West of Downtown
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A shining star among San José’s hostels is Mi Casa Hostel (Calle 48, tel. 506/2231-470, www.micasahostel.com, $13 pp dorm, $32–35 s/d room including breakfast), a beautiful 1950s modernist home with a pool table and Internet in the exquisite stone-faced TV lounge, opening through a wall of glass to a stone patio and quaint garden. It has a communal kitchen and laundry. A superb mixed dorm upstairs gets heaps of light; a women’s dorm is simpler. Four private rooms have foam mattresses and vary in size. An annex with eight private rooms was being added at last visit. It’s 150 meters north and 50 meters west of ICE, in Sabana Norte.
Also recommended is Gaudy’s Backpackers (Avenida 5, Calle 36/38, tel. 506/2248-0086, fax 506/2258-2937, www.backpacker.co.cr, from $12 pp dorm, $26 shared room, $30–34 private room), in a beautiful and spotless home in a peaceful residential area. You enter to a lofty-ceilinged TV lounge with sofas and pool table. It opens to a courtyard with hammocks. There are two co-ed dorms (one with eight bunk beds, another with 12 bunk beds) and 13 small private rooms. Guests get use of a full kitchen, and there’s laundry service, plus free Internet.
The Hotel Petit (Calle 24, Paseo Colón, tel. 506/2233-4060, fax 506/2233-3355, www.hotelpetit.co.cr, $35–55 s/d including full breakfast) has 15 rooms, all with hot showers. Rooms vary. Some are light and airy, others dingy; some have electric stoves. There’s a kitchen, laundry service, secure parking, and a cable TV in the lounge, plus a bar and café.
Mesón del Ángel Hotel (Calle 20, Avenidas 3/5, tel. 506/2222-3405, www.hotelmesondelangel.com, $49 s, $59 d) is a restored two-story mid-20th-century home with natural stone highlights. The huge lounge with mirrored wall is graced by a hardwood floor and opens to a pleasing dining room and garden courtyard with outside lounging areas. The 21 rooms (some spacious and with floor-to-ceiling windows onto the courtyard) feature tall ceilings, eclectic furnishings, cable TV, security box, and private bathroom. Rooms facing the street get traffic noise. It offers parking and Internet. Rates include breakfast and tax.
The rambling Hotel Cacts (Avenida 3 bis, Calles 28/30, tel. 506/2221-2928, www.hotelcacts.com, $44 s or $52 d standard, $52 s or $61 d deluxe including breakfast and tax) offers 33 nonsmoking rooms, all with telephone and cable TV, plus private bath with hot water. Some rooms in the new extension are a bit dark and have small bathrooms, although all are kept sparklingly clean. Meals are served refectory-style in a rooftop bar-restaurant. It offers a tour agency, airport pickup, secure parking, and a swimming pool.
The high-rise Hotel Ambassador (Paseo Colón, Calles 26/28, tel. 506/2221-8155, www.hotelambassador.co.cr, $60 s or $65 d standard, $70 s or $75 d junior suite, $120 s or $140 d suite) offers a good location within a 20-minute walk of both the city center and Sabana Park. The 74 air-conditioned rooms are clean and spacious and have minibars, safes, and cable TVs, although there are better deals in town for the price. Amenities include a restaurant, a coffee shop, and a bar with dance floor. Rates include continental breakfast.
The delightful Hotel Occidental Torremolinos (Avenida 5, Calle 40, tel. 506/2222-5266, www.occidental-hoteles.com, $80 s/d standard, $100 s/d suite) is entered via a classically elegant lounge and bar opening to a lush garden with shade umbrellas and a pool. Its 80 rooms and 12 suites in contemporary style are modest in size but handsomely furnished, with lots of hardwoods. All have cable TVs, WiFi, carpeting, clock radios, direct-dial telephones, and hair dryers. Suites have glassed-in balconies. It offers a pool and a whirlpool tub, plus a courtesy bus, car rental service, and a beautiful restaurant. Rates include breakfast.
In a similar vein is the stylish Barceló Palma Real (tel. 506/2290-5060, www.barcelopalmareal.com, $90 s or $95 d standard, $99 s or $104 d executive, $110 s or $115 d junior suite), in a quiet residential area 200 meters north of the ICE in Sabana Norte. This upscale, contemporary boutique hotel, full of marble and autumnal colors, draws a business clientele. It features 65 carpeted, tastefully decorated, air-conditioned rooms, with handsome wooden floors, orthopedic mattresses, and spacious travertine-lined bathrooms. Two suites have king-size beds and whirlpool bathtubs. There’s a state-of-the-art gym, whirlpool tub, business center, bar, and elegant restaurant.
Looking for something more intimate? The small family-run Hotel Sabana B&B (tel. 506/2296-3751, www.costaricabb.com, $69 s or $79 d low season, $85 s or $95 d high season), on the north side of Sabana, offers five simple yet cozy upstairs rooms with parquet floors, fans, cable TVs, and private baths with hot water. It also has one downstairs room for disabled travelers, plus Internet and WiFi, a tour desk, kitchenette, free tea and coffee, and a terrace and garden. Rates include airport pickup, breakfast, and tax. On the south side of the park, the similarly priced Costa Rica Tennis Club & Hotel (tel. 506/2232-1266, www.costaricatennisclub.com) offers a reasonable alternative.
