On my recent trip to San Jose, Costa Rica, I had the great fortune to bump into Michael Miller, an ex-pat from the USA living in the city. As it happens he is also somewhat of a local expert on San Jose and author of the book “The Real San Jose”, which can be bought from Amazon. His official site is here: therealsanjose.com.
That book in itself is a wonderful introduction to this somewhat overlooked capital city of Costa Rica.
There is, however, another option to explore what San Jose has to offer while on the ground! During our conversation, he told me that a friend of his offered a walking tour where we could experience the sights and sounds from a lifelong local resident’s perspective.
A few minutes later, after exchanging details, we arranged to meet a few days from then for what I’m calling the “Best Walking Tour of San Jose”.
Custom Walking Tour of San Jose, Costa Rica
The main reason why I’ve dubbed this the best walking tour of San Jose is that it is fully customizable to what you want to see.
Nury (our guide) is well aware from past experience that certain groups of people like different activities and sights. For example, many Europeans may not be overly interested in seeing multiple cathedrals, while Americans may be more so. Not forgetting to mention if groups include children.
When planning the tour, you can give Nury carte blanche, or she can help direct you towards attractions that most peak your interests.
I’m always a fan of both a nation’s foundation history and local markets, so we decided to focus on that.
Meeting The Walking Tour Guide – Nury
Nury, is a lifelong native of San Jose and is obviously very passionate about her city and country at large.
I was most surprised by just how many people knew her as we walked the streets.
Our tour took around 4 hours but can be adapted shorter or longer depending on your itinerary and timeline. We decided not to explore museums together, for example, but I wanted to enjoy lunch together at the Central Market. Further, she offers museum tours, as well as tours outside of the city, for example, Poas Volcano, zip-lining through the canopy, coffee plantation tour, nearby rainforest tour (Braulio Carrillo National Park), the Basilica of the Angels in Cartago, etc…
Where We Began & Our Plan Of Action
As you’d expect from a bespoke walking tour, Nury met me at my hotel, Selina (right around the corner from the Casa Amarilla – below). I was also delighted that Michael was also able to join us.
There is so much to see, and most of the points are interests are in quite close proximity to each other.
High-level points of interest from our route on the day of the tour:
- Starting point Selina Hotel
- Aranjuez & Amon neighborhoods
- Avenue Central
- Jade Museum
- National Museum
- Metropolitan Cathedral
- Plaza de la Cultura
- Gold Museum
- National Theatre
- Gran Hotel Costa Rica
- Post Office
- Central Market
This is a concise list indeed; there were many, many more!
You’ll have to take the tour to explore them all.
Lunch Like a Local
One of the tour’s highlights for me was seeing the vibrant and active Central Market. It is still very much active for locals. Yes, there are some tourist shops around the edge, but you’ll be rewarded with many new sights and smells once you explore a little deeper. It was great to have a local there who explained what the different spices, fruits, and the like were for.
I didn’t do too much shopping as I still had a few more weeks and stops on the road but I did pick up some local coffee, which came highly recommended by Michael.
We ended our tour by eating a local lunch at “Soda Tala.”
Parting Ways & Final Walking Tour Thoughts
After we had finished our full lunch of coffee, food, and ice cream, we were sad to say goodbye to both Nury and Michael but felt ready to explore the city for the next two days.
How To Book The Tour & Cost
As you would expect, there is no set price for this kind of customizable walking tour around San Jose and beyond. The best thing to do is contact Nury directly and get some ideas about the price, dates, and options. You can also learn more at their website, www.therealsanjose.com/walking-tours.
Note: tours typically start in the morning, with a higher chance of rain/storms in the afternoon. Further, no night/evening tours are offered.
My tour started at 9 am, lasted four hours, and was very reasonably priced. I was more than happy to pay for the experience and service.
Phone and Whatsapp number: +506 6063-9350
Is it Worth It?
Overall it was a really personal experience that I would gladly do again, and I recommend it to anyone who is reading this post and intending to hit the ground running while in San Jose. Pura Vida!