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Introducing San José

San José is not a pretty city, what with the unremarkable concrete structures, clogged pedestrian arcades and fast-food monstrosities dominating its cityscape. And how delightful can a city really be when you're constantly dodging homicidal drivers, evading pickpockets and trying to tune out the cacophony of honking horns and ear-splitting reggaetón?

But once you get the hang of it, Chepe – as San José is affectionately known – quickly reveals its charms. Take your time poking around the more historic neighborhoods, where colonial mansions have been converted into contemporary art galleries, refined international restaurants and boutique hotels. Colorfully arresting murals and hipster buskers pop up on the most unexpected corners. And in its museums of gold and jade and national history lie all the layers of indigenous heritage, colonial past and great minds that made Costa Rica the environmental champion and military-free country we love today.