San Jose, Costa Rica, is the country's social, political and commercial center, and it's more cosmopolitan and prosperous than many other cities in Central America. San Jose is a pleasant place to visit, although it has comparatively few colonial structures, and most travelers use it as a stepping stone to somewhere else in the country. Volcanoes and mountains ring the city's barrios and suburbs; cloud forests, beaches, raging rivers and rain forests lie within a few hours' drive.
San Jose has its own attractions worth exploring, however, and these are on the increase. The capital has entered a revitalization period—condos are going up to attract urban dwellers, cultural events are thriving, and older areas have revived thanks to the boom in tourism. Because of a traditional lack of urban planning, San Jose's architecture is a mishmash of historic structures, glass high-rises and run-down buildings. In many ways, this is part of its charm. However, the city's streets are plagued by congestion and pollution in a country renowned for its environmental prowess, though this is thankfully beginning to change.
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