Costa Rica’s capital city deserves more than a pit stop
1. Irazú Volcano. Smoke rises from fumaroles of this 11,000-foot active volcano. Drive or hike to the green crater lake at the summit; from here, both coasts are visible on clear days.
2. Cartago Municipal Museum. In this converted military barracks about 40 miles from San José, learn about the devastating 1910 earthquake that leveled the city of Cartago. A highlight is the 1,033-foot-long mural of Costa Rican history, by artist Guadalupe Álvarez.
3. Santiago Apóstol Parish Ruins. The temple in Cartago’s city square was destroyed several times by earthquakes between 1575 and 1910 and was never finished, but its stone walls still stand. Local legend deems the site cursed and haunted by a murderous headless priest.
4. Tapantí National Park. Less touristed than other national parks, the 12,500-acre Tapantí is home to 45 mammal species and 400 bird species, including the brilliant-green resplendent quetzal.
5. Orosi Church. This functioning 1743 church and museum is one of the country’s best-preserved colonial sites.
6. Central Market. Since 1880, this outdoor market has held residence on San José’s Avenida Central. Shop for souvenirs like Costa Rican coffee and crafts and snack on authentic gallo pinto (beans and rice), chorreadas (corn pancakes), and horchata (cinnamon rice milk) ice cream at La Sorbetera de Lolo Mora, founded in 1901.