Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sat June 27 2015

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  • Shannon Wolf | June 27, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    San Jose, Costa Rica: A Case of Reverse Culture Shock

    San Jose, Costa Rica: A Case of Reverse Culture Shock

    Hanging out at the beautifully designed Café Oteca before splurging on Smoked Salmon at Restaurante Kalú

    After falling in love with the island life on Ometepe, swimming in the calm ocean by day or curled up with beers around bonfires on the sands of El Gigante at night — Courtney and I left paradise to bus down to Costa Rica with my fun (yet evanescent) fling Jeff and his good friend Ollie whom we met on our first night at a bonfire on the island and had spent every day with since.

    Upon crossing the border in sweltering heat, Courtney and I couldn’t help but slightly regret our decision in coming to Costa Rica upon first glance. It had felt as if we gave up heaven in exchange for a slue of whizzing semi-trucks and a bold red sign reading PIZZA HUT. This is what I like to call “reverse culture shock.”

    We just wanted the calm — where all you heard was the sound of the ocean and the feeling of sand between your feet instead of incessant honking, anxiety-ridden air and exhausted looking streets. We stayed for one night in San Jose and left for the Nicoya Peninsula immediately the next day.

    Although San Jose is known as the capital city, most people will only use it as a port to other areas of the country via local bus. Personally, San Jose wasn’t for me but I will say that after 3 months of looking for GOOD coffee in Central America (they export all the good stuff so you’re left with drinking instant coffee in most places — yes; you heard right — BLEGH!) A fellow traveler let me in on a little hidden gem of a coffee shop called Cafe Oteca and it was life changing! The staff was incredibly knowledgeable, the place is cozy, and it felt like a little slice of home.


    *Tap water in Costa Rica is fine to drink*

    Currency: Colones

    Weather: Hot in the day, Cooler at night.

    Best time to go:

    Caribbean Coast: Nov.- Jan.

    On the Caribbean coast, rain is constant. South of Limón the best time to go is in September and October.

    Pacific Coast: Nov.-April

    These are the dry months and hardly ever rains.

    Local Beers: Imperial, Pilsen

    Transit: You can travel all across Costa Rica via bus from the stations in San Jose as seen below.

    Transit timetable

    SanJoseBusses: This helpful map above displays where each bus departs to. 

    Cost varies by country and distance but your best bet is “Chicken Busses” typically around $10 USD one-way.

    Note: Always pre-settle costs before getting into a taxi, bus, etc. Otherwise, you may find that you’ve likely been overcharged.

    Cheapest Hostel: Golden Frog Hostel?($10 a night)
    Address: Avenida Central (Calle 5 y 7)

    This place is everything you need for a night. It’s the cheapest, brand new, and a 15-minute walk to the main bus terminals.

    Note: You can also take a cab to/from the bus terminals for 2500 colones, which I highly recommend you do if you are traveling at night in San Jose.


    • Spotless and clean dorms/bathrooms/kitchen
    • Fast Wi-Fi
    • Large Kitchen
    • Comfortable bunk beds
    • Lockers
    • Bathrooms in each dorm room

    Other Budget Hostels:

    • Costa Rica Backpackers Hostel
    • Hostel Pangea
    • Hostel Toruma
    • Costa Rica Love Hostel


    • Get your caffeine fix at Cafe Oteca — it’s expensive but worth every sip.

    • Splurge on one of the best meals at Restaurante Kalú (attached to Café Oteca).

    • Wander through Parque Nacional (one of San Jose’s nicest gardens).

    • Check out the mass amount of eclectic street art on 366 South First Street (between San Carlos & San Salvador).

    • Do a day-trip to Poás Volcano National Park and view the active volcano crater at a height of 8,884 feet above sea level.

    Passed by this cool street art while wandering through the streets of San Jose on the way to South First Street

More Costa Rica


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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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