- The Best of Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Top Spots for WIldlife
- Costa Rica’s Most Beautiful Beaches
- Costa Rica’s Best Beaches for Wildlife
- Best Surfing Beaches in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Unique Retreats & Resorts
- Surf’s Up in Costa Rica
- Off-The-Beaten-Path Eco-Adventures
- Costa Rica Family-Friendly Adventures
- Adrenaline Rush
Among budget dorm options, the number-one choice is in San José is Costa Rica Backpackers (Avenida 6, Calles 21/23, tel. 506/2221-6191, www.costaricabackpackers.com, $13 pp dorms, $32 s/d private rooms), run by two friendly and savvy French guys, Stefan and Vincent. This splendid, spotless, secure backpackers’ pad is in a large house with a small kidney-shaped swimming pool and garden with hammocks and swing chairs. It offers clean male, female, and mixed dorms with shared bathrooms, plus private rooms (one a lovely space with king-size bed), all with heaps of hot water. All dorms have lockers. A huge TV lounge has leather sofas. It has cooking facilities, laundry, storage, and a tour-planning room, as well as free 24-hour Internet and coffee, plus an airport shuttle. Movies are shown nightly. Their Mochila Bar, next door, is a great spot for draft beer, games, and grooving to sounds from electronica to salsa.
Pangea Hostel (Avenida 7, Calles 3/5, tel. 506/2221-1992, www.hostelpangea.com, $13 pp dorm, $32–40 private rooms), in a converted old home in Barrio Amón, receives raves—and no wonder! Splashed with colorful murals throughout, this thoughtfully prepared hostel offers splendid services, from a kitchen, TV lounge, and pool table to a lovely pool with whirlpool tub and wet bar. It even has its own shuttle, and the open-air restaurant upstairs has a licensed bar that knows how to throw a wild party. There are six clean dorms and 26 basically furnished private rooms, all with shared bathrooms with hot water. It offers free storage, free Internet access, free international calls, and free breakfast.
Nearby, the no-frills German-run Tranquilo Backpackers (Calle 7, Avenida 11, tel. 506/2222-2493, www.tranquilobackpackers.com, $10 pp dorms, $28 s/d private rooms) is another good option, although here furnishings are more bare-bones.
La Posada de Don Tobías (Calle 12, Avenidas 7/9, tel. 506/2258-3162, $14–20 s, $22–30 d), adjoining Terminal Atlántico Norte, is a safe and well-run budget option with clean albeit basic private rooms. However, the immediate area is pretty grim—you don’t want to be walking around here in the wee hours!
The Hostel El Museo (Avenida Central, Calle 17, tel. 506/2221-7515, www.hostelelmuseo.com, from $15 pp) opened in 2010 and enjoys a great position, literally facing the National Museum on Avenida Central. WiFi is available throughout. Rates include breakfast and tax.
Backpacker alternatives include Casa Ridgeway (tel. 506/2233-6168, www.amigosparalapaz.org, $14 pp dorm, $19 s, $30 d private room with shared bath, $22 s, $34 d private bath), a small guesthouse on a quiet cul-de-sac. Operated by the nonprofit Centro de los Amigos para la Paz (Center of Friends for Peace), it has dorms and private rooms, plus a communal kitchen.
The owners of Costa Rica Backpackers run the slightly more upscale Costa Rica Guesthouse (tel./fax 506/2223-7034, www.costa-rica-guesthouse.com, $35–42 s/d) across the road, with 23 rooms, some with private baths. They vary markedly, and include three upstairs rooms with glass walls and king-size beds. One room has a kitchen and all have free WiFi. A lovely patio and TV room are highlights.
The Hotel Nuevo Talamanca (Avenida 2, Calles 8/10, tel. 506/2233-5033, hoteltalamanca [at] ice [dot] co [dot] cr, $50 s/d, $55 suite, year-round) is a modestly elegant option on the city’s main drag. The 50 air-conditioned rooms and four junior suites (with hot tubs and minibars) are tastefully appointed and have TVs and telephones.
