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San José and the Central Valley, San José + the Central Valley's insider take:

Of all the Central American capitals, San José could be considered the most appealing (if you've been to places like Managua and San Salvador, you know this isn't the biggest compliment). The city does have some interesting attractions, such as the Museo del Oro Precolombino, sparkling with gold exhibits dating back to 500 A.D.; the Museo del Jade, with its impressive, ornate jade collection; and the extravagant, neoclassical, late-19th-century Teatro Nacional. With that, you've pretty well exhausted San José's possibilities, meaning that the city's major highlights can be seen in one day. Now it's time to move on, by taking day trips from the capital (Hotel Grano de Oro is a good base) or excursions from boutique hotels farther afield in the Central Valley (El Silencio Lodge, Finca Rosa Blanca, Xandari Resort & Spa). The surrounding highlands are populated with coffee plantations. For the best view over the Central Valley, drive to the summit of Volcán Poás or Volcán Irazú, one hour east of San José.—Updated by Christopher P. Baker

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