With its superb location on Plaza de la Cultura, the Gran Hotel (Avenida 2, Calle 3, tel. 506/2221-4000, www.grandhotelcostarica.com, $70 s/d standard, $107 s/d superior, $149–185 suites), dating from 1899 and named a national landmark, has undergone a refurbishing. However at last visit it still seemed dowdy; the carpets were dirty, and rooms lack air-conditioning and have tatterdemalion bathrooms. The 102 modestly furnished rooms have WiFi and cable TVs. Rooms facing the plaza can be noisy. Five junior suites are more elegant. It has a basement casino, plus an elegant open-air restaurant merging into the hotel’s 24-hour Café 1830.
For self-catering, the best options are Apartotel La Sabana (tel. 506/2220-2422, www.apartotel-lasabana.com), on the north side of Sabana Park; Apartotel Cristina (tel. 506/2220-0453, www.apartotelcristina.com) nearby, 300 meters north of ICE; and the Apartotel El Sesteo (tel. 506/2296-1805, www.sesteo.com), 200 meters south of McDonald’s on Sabana Sur.
Focusing on a business clientele, the Days Hotel (Avenida 3, Calle 38, tel. 506/2547-2323, http://dayshotelsanjose.com, $129 s/d standard, $159 s/d superior, $199 junior suite), in the Centro Colón tower, has gone upmarket following a $3.5 million upgrade. Its stylish aesthetic will please city sophisticates. The 98 carpeted, air-conditioned, and non-smoking rooms (including 42 suites) are furnished in rich chocolate, taupe, and tropical tones, with king-size beds, WiFi, flat-screen TVs, CD/iPod stations, safes, hair dryers, and telephones with free local and international calls. Some rooms have volcano views, suites have kitchenettes, and there are four wheelchair-accessible rooms. There’s an executive floor with a business center, the classy Sepia Lounge Bar & Restaurant, a casino, a small gym, and a nightclub/bar.
The Hotel Grano de Oro (Calle 30, Avenida 2, tel. 506/2255-3322, www.hotelgranodeoro.com, $130 standard, $155 s/d superior, $180–190 s/d deluxe, $200–355 s/d suite) is indisputably the city’s finest hotel (and a great bargain). It’s my hotel of preference whenever I stay in San José. The guestbook is a compendium of compliments. “What charm! What comfort!” “The best hotel we’ve stayed in—ever!” “We would love to keep it a secret, but we promise we won’t.” A member of the Small Distinctive Hotels of Costa Rica, the gracious turn-of-the-20th-century mansion, in a quiet residential neighborhood off Paseo Colón, proves that a fine house, like a jewel, is made complete by its setting. Congenial hosts Eldon and Lori Cooke have overseen the creation of a world-class hotel that combines traditional old-world Costa Rican style with contemporary elegance. An expansion graced the hotel with a dramatic glass-covered staircase entry, a stylish lobby, and a superlative restaurant that is indisputably San José’s finest. Orthopedic mattresses guarantee contented slumber in 41 faultlessly decorated guest rooms, done up in a variety of sophisticated color combinations and featuring black rattan and handcrafted iron furniture, plus king-size canopied beds in some rooms. Gleaming hardwood floors and rich chocolate carpets add to the sense of refinement. Flat-screen cable TV, safes, minibars, and direct-dial telephones are standard, and all rooms are air-conditioned. Extravagant bathrooms boast torrents of piping-hot water. The sumptuous rooftop Vista de Oro suite has a plate-glass wall providing views of three volcanoes. There’s a well-stocked gift shop and a rooftop solarium with two whirlpool tubs. No request is too much for the ever-smiling staff.
Nearby, and a total contrast, is the Crowne Plaza Corobicí (tel. 506/2232-8122, www.crowneplaza.com, $110 s/d standard, $140 junior suite, $331–501 suite), on the northeastern corner of Sabana Park. Its angled exterior is ungainly, but its soaring atrium with a surfeit of marble and tier upon tier of balconies festooned with ferns is impressive. The 213 spacious rooms and suites boast handsome furnishings and modern accoutrements. Suites have kitchenettes. It has a business center, nightclub, casino, 24-hour cafeteria, Internet café, plus Italian and Japanese restaurants.
Nearby, and bringing San José squarely into the 21st century, Parque del Lago (Paseo Colón, Calles 40/42, tel. 506/2247-2000, www.parquedellago.com, $75–113 s/d) is a modern four-story hotel with 33 beautifully decorated, air-conditioned rooms, plus six suites with kitchenettes, all with a hip contemporary vogue (and to-die-for mattresses) and white, orange, and dark hardwood color schemes. Cable TV, direct-dial phone with fax, minibar, coffeemaker, and hair dryer are standard. Suites have kitchenettes. There’s a fabulous café/restaurant and bar, plus a spa, Internet room, and meeting rooms. Dominating the advertising pages of local publications, the Hotel Casa Roland (tel. 506/2231-6571, www.casaroland.com, $95 s or $110 d rooms, $130 s/d executive, $230 s/d suite) is off Rohrmoser Boulevard in Pavas. Crammed full of original paintings and oversize murals, plus potted plants, this rambling entity is claustrophobic (many of its 18 rooms have no windows). An adjoining restaurant, however, impresses.
The overpriced Barceló San José Palacio (tel. 506/2220-2034, www.barcelosanjosepalacio.com, $177 s/d standard, $223 junior suite, $235 executive, $270 suites) has 254 carpeted, air-conditioned rooms, plus all the expected facilities for a hotel of its size. However, the hotel’s location on the Autopista General Cañas two kilometers northwest of the city necessitates a taxi, and it charges for its three-times-a-day shuttle to San José.
Other good options in this range, including the Ramada Plaza Herradura and the Costa Rica Marriott Hotel and Resort, can be found in Ciudad Cariari, just outside town and close to the airport.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition