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Acommodations in San Jose

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Hotel Santo Tomás

(Av 7 between Calles 3 & 5, . 506/255-0448, fax 222-3950, www.hotelsantotomas.com, 20 non-smoking rooms, safety deposit boxes, pool & jacuzzi, restaurant, telephone, cable TV, tropical breakfast included-).

It’s easy to miss the Santo Tomás because of its relatively nondescript outward appearance, right on the sidewalk of Av 7 in Barrio Amón. But if you do walk on by, you’ll miss one of San José’s most pleasing little B&B inns. Owner Thomas Douglas, a North American, saved this beautiful home from demolition 11 years ago. Built in 1910 by a former coffee baron, it features antique Louis XV reproduction furniture, hand-painted tile, highly polished wood floors, Persian rugs and 14-foot-high ceilings. Most rooms rent on the first floor, well back from any traffic noise. A very helpful staff provide assistance with travel plans, including car rentals. There’s a beautiful solar-heated pool with a waterslide, hard-to-find amenities in the downtown area. A restaurant, El Oasis, is set in the garden courtyard patio.

The hotel has an ideal location close to everything downtown. A half-hour of free Internet access is included in the room rate, plus local telephone calls are free.

TROPICAL BREAKFAST

You’ll often see a “Tropical Breakfast” offered on the hotel menus. Offering a healthy start to the day, tropical breakfasts feature fresh fruit, cereal and yoghurt.

Hotel Grano de Oro

(Calle 30 between Av 2 & 4, . 506/255-3322, fax 221-2782, www.hotelgranodeoro.com, 35 rooms, jacuzzis, restaurant, telephone, cable TV, gift shop, mini-bar, room safe, non-smoking). The Grano de Oro, grain of gold, is an excellent choice if you desire luxury without ostentation.

Set in a quiet residential section west of the Hospital de los Niños, the Grano was once one of the grand old mansions that dot San José’s better neighborhoods. The public areas, lighted by skylights, are decorated with plants and fountains, original artwork and carpeting. The large rooms are universally well appointed and comfortable, decorated in blues and whites and warmed with oriental rugs and natural woods. Spotlessly clean. Ask to see several rooms (such as the ones with French windows facing the patio) and you’ll be unable to choose. They offer a simple two-bedroom family suite as well as the Garden Suite and the Vista de Oro Suite, both of which are stunning. All rooms are non-smoking. Rooftop jacuzzis and sun deck. Even local residents know the Grano because its lush garden patio restaurant is famous for gourmet meals in an intimate setting. It’s worth eating here on a special occasion (lunch or dinner), even if you don’t stay here. Reservations suggested.

Hotel Fleur de Lys

(Calle 13, between Av 2 & 6, . 506/223-1206, fax 257-3637, www.hotelfleurdelys.com, 30 rooms plus master suite, telephone, cable TV, parking, mini-bar, restaurant, bar, breakfast included, -). The French-flavored Fleur de Lys is a high-quality conversion of a beautiful Victorian mansion into a pleasing hotel. All bedrooms are named after native Costa Rican flowers and the 12 rooms in a new addition are jr. suites with jacuzzis. The original 19 rooms in the old house are artfully restored with rich wooden ceilings, original paintings and sculpture and comfortable beds with floral duvets. Marble bathrooms have hair dryers. Public areas in this pink and purple hotel sport the original architectural details, including magnificent tile floors.

Forget your umbrella? An umbrella stand at the front door is full of colorful ones for guests’ use. The intimate restaurant overlooks a green patio and features French food, and the cozy bar includes a terrace. Fleur de Lys is off the busy streets, but is still close to everything. It’s owned by the rafting people, Adventuras Naturales (you’ll read more about their company on page 136). Just around the corner on Av 6 is a public parking area with a super clean, open-air, diner-style counter eatery, La Melee.

Hotel Britannia

(Calle 11&Av 3,.506/223-6667, fax 223-6411, in US, . 800/263-2618, www.centralamerica.com/cr/hotel/britania.htm, 24 rooms and jr. suites, restaurant for breakfast and dinner, cable TV, telephone, ). The Britannia is a step above most mansion-into-hotel conversions and it caters especially well to North American tastes. More formal and regal, this downtown gem is a grand pink house with a wraparound porch and large central lobby lighted by stained glass above the atrium. All the rooms in the old house section (built 1910) are large, with high ceilings, Mosaic tile floors, rugs, fine wallpaper and generally pleasing décor. If you’re looking for dependable luxury in the historic northern section of town, Hail Britannia.

