Adventures on a Shoestring
If you can count your money, you don’t have a billion dollars.
~ J. Paul Getty, American billionaire
Anumber of things can be enjoyed in San José without paying an arm
and a leg – some are even free! We’ve already mentioned the two
town cemeteries (cemeteries are our personal fascination) and La Sabana
Park (bring your sneakers just in case you join a game). Plus, we thrive on
wandering around fruit and vegetable and flower markets, or window
shopping in town mercados. Some museums offer free admission on Sundays – you can’t beat that for a deal.
There are also numerous band concerts in squares and parks; just
walk up and listen. Professional concerts, such as the Symphonic, are a
fraction of the cost of European or American performances.
One of our favorite budget adventures is just getting on a bus and going
somewhere in a different neighborhood, or to nearby towns such as
Heredia or Cartago. It’s cheap and fun.
Get cool in the hot spring swimming pools of Orosí by taking the
bus to Cartago, then catching the Orosí bus. There are locker
rooms and a restaurant. Orosí is a small town on the floor of a
deep valley – we like it so much that we nearly bought a vacation
home here. Its dramatic topography appears as you turn a corner – on the
floor is the meandering Orosí River, while the steep valley walls are lined
with deep green coffee bushes. The view from the overlook just before the
valley entrance is spectacular. Notice an odd-shaped white building
among the coffee bushes below – it was the summer home of Michael
Landon, the actor. This trip can be combined with visits to Cartago,
Lankester Gardens (on the way), and the Orosí Valley overlook park.We
can’t think of a better way to spend a day.
The same type of attraction at a different location is Ojo de Agua in San
Antonio de Belén, not far from San José. It features five swimming pools
and a park for sports and picnics, plus a restaurant. Hourly buses from
the Coca-Cola terminal, Calle 10, Av 4 & 6. Admission is about US $2.
Road to Nowhere
Walk and ride.We took a Tico Times reporter’s advice for a cheap
date and caught the public bus (US 80¢) to Bebedero, also
marked “Vista de Oro,” from Av 6 at Calle 14, just behind the
Hospital San Juan de Dios. The local bus runs through wealthy Escazú
and up a steep mountain through rural suburbs of adobe and wooden
houses, many with the old oval brick ovens scattered among terraced
farms and gardens. It’s a good way to look down on San José spreading
through the Central Valley below you. The bus route ends in the middle of
nowhere on the side of the mountain at a quiet church. Rather than just
hang out until the bus was ready to return – if you do, be sure to get a
front seat for the view – we walked down the dirt road to the side of the
chapel and followed it downhill. We were rewarded with some stunning
vistas of the countryside.
AUTHOR NOTE: If you follow in our footsteps,
be aware this route takes a lot of them. Wear comfortable
On either side of the road are verdant farms enclosed by “living fence
posts” – tree branches or trunks that have been cut to post size and
pounded into the ground, where they sprout roots in the rich soil and
grow into new trees. Nearly halfway down the mountain is a small store,
where you can stop for snacks and cold soda. Go just a bit farther and you
reach a great little restaurant (Tiquicia, reviewed on page 164) that offers
stunning views. Do this trip on a Saturday, the only day the eatery is
open for lunch. (There’s a little soda open daily just down the road for
snacks and drinks.) This excursion could also be done in the early evening,
which would allow you to have dinner at Tiquicia, overlooking the
valley’s twinkling lights. You’ll need determination, a good flashlight and
sure feet! At night, have the restaurant call a taxi for the ride to San José
or Escazú. The walk from Tiquicia back to where we could finally catch a
bus back to San José took us one hour and 15 minutes. Huff and puff.