Any city that has an affectionate nickname is bound to be full of character, and San Jose, Costa Rica, affectionately known as Chepe, is no different. This Central American city has a bit of a rep, but at its heart it's a cosmopolitan destination offering a variety of sights and activities that make it worth a visit.
To start with, if you've been dying to see the world's largest collection of American jade, you're in luck because it's housed in San Jose at the Museo de Jade. There are nearly 7,000 pieces, including translucent carvings depicting everything from fertility goddesses and shamans to frogs and snakes, not to mention ceramics with Mayan influences.
Other cultural endeavours in San Jose include the Museo de Oro Precolombino y Numismática, which features pre-Columbian gold, historical currency and contemporary regional art; and the Museo de los Niños & Galería Nacional, an interesting place in an old penitentiary that has hands-on science, geography and natural history exhibits for kids as well as contemporary art in abandoned prison cells. Or check out the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo (more commonly called MADC, the Contemporary Art and Design Museum) in the 1850s-era National Liquor Factory. If art doesn't have you rushing for the ticket office, you could always choose to visit the Museo de Insectos, featuring — you guessed it — a huge collection of insects.
There's no shortage of outdoor options in San Jose either. To soak up some of the architecture in the area, take a stroll through the historic neighbourhood of Barrio Amón, which features coffee-grower mansions (known as cafetalero) from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If art-deco isn't your thing, the brightly painted tropical Victorian structures will get your camera clicking. The Parque La Sabana is a 72-hectare dose of green space with a lagoon, a fountain, sports facilities and a network of paths.
You can also catch tours from San Jose that will be sure to fill up the storybook of your travels. Tortuguero National Park, a breeding ground for endangered sea turtles, features canals and the chance to see not only turtles but birds, caiman and even possibly the famous Jesus Lizard (known for its ability to run across water). Other tour options will get you out to nature reserves, wildlife refuges, nearby villages and even into Panama through the Panama Canal.
WestJet is happy to help you visit San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica with seasonal flights departing out of Toronto.