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Friday, February 23, 2024

Does the Web know the way to San José?

If you search for “Paris, France,” on Google Maps, do you think it would show you a small village somewhere in the country that, like the iconic “City of Light,” also happens to be named Paris? Um … no.

But if you search for “San José, Costa Rica,” this is what you get:

The province of San José.
(Google Maps)

It’s a map of the province of San José, which stretches from Braulio Carrillo National Park in the northeast to near Jacó in the west to near Uvita in the south.

So what if you want to see a map of the capital of Costa Rica, the country’s largest city, on Google Maps? Well, do you have a half-hour or so?

I tried searching for directions from “San José, Costa Rica” to “Tamarindo, Costa Rica,” and this is what I got:

Directions from (the wrong) San José to Tamarindo.
(Google Maps)

It’s a map that indeed leads to Tamarindo, but it starts in the village of San José, on the outskirts of Los Quetzales National Park, not far from San Gerardo de Dota and Chirripó National Park. Google’s suggested route passes straight through the capital of Costa Rica without recognizing that this was the San José I was searching for.

(Incidentally, it seems to make no difference to search engines whether you put the accent in “San José” or just type “san jose.”)

If you search for just “San José,” without specifying “Costa Rica,” you get a map of San Jose, California, which is even less helpful:

San Jose, California — wrong country.
(Google Maps)

If you really want to confuse Google, just search for directions from “San José, Costa Rica” to “San José, Costa Rica” (as if to drive from the hamlet in Los Quetzales to the capital, or vice versa). Google Maps will tell you it can’t find the route, but it keeps showing you the pueblo in Los Quetzales.

A search for directions from San José, Costa Rica, to San José, Costa Rica.
(Google Maps)

Switching from Safari to Chrome, I discovered a new problem: Google Maps points to a town east of La Fortuna, near Arenal:

Another San José, near Arenal.

Apparently St. Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus, was really popular among Costa Rica’s early town fathers.

Mapquest, by the way, was even less helpful, as when I went there and searched for “San José, Costa Rica,” I also got San Jose, California. (Mapquest later managed to find San José, Costa Rica, though, so maybe it’s a matter of luck.)

Result of a search on Mapquest for "San José, Costa Rica."

I tried, searching for “San José, Costa Rica map” and got no map at all, just a bunch of ads, including a link to the Hampton Inn. (However, when I tried Yahoo Maps later it did find what I was looking for. User error?)

Result of search for San José, Costa Rica, on Yahoo Maps.
(Yahoo Maps)

What to do?

Well, Internauts, here’s the one foolproof strategy I found at last: Go to and search for “San José, San José, Costa Rica,” and guess what you get?

Success! Result of search for "San José, San José, Costa Rica" on Google Maps.
(Google Maps)


We’re here to help.

Got tips on how to find the way to San José on the Internet? Add a comment, or contact Karl Kahler of Tico Times at

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