For something more eccentric, try Hotel de la Cuesta (Avenida 1, Calles 11/13, tel. 506/2256-7946, www.pensiondelacuesta.com, $22 s, $28 d), a cozy charmer for those who like offbeat hotels. This 1930s house, full of antiques and potted plants, is adorned with the works of former owners, local artists Dierdre Hyde and Otto Apuy. There are nine rooms, plus a furnished apartment for up to six people. The shared baths are clean. There’s a TV room and self-service laundry. Guests get use of the kitchen and WiFi.
I like the Hotel Colonial (Calle 11, Avenidas 2/4, tel. 506/2223-0109, www.hotelcolonialcr.com, $46 s, $56 d low season, $55 s, $65 d high season), a lovely conversion of an old three-story mansion with high ceilings and carved hardwood beams. Rooms boast spacious bathrooms and picture windows opening to a courtyard with a pool.
Hotel Casa Alfi (Calle 3, Avenidas 4/6, tel. 506/2221-2102, www.casaalfihotel.com, from $30 s, $40 d), a relative newcomer, is named for its British owner, Alfred Richardson. This modest place, on a quiet pedestrian street, has 10 simply appointed rooms. All have cable TV, WiFi, and phone. Guests appreciate Alfi’s personalized service.
Others to consider in this price range include the Hotel Costa Rica Morazán (Calle 7, Avenida 1, tel. 506/2222-4622, www.costaricamorazan.com); the Hotel Vesuvio (Avenida 11, Calles 13/15, tel. 506/2221-7586, www.hotelvesuvio.com); the Hotel & Casino Royal Dutch (Avenida 2, Calle 4, tel. 506/2222-1414, www.hotelroyaldutchcr.com); and the Hemingway Inn (Calle 9, Avenida 9, tel./fax 506/2221-1804, www.hemingwayinn.com).
The adorable Hotel Kekoldi (Avenida 9, Calles 5/7, tel. 506/2240-0804, www.kekoldi.com, $51 s, $62 d standard, $73 s, $83 d superior low season; $57 s, $69 d standard, $79 s, $89 d superior high season), in a two-story 1950s house in Barrio Amón, offers 10 spacious rooms with hardwood floors, tropical pastels, heaps of light, and lovely wrought-iron furnishings, plus cable TV, WiFi, fans, and security box. Breakfasts are served in a beautiful garden in Japanese style.
Also worth considering is the small and homey Hotel Doña Inés (Calle 11, Avenidas 2/6, tel. 506/2222-7443, www.donaines.com, $45 s or $60 year-round), behind the Iglesia la Soledad. It’s a good bet for its luxury bathrooms with full-size tubs, plus TVs, phones, and reproduction antique furnishings in the 20 carpeted bedrooms with WiFi. It has a small and pleasant restaurant for breakfasts and dinner. Rates include breakfast and tax.
Hotel Europa (Calle Central, Avenidas 3/5, tel. 506/2222-1222, www.hoteleuropacr.com, $50 s, $60 d) has 66 spacious paneled, air-conditioned rooms, and two suites with more elegant tones. All have cable TVs, direct-dial telephones, and safes, although the hotel remains frumpy. Four larger “deluxe” rooms have wide balconies at no extra cost. Avoid lower-floor rooms facing onto the noisy street (quieter, inner-facing rooms are more expensive). It has a small plunge pool, a reasonable restaurant, and efficient service. Rates include breakfast and tax.
The Hotel Balmoral (Avenida Central, Calles 7/9, tel. 506/2222-5022, www.balmoral.co.cr; $75 s, $95 d standard, $109 s/d premier, $139–155 s/d suites), a steps-to-everything option one block east of Plaza de la Cultura, offers 112 small air-conditioned, carpeted rooms, plus four junior suites and four suites, all with cable TVs, WiFi (fee), and safe-deposit boxes. A sauna and mini-gym, a restaurant and pleasing outdoor café, a casino, and tour desk and car rental agencies are on the ground floor. It has secure parking. Rates include breakfast.
