Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

San José, Costa Rica

San José is the capital and largest city of the nation of Costa Rica. It is also the capital of San José province.

San José is located in the center of the country at 10.0° N, 84.2° W; it is in a mountain plateau at an elevation of about 1,170 meters (some 4,000 feet) above sea level. In 1997 the city had an estimated population of 329,154 people: the latter half of the 20th century was a period of rapid growth for the city, considering that in 1950 its population was a mere 86,900.


San José was a small village of little importance until 1824. In that year, Costa Rica's first elected head of state, liberal Juan Mora Fernández, decided to move the government of Costa Rica from the old Spanish colonial capital of Cartago and make a fresh start with a new city. This was a time of much optimism in the newly independent nation of Central America, of which Costa Rica was at that time a state (see: History of Central America). The new capital of San José grew rapidly. Because of its late 18th century origin, San José has little of the Spanish colonial architecture common in most other Latin American capitals.

The University of Costa Rica was established here in 1843.

San José also serves as the headquarters of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.