Yeah, that time I met John Lennon in the Costa Rican capital city of San Jose. We went to Costa Rica for the mountains, jungles and beaches, but planned one extra day to see some city life. We just happened upon the John Lennon statue while strolling the walkable center. Where are his trademark wire-rimmed glasses? Either stolen or locked away by city officials, depending on the source of the story. There was plenty of other history and culture to explore — and some great people watching.
The National Theater was the highlight. Well-worn seats gave the impression of a trip back in time, and a lovely painting on the lobby ceiling recalls the coffee and banana growers who were the patrons of the arts. There is a charge to go inside and look around but no guide or pamphlet. I would have liked a little more information on the history of the theater, but definitely worth a stop. There were no performances available during our late-summer visit.
An airy butterfly garden provides the entrance to a building that has been used over time as both a fort and a prison. Now it offers a glimpse into Costa Rica history, beginning with the ancient indigenous people and their mysterious stone spheres. After a few hours of museum-going, we simply enjoyed strolling the shopping areas filled with colonial architecture, interesting statues and real people, before stopping for a much-appreciated ice cream cone on a hot afternoon.
Terry’s Travel Tips
We paid to park our rental car in a secure lot in downtown San Jose. From there we were able to walk to the National Museum, the National Theater and some splendid churches. We braved the daytime heat, rather than venturing into unfamiliar streets at night. It helped a lot that my son is a fluent Spanish-speaker. We didn’t hear much English spoken.
After nearly two weeks of jungles, mountains and beaches in Costa Rica, our stay at the Hampton Inn near the airport eased our transition back to real life. There’s a Latino-flavored Denny’s next door. My family stayed here on points and all of the usual Hampton amenities are here, delivered with a touch of “pura vida.”
Most people seem to use this hotel as a necessary overnight because of flight departure times, but the people who work here take pride in sharing what their city has to offer. After a day of being lost on confusing city streets, we appreciated the free shuttle the hotel offered at dinnertime, and a recommended restaurant in a popular nearby mall. We stayed two nights to allow for one day of walking around the historic sites in downtown San Jose. The only thing to watch out for is the guy trying to collect your departure tax in the hotel lobby. It’s cheaper if you pay at the airport and the lines were not terribly long. There is also a free shuttle bus to the airport.