For old-world charm, consider the Britannia Hotel (Calle 3, Avenida 11, tel. 506/2223-6667, www.hotelbritanniacostarica.com, $65 s or $76 d standard, $80 s or $93 d deluxe, $93 s or $105 d junior suite low season; $77 s or $89 d standard, $93 s or $105 d deluxe, $106 s or $117 d junior suite high season), in a neoclassical Victorian-style mansion built in 1910 in Barrio Amón. The five deluxe rooms and four junior suites in the old house boast high ceilings, stained glass, arches, ceiling fans, mosaic tile floors, and English-style furniture. A new block has 14 standard rooms, all with cable TVs, telephones, safe-deposit boxes, a king-size or two twin beds, plus a private bathroom with tub. The boutique hotel features “tropical courtyards,” a restaurant converted from the old cellar, a coffee shop, and room service.
Another historic charmer is the U.S.–run Hotel Santo Tomás (Avenida 7, Calles 3/5, tel. 506/2255-0448, www.hotelsantotomas.com, $80 s/d standard, $90 s/d superior, $110 s/d deluxe), an intimate bed-and-breakfast with 19 nonsmoking rooms in an elegant turn-of-the-20th-century plantation home with high vaulted ceilings and original hardwood and colonial tile floors. Rooms vary (some are huge), but all have cable TV and direct-dial phones, queen-size beds with orthopedic mattresses, antique reproduction furniture, throw rugs, and watercolors. There are three separate TV lounges and a full-service tour-planning service, library, gift store, and Internet access. The hotel features the delightful Restaurant El Oasis, a solar-heated swimming pool, whirlpool tub, and water slide. Rates include breakfast.
Nearby, the homey, well-run Hotel Don Carlos (Calle 9 bis, Avenidas 7/9, tel. 506/2221-6707, www.doncarloshotel.com, $70 s or $80 d standard, $80 s or $90 d superior, $100 family room) occupies an aged colonial-style mansion replete with Sarchí oxcarts, magnificent wrought-iron work, stained-glass windows, stunning art, and bronze sculptures. It has 36 rooms and suites, including colonial-era rooms reached by a rambling courtyard. All rooms have cable TVs, safes, and hair dryers. It has a gift shop, free Internet service (including WiFi), a tour service, small gym, sundeck with water cascade and plunge pool, plus an espresso bar and a restaurant lit by an atrium skylight. Rates include continental breakfast.
Somewhat more dowdy, La Casa Morazán (Calle 7, Avenidas 7/9, tel. 506/2257-4187, www.casamorazan.com, $45 s or $55 d low season, $55 s or $65 d high season) is also set in a colonial mansion boasting antique furnishings and modern art, plus original (rather stained) tile floors. The 11 air-conditioned rooms all have cable TV, old-style telephones, large bathrooms, and 1950s furniture. Breakfast (included in rates) and lunch are served on a small patio.
Similarly gracious, the Swiss-owned Hotel Fleur de Lys (Calle 13, Avenidas 2/4, tel. 506/2223-1206, www.hotelfleurdelys.com, $ 79 s or $89 d standard, $104 s/d junior suite, $119–135 suite low season; $84 s or $94 d standard, $109 s/d junior suite, $124–139 suite high season). This restored mansion offers 31 individually styled rooms, each named for a species of flower. All have sponge-washed pastel walls, tasteful artwork, phones, cable TVs, hair dryers, and wrought-iron or wicker beds with crisp linens. A wood-paneled restaurant serves Italian cuisine, and live music is offered twice weekly in the bar. There’s a tour desk and on-site parking. Rates include breakfast.
For more contemporary styling, try the modern Hotel Villa Tournon (tel. 506/2233-6622, www.costarica-hotelvillatournon.com, $95 s or $110 d standard, $125–135 s/d superior), in Barrio Tournón, 200 meters from El Pueblo, and full of contemporary art and sculpture. The 80 mammoth air-conditioned rooms are graciously appointed in autumnal colors with wood furnishings and leather chairs. The restaurant, centered on a massive brick hearth, offers fireside dining, and there’s a piano bar. Ask for rooms off the street. It has free Internet, secure parking, and a swimming pool.
