Can't tell a Cappuccino from an Americano? Don't know beans about Arabica coffee beans? This guide to understanding the basics of a coffee shop menu will explain all you need to know about ordering a "specialty" cup of Joe.
Founded in 1737, San José was a forgotten backwater of the Spanish empire until the late 19th century, when it boomed with the coffee business. Sure, the city has its issues: gridlock traffic, poorly maintained sidewalks, and street crime. But, at 1,125m (3,690 ft.) above sea level, San José enjoys springlike temperatures year-round and its location in the Central Valley -- the lush Talamanca Mountains rise to the south, the Poás, Barva, and Irazú volcanoes to the north -- makes it both stunning and convenient as a base of exploration.
Things to Do
San José boasts some of the finest museums in Central America, including the shining Gold Museum with its extensive collection of pre-Columbian gold and the Jade Museum with its unique focus on functional and decorative relics made of this translucent stone. Art lovers will enjoy the Costa Rican Art Museum, featuring a lovely open-air sculpture garden.
For local craft items and cheap souvenirs, head to the Mercado Central, or the open-air market on the Plaza de la Democracia. Be sure to check out the extensive and impressive collection of indigenous art and craftworks on offer at Galería Namu. And don't forget to pick up some signature, shade-grown Costa Rican coffee and a bottle or two of Salsa Lizano, the ubiquitous vinegar and tamarind-based sauce spread on dishes across the country.
Eating & Drinking
Imagine yourself drifting back in time to the days of the coffee barons in the elegant Grano de Oro Restaurant, or sample the contemporary fusion cuisine of Michelin two-star chef Richard Neat at the intimate and romantic Park Café. For a taste of traditional Costa Rican cuisine and culture, head to Restaurante Nuestra Tierra.
Nightlife & Entertainment
The city's nightlife is lively and varied. The hip and bohemian crowds have several haunts, including the Cuartel de la Boca del Monte, El Observatorio, Rayeula, and the whole University district, while those looking for live music can head to the Jazz Café. Adventurous souls should shake their booties at a classic salsa joint like Castro's or Salsa 54, and those wanting a contemporary club vibe can head to Rhapsodia or Vertigo.
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