Hotel Don Carlos

(Calle 9&Av 9, .506/221-6707, fax 255-0828, www. doncarlos.co.cr, 36 rooms, cable TV, restaurant, gift shop, room safe, parking nearby, continental breakfast included-). The Don Carlos is celebrated as an attractive, clean and comfortable colonial hotel that takes up an entire corner block in a residential area of downtown. You’ll know you’re there when you pass beautiful hand-painted tile episodes from Cervantes’ Don Quixote set into their brick wall facing Calle 9.

Typical Costa Rican scenes grace the wall on Av 9 and bronze statues of campesinos (country folk) rest near the entry. A wall at the reception is completely tiled with colorful hand-painted tiles of village scenes (tiles are for sale individually in their well-stocked, well-known, and very large gift shop). The hotel’s bedrooms are in two buildings divided by a patio breakfast area with two bubbling fountains. The “colonial” section has the older rooms with typical high ceilings. The newer rooms on two upper stories feature parquet wood floors and floral bedspreads with complimentary curtains. There is original artwork throughout, most for sale. In a previous life, the Don Carlos hotel was the mansion of a Costa Rican president. The attic suite, with two queen beds, is a good value at under US 90 because it has a large amount of space and lots of privacy. No charge for children 12 or younger sharing a room. Lunch and dinner are served in the Pre-Columbian Lounge, where stone reproductions of Maya statues fill a waterfall fountain. Sadly, we found the restaurant’s food somewhat disappointing.

Hotel Al-ki

(Calle 13 between Av 9 & 11, . 506/222-6702, fax 221-2533, in US, .770/660-1503, www.traveltocostarica.com, 6 rooms plus 1 suite, restaurant, pub, telephone, cable TV, breakfast included). The name Alóki may sound Hawaiian but it is Bribri, an indigenous Costa Rican language, and it means “ray of sun.” Perhaps the North American owner was inspired by the morning sunlight that filters through the huge skylight covering the courtyard dining area. As you enter, this formal central dining area almost steals the show from the magnificent hand-painted tile floors, antique furnishings, fresh tropical flowers and colonial ambience found in the guest rooms.

It is a turn-of-the-century Spanish home in the true colonial style with rooms built around a center courtyard and a hall walkway surrounding. In the case of the Alóki, the courtyard has been tiled and made into a restaurant with starched white linen and fine crystal. At back is a balcony overlooking the woods near the zoo. Here you’ll find a more informal but equally pleasing pub restaurant. Well worth a special meal out, even if you’re not in the hotel. Formerly called L’Ambiance.

Hotel Presidente

(Av Central walkway & 7, . 506/222-3022, fax 221- 1205, www.hotel-presidente.com, 110 rooms and suites, cable, telephone, restaurant/café, parking). The Presidente is a pleasant downtown hotel right on the pedestrian walkway at the heart of San José.We stayed here twice and really enjoyed its convenience and comfort. The public areas were remodeled late in 2001, when the restaurant and coffee shop expanded. It’s owned by the same people who run the Tabacón Resort at Arenal, and each property will gladly make reservations at the other. Helpful staff.

Hotel Balmoral

(Av Central, between Calle 7 & 9, . 506/222-5022, fax 221-1919, www.balmoralcr.com, 110 rooms, air, cable TV, telephone, restaurant, parking, business center). The Balmoral sits at the end of the pedestrian Av Central. The formal entry foyer is impressive, with sand marble floors, leather furniture and natural cherry wood trim. This hotel, which caters to business travelers, remodeled its public areas and rooms in late 2000. The standard room – which most tourists opt for because of the price – is a little smaller with a less fancy bathroom than the superior room. (The fancy bathroom is attractive, but worth nearly twice the price.) Two queen-sized beds in each. Excellent little restaurant out front.

Hotel Le Bergerac

(Calle 35 & Av 8, Los Yoses, . 506/234-7850, www. bergerac.com, 18 rooms, restaurant, breakfast included-). Three houses, separated by gardens, make up this distinguished inn run by a couple from Québec. Some of the rooms feature private gardens. L’Ile de France is the name of the French courtyard restaurant that everyone raves about.

Hotel Milvia

(50 meters164 feet north and 200 meters/658 feet east from Centro Comercail Muñoz y Nanne, San Pedro, . 506/225-4543, fax 225- 7801, www.hotel-milvia.co.cr, 9 rooms, cable TV, e-mail, breakfast included, -). The Milvia is set on the corner of a quiet side road a short walk from the two universities in San Pedro. This intimate, sophisticated inn occupies a turn-of-the-century restored Caribbean villa. Each of the large rooms is non-smoking, tastefully furnished and infectiously bright and cheerful. Lunch and dinner are available in their polished dining room, and cheap eateries abound near the college. Coffee and tea is available all day long – gracias. Children stay free when sharing a room with their parents. Best bet in San Pedro, or perhaps San José for that matter.

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