Walking, Backpacking,and Hiking in Costa Rica
Why do we want a whole page dedicated to just walking around? Well that is because walking around in Costa Rica, especially in San Josť, requires a different set of rules!
If you really want to get a feel for Costa Rica, I would recommend walking the streets. I don't just mean in San Josť... I mean whatever town it is that you are in or near or if you are physically fit, backpacking or hiking.
Let's first discuss walking around the towns, especially San Josť. First, it is important that you always remember that as a tourist, you are a target. Do not carry valuables, wear flashy jewelry (even if it is fake), or carry anything that might be considered valuable. Remember, what is not valuable to you may be valuable to someone who will happily sell it for a couple of bucks in order to get drugs that are very inexpensive here. I have seen daytime theft of eyeglasses and an earring! Took them right off her head! I have also seen holdups and robberies for cell phones and backpacks. Laptop computers are a prime target When on the streets, dress down. Your neighbors will never see you anyway!
In most countries, our mommies taught us correctly to look around, left and right for danger or problems. She was right, but probably never visited Costa Rica. To the left and right thing, add DOWN. Streets here are often poorly paved, have large holes or raised concrete curbs that can hurt you. Worse are the street gutters which can easily be 18 inches deep! The gutters catch the heavy rains during the winter and represent a potentially dangerous problem for walkers. A casual step off a curb can result in a truly nasty spill. Sometimes the gutters are covered with a grillwork, but don't bank on it. Most are not. Even the grillwork can cause problems if it is loose or has raised edges that can catch a heel.
Beware of the Zona Roja in San Josť at any time of the day or night. This is the 'red light' district and is just North of downtown San Josť. Unless you are shopping for the "services" there, you probably should not venture into that area.
Downtown San Josť has many beautiful parks, most of which are pretty safe during the day, but can be quite dangerous at night. The ones near Barrio Amon are my favorites with absolutely beautiful trees and foliage.
There are also a ton of shops around all the downtown areas in any town and these can be a lot of fun to visit. Stay away from the ones that are clearly tourist traps. Prices are ridiculous, and remember to avoid any shop that prices its goods in dollars or worse, has no price tag on the object.
If you are well away from San Josť, you can find absolute treasures at truly low prices. If you are traveling the country, take time to stop in these towns, park you car, and explore. You'll be very happy if you do.
There are a number of fine museums in the downtown San Josť area, and all are within walking distance (10-15 minutes) of one another. Check out the page on museums.
So with all these caveats, why am I even suggestion you walk around? Because nothing else will give you the feel for a country or a town as much as walking in it. Just be careful out there!
Backpacking here can be just incredible. There are mountains with and without trails, incredible cloud forest areas, and of course jungle and rainforests. The experience can be life changing.
Unless you KNOW what you are doing, and can speak a bit of Spanish, it is probably not best to not venture off on your own without guidance. CR is a small country, but you can get lost pretty easily. Check out the page on tours as there are many operators here who can get you set up for a fine adventure!