship, where the Costa Rica national basketball team finished 2nd. Playground was the Gimnasio Nacional.


Costa Rican cuisine (comida típica) is generally not spicy. Throughout San José, the most popular food is the national dish of gallo pinto, which is a mixture of fried rice and black beans. Gallo pinto is usually served for breakfast with tortillas and natilla, a thin sour cream. Costa Rican restaurants serving traditional food at an affordable price are called sodas and usually offer casados for lunch and dinner. A casado (which means "married" in Spanish) consists of rice, beans, and meat, and normally comes with cabbage-and-tomato salad, fried plantains, and/or tortillas. [22] San José Central Market, in downtown San José, has numerous stalls and sodas.


San José has a tropical wet and dry climate (Köppen climate classification Aw). [23] Precipitation varies widely between the driest month (6.3 mm (0.25 in)) and the wettest month (355.1 mm (13.98 in)), while average temperatures vary little. [24] The hottest month is April with an average temperature of 23.7 °C (74.7 °F), while the coolest month is October with an average temperature of 21.8 °C (71.2 °F).

Climate data for San José, Costa Rica (Juan Santamaría International Airport)
Record high °C (°F)31.5
Average high °C (°F)28.2
Daily mean °C (°F)22.6
Average low °C (°F)18.5
Record low °C (°F)11.7
Average precipitation mm (inches)6.3
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm)33510232220222625178184
Average relative humidity (%)68686670778380838587797477
Mean monthly sunshine hours 285.2266.0282.1240.0182.9144.0151.9158.1147.0161.2177.0244.92,440.3
Source #1: Deutscher Wetterdienst [25]
Source #2: NOAA (sun 1961–1990) [26]

Major landmarks

San Jose under construction.jpg
San José skyline with mountains in the background
National Theatre National Theater of Costa Rica.jpg
National Theatre
Plaza de la Cultura Plaza de la Central Costa Rica.JPG
Plaza de la Cultura
National Museum of Costa Rica National Museum of Costa Rica.JPG
National Museum of Costa Rica
Okayama Park ParqueOkayama.jpg
Okayama Park

Theaters and auditoriums

San José has many beautiful theaters, many with European-inspired architecture. These buildings serve as the city's main tourist attractions, not only because of the architectural beauty, but because of the numerous cultural, musical, and artistic presentations and activities, which include traditional and modern Costa Rican and San Josefinan culture.

The most well-known are:

The National Theater of Costa Rica (considered the finest historic building in the capital and known for its exquisite interior which includes its lavish Italian furnishings [27] ) and the Melico Salazar Theater present drama, dance performances and concerts throughout the year. Nevertheless, other 'smaller' theaters can be found throughout the city and provide a large array of entertainment.

La zone roja is San José's oldest theater. [28]


San José is also host to various museums. These museums allow visitors to view Costa Rican history, scientific discoveries, pre-Columbian era culture and art, as well as modern Costa Rican art. The city is also host to the nation's museum of gold and museum of jade.

Some of the city's main museums are:

Parks, plazas, and zoos

San José is home to many parks and squares (plazas in Spanish); where one can find gazebos, open green areas, recreational areas, lakes, fountains, statues and sculptures by Costa Rican artists and many different bird, tree and plant species.

Parks and zoos

The city's primary parks include:

  • The National Park (Parque Nacional)
  • Morazán Park (Parque Morazán) — with Neoclassical Temple of Music (Templo de la Música) pavilion
  • La Sabana Metropolitan Park (Parque Metropolitano La Sabana) — largest park and "the lungs of San José," in Mata Redonda District (west city)
  • Peace Park (Parque de la Paz)
  • Okayama Park (Parque Okayama) — Japanese style garden and architectural elements, ornamental ponds, and garden sculptures
  • Simón Bolívar Zoo — the city's only zoo, with a large variety of native Costa Rican and exotic animals and plant species


Plazas, or town squares, are very prominent across San José's districts.

  • Culture Square — La Plaza de La Cultura (one example)

International relations

Twin towns – sister cities

San José is twinned with:

Notable people

This is an alphabetical list of notable people who were born in or have lived in San José.

Related Research Articles

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Alajuela Province Province in Costa Rica

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Melico Salazar Theatre theatre in San José, Costa Rica

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La Sabana Metropolitan Park

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Correos de Costa Rica

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Events in the year 2013 in Costa Rica.

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