World Facts Index > Costa Rica > San JoseSan Jose is small and cozy. Although its style and architecture are contemporary, some buildings of strong European influence, mainly British and French, can still be found as a heritage of the economic coffee prosperity from the Turn of the Century. There are few high-risers. More towards north and west of the city, we can still appreciate some old adobe structures with tile roofs that have been preserved with care, which evoke past remembrances of the large coffee plantations and farms. Although district areas do exist, these are small quadrants for property census and electoral organization mainly. The administrative division of the country was defined by regions or cantons which have their own municipalities, and can be considered as 'small urban zones and towns', with their own unique personality and characteristics. Thanks to the topography, there is a great diversity of micro-climates that determine in many cases the type of production on the region. Distances are easily covered by car or public transportation.
San Jose Downtown
Very early, within the drowsiness of the dawn and the growing murmur of the first by-passers, this small city awakens indulged in laziness after a night of great food, drinking, and fun. The exquisite smell of fresh bread and recently brewed coffee from the highlands fill up the air surrounding coffee shops and 'sodas', meanwhile the rumor of fast-paced steps, car motors and horns increases even more.
Due to its small size, friendly and charming San Jose, or 'Chepe' as known affectionately by the 'ticos' is worth to be checked by foot. Not so long ago, the Central Avenue was closed to vehicle traffic and embellished with stone paving and gardens, so the tourists and locals as well could walk by in comfort or just sit down to enjoy the passing-by of the very beautiful Costarrican women!
Just ask anyone on the street:
This expression explains in two words the charm, positivism, and friendliness of the local people towards a newcomer. Oh! If you do not speak Spanish, there is a very good chance you will get an answer in English!
It is important to note; that San Jose's Municipality has made great efforts to protect the security of is inhabitants and visitors as well. You can easily spot police officers on foot, by car or bicycle 'California style! ', 'All over. However, as in any city, prevention is always a good measure.
In short, Downtown San Jose is a small, great city, with a little of everything for everyone and everybody.
The district of the witches! If you ever need some magic potion for luck or love, or want to cast a spell on someone, you will have to look around Escazú. Well, this is more of a legend than a reality. Actually, Escazú has become a major commerce and entertaining area, with beautiful hotels and fabulous restaurants. Its residential zones are ample and highly priced. Located in the skirts of the mountain, you just need to go up a few meters to enjoy a breathtaking view of the whole city.
Escazú is also known for being the area where the greatest North American Colony has found a place to live, in the middle of affectionate and gentle people.
Heading West from Escazú a few kilometers on the same road, you will find the very impressive Santa Ana Valley. Its marvelous weather has helped to turn this zone into in a highly developed area in very short time. Many residents from the more dense areas, tired of the noise and turmoil have moved over to Santa Ana in a quest for tranquillity and warmth.
The main produce of this region are onions and other vegetables. There is a flourishing pottery industry as well.
Montes de Oca
The district of the youth and the culture! The University City Rodrigo Facio, the 'Alma Mater': The University of Costa Rica is located in its main urban zone, San Pedro. This turns this area into the preferred place for students and intellectuals. There are small cafés and bars of moderate price around the University and student boarding houses. Bed and Breakfast and apartment hotels are near to lodge the tourists. This is a very traditional commerce area of Malls, restaurants, and entertaining as well.
There are other more rural areas, farther from the city environment within San Jose. Puriscal, Tarrazú and Aserrí, as well as Acosta, Dota and Pérez Zeledón standout for the beauty of their scenery, with small markets of local products and artisan stores. The travel agencies have tours to drive you over, and there is always a public transportation service and car rentals for the adventurous one. No doubt, San Jose is in all of its urban and rural expressions, a glamorous and modern great city with beautiful and wonderful towns to discover.
History of San JoseEmbraced by the splendorous and perennial green-blue mountains that form the Cordillera of Talamanca and the Central Volcanic Cordillera, lies the city of San Jose. Established around a small hermit in honor of Saint Joseph in May 21, 1737, in what was known as 'The Plain of the Mount's Mouth', it extends over a longitudinal Southeast ' Northwest axis. Its growth from a small villa to Costa Rica's capital city was hard and painful.
Four leagues north from Aserri, in a very pleasant plain, there is an ugly village with the diminutive of Villita, just getting formed. It is composed of eleven roof-tiled and fifteen straw houses, which form no plaza or street. It lacked water which was then carried by open channels; the church is the most narrow, humble and indecent from all those I saw in that province; its patron Saint Joseph.
With these textual words, starts the oldest registered description of San Jose, made in 1751 by the bishop Agustín Morel de Santa Cruz. With less than one hundred and fifty inhabitants, building a town was a challenge, since there was not even water for basic needs. Presbyter don Juan de Pomar y Burgos was then assigned to 'la Villita' (Small Village) and commissioned to construct a water system and establish a parish. It is important to note that all the village settlements from that time were highly influenced by a very powerful ecclesiastic and religious government. It is precisely doña Maria de Torres, mother of the priest Manuel Antonio Chapui, a great promoter of the development of San Jose, who donated the land that is actually known as 'La Sabana'. This is one of the largest city parks and 'lungs' of San Jose and used to be our International Airport some forty years ago.
Nevertheless, San Jose was not meant to be Costa Rica's capital city from the beginning. It was not until 1823, in the time of Costa Rica's Independence from Spain, that this honor was taken away from the more traditional Cartago and given to more dynamic and growing, San Jose. It is this great communal effort oriented towards agriculture and commerce that established the basis to design the future of the young city. In the educational area, towards 1814, the Santo Tomas Education House was established by the neighbor's own initiative. It was declared University of Santo Tomas by public decree in 1843. Minor studies consisting of lessons in Latin, Castilian, and Philosophy were imparted as major studies in Law, Medicine, and Theology. With the economic growth of the city, thanks to the coffee and tobacco plantations, many youngsters had the opportunity of traveling and studying in universities abroad, mainly in England.
It is worth noting that this educational process was extended in the course of time and social reforms, to make Costa Rica what it is today: A country of educated and well mannered people who love peace.
In the agricultural area, San Jose was known for its coffee and tobacco plantations. This activity flourished all over the Central Valley and the producers started buying land and farms away from the city. They also built homes downtown in the venerable Barrio Amon, to spend seasons with family and friends. Actually, this sector of San Jose has become a place of Bed and Breakfast hotels, restaurants, and commerce established precisely on these nostalgic and charming homes.
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