The Raya Vida Villa (tel. 506/2223-4168, www.rayavida.com, $80 s, $95 d) bed-and-breakfast is a lovely two-story antebellum-style mansion tucked in a cul-de-sac in Barrio Otoya, at the end of Avenida 11 and Calle 17. The live-in owner, Michael Long, rents four rooms, each delightfully done up in individual decor: the Pineapple Room, ideal for honeymooners, has a four-poster bed; the Mask Room features masks from around the world; another room has a king-size bed and limestone floor and opens to a shaded patio with fountain. There’s an exquisite TV lounge and reading room with fireplace and chandeliers; all rooms also have cable TV plus fans. The place is secluded and peaceful and festooned with original artwork, including Toulouse-Lautrec and Salvador Dalí. Rates include full breakfast and airport pickup.
If you don’t mind institutional-style hotels, the centrally located Sleep Inn (Avenida 3, Calles 9/11, tel. 506/2221-6500, www.sleepinnsanjose.com, $90–100 s/d) offers good value for the money. It’s done up in earth tones, with charming contemporary furnishings and Internet connections, plus king-size beds in junior suites. Rates include local calls.
The 27-room Dutch-run Hotel Rincón de San José (Avenida 9, Calles 13/15, tel. 506/2221-9702, www.hotelrincondesanjose.com, $55 s, $69 d), in a quiet part of Barrio Otoya, offers a pleasing ambience combining antique furnishings and a subdued elegance. It has a lovely skylit restaurant.
Other hotels to consider include the Hotel Inca Real (Avenida 11, Calles 3/5, tel. 506/2223-8883, http://gruporealinternacional.com), Hotel Posada de Museo (Avenida 2, Calle 17, tel. 506/2258-1027, www.hotelposadadelmuseo.com), catercorner to the Museo Nacional; Hotel Castillo B&B (Avenida 9, Calle 9, tel. 506/2221-5141, www.hotelcastillo.biz), a cheap conversion of a 1900-era three-story colonial home; Taylor’s Inn (Avenida 13, Calles 13/15, tel. 506/2257-4333, www.taylorinn.com), with nine nonsmoking rooms in a 1908 property; and Dunn Inn (Calle 5, Avenida 11, tel. 506/2222-3232, www.hoteldunninn.com), in a restored 19th-century home and with lovely furnishings and style.
Opposite the Balmoral, the Hotel Presidente (tel. 506/2222-3022, www.hotel-presidente.com, $101 s/d standard weekdays, $111 s/d weekends; $142 s/d “spa” rooms weekdays, $152 s/d weekends; $135 s/d junior suites weekdays, $145 weekends) has 110 spacious air-conditioned bedrooms, each with direct-dial telephone, cable TV, WiFi, safe-deposit box, contemporary elegance, and travertine-clad bathrooms. The hotel has a rooftop whirlpool and sauna, a casino, and bar, plus a wonderful street-front restaurant and café. Rates include breakfast.
Dominating the downtown skyline is the sophisticated Hotel Aurola Holiday Inn (Avenida 5, Calle 5, tel. 506/2523-1000, www.aurola-holidayinn.com, $104 s/d standard, $140 executive, $200 s/d suite). The modern high-rise overlooking Parque Morazán offers 201 spacious and hermetically sealed rooms featuring regal furnishings, air-conditioning, and WiFi. The 11th floor is smoke-free, an executive floor caters to business travelers, and one room is wheelchair-accessible. Topping off the hotel’s attractions is the mirador restaurant on the 17th floor, adjacent to the casino. The hotel contains a gym, sauna, and indoor pool.
For purely functional comfort, try the handsome albeit overpriced Clarion Hotel Amón Plaza (Avenida 11, Calle 3 bis, tel. 506/2523-4600, www.hotelamonplaza.com, $130–160 s/d standard, $160–190 s/d junior suite, $220–250 suites), in the historic Barrio Amón area. This modern four-story “neo-Victorian” hotel has 90 air-conditioned rooms, including 24 junior and six deluxe suites, all with subdued decor and the expected appointments. Facilities include a spa and solarium, casino, disco, and underground parking, plus elegant restaurant.
The business-oriented Radisson Europa Hotel & Conference Center (Calle 3, Avenida 15, tel. 506/2257-3257, www.radisson.com/sanjosecr, from $135 s/d), on the north side of town, is a contemporary five-star hotel with 107 superior rooms, six executive suites, and one presidential suite, all with air-conditioning, 24-hour room service, direct-dial telephones, cable TVs, minibars, and safes.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition