Ciudad Colon: A Tranquil Suburb of San Jose

Costa Rica’s capital of San Jose is much like any city in the world. It can be chaotic and filled with traffic. But just past the sprawling suburbs, giant malls, and office parks is Ciudad Colon. This small city has a lovely town center, forested hills, and a good selection of restaurants. In this post, we’ll tell you more.

park and fountain in Ciudad Colon

Location and Landscape

Ciudad Colon is located on the western side of Costa Rica’s Central Valley. The small city is just 30-40 minutes from the heart of downtown San Jose and only 10-20 minutes from two upper class suburbs, Santa Ana and Escazu.

With nearby access to a major highway (Route 27), Ciudad Colon is an ideal commuter town.

Centered on a park with mature trees, playgrounds, pavilions, and sport courts, the downtown gently expands toward the forested mountains. A large river, the Rio Virilla, flows along the town’s northern edge.

Virilla River flowing through a valley with surrounding mountains
Rio Virilla

Things to Do in Ciudad Colon

Ciudad Colon Park & Playground

In the heart of Ciudad Colon is the central park. Here, you’ll find a modern playground surrounded by large shade trees. Just adjacent is an outdoor track, basketball courts, and some kids’ climbing walls.

Colorful playground in downtown Ciudad Colon
Central park and playground

Across the street is a historic building and antique pavilion. The courtyard has some restaurants serving local food, shops, and a municipal arts center.

Row of tables in front of Ciudad's historic buildings
Open air courtyard

Several churches and a large public school are also very close to the central park.

These diverse gathering spaces build a strong feeling of community when visiting the downtown.

Hiking & Mountain Biking

In the forested hills around Ciudad Colon are several private land reserves that offer hiking or mountain biking.

During our stay, we visited Senderos Colon. This property has over 30 km (18 miles) of trails for mountain biking, trail running, or hiking. It’s also pet friendly.

Wooden planked trail through the forest at Senderos Colon
One of the trails at Sendero Colon

During a two-hour hike, we enjoyed the many types of trees and shrubs along the varied terrain. We also saw several interesting birds, like Long-tailed Manakins and a Montezuma Oropendola.

Amphitheater Villa (Anfiteatro de Villa)

For an interesting cultural experience there is Amphitheater Villa.

This network of manmade caves dug into a cliffside is a favorite among locals. Each cave and passageway is decorated with religious, historical, or cultural elements from around the world. Tour guides explain the significance of each room.

A large cave hallway at Amphitheater Villa
Entering the caves at Amphitheater Villa

While overall this wasn’t our kind of thing, we did appreciate the work that went into making the caves and elaborate decorations. One section was Egyptian themed and had beautiful hieroglyphs.

Amphiteater Villa also has two onsite restaurants and some outdoor sculpture gardens.


For rainy days with the kids, you can head to Playland.

This indoor playground on the outskirts of Ciudad Colon is the perfect place for kids to burn off some energy. We spent several hours here one day, and our kids loved it. There are large slides and ball pits, plus coffee and snacks for the waiting adults. Bring socks as they are required!

Indoor slides and play structures at PlayLand
Indoor slides and play structures at Playland

Other Nearby Activities

Since Ciudad Colon is so close to the city, visitors can take easy trips downtown.

In San Jose center are three popular museums, the National Museum, Gold Museum, and Jade Museum. The historic National Theater is also beautiful and worth a stop.

The giant yellow fort that is now the National Museum
Costa Rica’s National Museum

For those looking for entertainment and shopping, Multiplaza, in the nearby city of Escazu, is a large mall with over 160 stores, a movie theater, and restaurants.

Multiplaza has both large international brands like Nike, Calvin Klein, and GNC as well as smaller local shops and kiosks. We especially enjoy visiting the Multiplaza around Christmas when elaborate decorations are set up.    

Ciudad Colon Restaurants

Our stay in Ciudad Colon was during Semana Santa (Easter Week) so many restaurants were closed. Fortunately, we still found a few great choices.

Costa Rica Craft Brewing Company

This was Costa Rica’s first craft brewery. When we moved to Costa Rica in 2013, they were basically the only ones that offered an IPA!

Now, Costa Rica Craft Brewing Company has a complete lineup of tasty artisanal beers. Their super casual bar/restaurant, La Planta Brewpub, serves up all the favorites plus some experimental prototypes.

A sampling of beers at Costa Rica Craft Brewing Company
A flight of craft beers at La Planta Brewpub

For food, there are tacos, nachos, wings, salads, burgers, and flatbreads, or mains like steaks and surf & turf.

From the restaurant, you can view the huge brewing room with tanks through a window. If you’d like a tour, be sure to make arrangements in advance.

Las Terrazas del Cañon

This restaurant at Amphitheater Villa sits perched on the hill, overlooking the caves and cliff mentioned above. The large menu offers typical Costa Rican dishes like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) or more international offerings like steaks, salmon, and pastas. For the kids, there are chicken strips, hamburgers, or fajitas.   


For an elegant dining experience, we highly recommend Conservatorium.

This upscale restaurant with glass walls offers an innovative take on contemporary cuisine. Focusing on fresh, local ingredients and aged meats, the dishes are plated with an artist’s touch. A chefs’ laboratory sits next to the kitchen and is where new ideas are tested.

A bread roll blends in, looking like a rock
Playful bread starter at Conservatorium. Which of the rocks is actually a roll?

Accommodations in Ciudad Colon

There are only a couple of very small hotel options in Ciudad Colon.

For more choices, travelers can stay nearby in Santa Ana. A few options in the Lindora area of Santa Ana include Aloft San Jose, Hilton Garden Inn Santa Ana, and the Studio Hotel, which we have stayed at many times.

The Studio Hotel is a comfortable mid-range option. The hotel is decorated with lots of art, making it somewhat unique. One of our favorite restaurants, Lo Spago, is located right out front.

Other than hotels, Ciudad Colon has some vacation rentals. During our stay, we rented a house through Airbnb in a good location overlooking the mountains and river. For tips on using vacation rentals in Costa Rica, read our post, Vacation Rentals in Costa Rica: Safety & What to Look for.


Ciudad Colon was the perfect mountain escape for our family. We really enjoyed the rural setting, family-friendly downtown, and convenience to other sites in and around San Jose. We’ll definitely be back!

Have a question about visiting Ciudad Colon or want to share your thoughts? Leave us a comment below.

Looking for more information to help you plan? Check out these posts:

Heredia, Costa Rica: City Guide – On the other side of San Jose is the historic city of Heredia. This is also a nice place to use as a home base for exploring the Central Valley.

How to Spend 1 or 2 Days in San Jose – For more about museums, restaurants, and markets in downtown San Jose, check out this post.

Rental Car Discount – If visiting Ciudad Colon, we recommend a rental car to get around since it’s more spread out. Use our discount to save 10% and get free extras.


  1. A great place to stay in Cuidad Colon is Vista Canyon Inn. Spectacular scenery & great hosts. Breakfast is included. Lots of different room choices. We stayed there for a surgery at CIMA. Easy commute.

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