Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
Hotel Grano de Oro ups the ante for Costa Rica's urban hotels
Since the day it opened in 1990, I've considered the Hotel Grano de Oro to be San José's finest hotel. When it opened its doors in 1990, this gracious centenary converted mansion set a whole new tone for the city, which at the time offered a choice of large institutional hotels, grimy budget options, and relatively lackluster 'boutique' conversions. Canadian owners Eldon and Lori Cooke did a superb job infusing their rambling clapboard mansion with an endearing and upscale aesthetic. And its small courtyard restaurant soon became a popular breakfast and Sunday brunch spot for locals.
Imagine my delight, then, when Eldon and Lori late last year opened their entirely new wing incorporating seven deluxe Executive rooms . After acquiring an adjoining building, they tore it down and built afresh in classic Costa Rican Victorian style to match their original building. The original rooms were also in the final stages of elegant refurbishment during my last visit in January 2009.
The highlight, however, is a sensational two-level restaurant that has quickly established a reputation as the capital city's premier fine-dining outlet. Its glossy wood-paneling and craftsman details, sumptuous banquet booths, real crystal and silverware, and airy atrium courtyard combine with mustard-keen service and gourmet nouvelle Costa Rican cuisine. The 40-room hotel also now boasts a superb reception hall with 21st-century design behind a soaring wall of glass in striking counterpoint to the venerable vernacular Costa Rican architecture that is the hotel's traditional hallmark.
Hotel Grano de Oro enjoys a peaceful location in a residential neighborhood within a 30-minute walk of downtown yet just blocks from the freeway to the airport. And starting at $105 per night low season, $115 high season, the rates are an absolute bargain. Another reason that when I'm in town, this is the place that you'll find me.
Meanwhile, two newcomers offer lesser-priced boutique alternatives just east of downtown. The Italian-run La Giaconda House Hotel and, just one block away, the Casa 69 are both graceful conversions of centenary mansions. Both are pleasantly furnished and offer digs in the $50-60 range. The only downside is traffic noise!
And Stefan and Vincent, the owners of the popular Costa Rica Backpackers, have opened more upscale digs across the street for folks who like a few comforts for budget prices.