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. Budget Accommodations

Hotel Petite Victoria

(Av 2 & Calle 28, ./fax 506/233-5193, 16 rooms, restaurant/bar, parking, breakfast included-). If you’d love to stay in one of San José’s old Caribbean-style wooden Victorian mansions but think they are beyond your budget, check out the economy/moderate prices at the Petite Victoria, near the Grano de Oro, one block off the Paseo Colon from the Pizza Hut. This corner B&B has a fascinating sitting area near the reception, with original hand-painted floral tile floors, Victorian latticework room dividers and a circular center settee. The rooms are very basic, without much appeal other than that they’re in an old, old house with tongue-and-groove painted wood walls and high ceilings. A young clientele keeps the bar / restaurant busy.

Hotel Doña Inés

(Calle 11, between Av 2 & 6, behind the Iglesia La Soledad, . 506/222-7443, fax 223-5426, www.amerisol.com/costarica/ lodging/ines.html, telephone, local TV, parking, restaurant, breakfast included, ). The Italian-owned Doña Inés stands out as a quaint and quiet B&B in immaculate condition. Located behind the Soledad Church and across from the Mercado Nacional de Artesania, this little colonialstyle villa is painted white with lime green trim. It’s well worth checking out.

The smallish rooms (some without exterior windows) are centered around tropical patios with green plants everywhere. We describe the rooms as “old-fashioned sweet” – perhaps like the bedroom you had at your grandmother’s house – with a 1950s clock radio, shiny wallpaper, floral bedspreads and a chintz armchair. The dining area and darling little bar are semi-formal, with heavy Spanish-style furniture. The hotel serves full breakfasts (included in the rate) and cook-to-order dinners by reservation. Secure behind a graceful wrought-iron gate, and with little or no traffic noise in the rooms, we found the Doña Inés homey and appealing.

Gran Hotel Costa Rica

(Av 2 at the National Theater, . 506/256-8787, fax 256-8585, US, . 800/949-0592, www.granhotelcr.com, 110 rooms, with 3 suites & 4 jr. suites, 2 restaurants, casino, cable TV, room safe, coffeemaker, breakfast included). In the tradition of Central American town planning, the center of a city houses a “grand hotel,” usually the oldest and most prestigious. San José’s Gran Hotel, which misses being the oldest by a hair, was built in the first decade of the 1900s. And while it may still be the most prestigious, its rooms and public areas are somewhat worn. The standard rooms are a good size (some have a king-size bed) and painted in light colors or off-white with striped bed covers. The Presidential Suite takes up a huge corner of the hotel overlooking the square.

It has a large bedroom, sitting and dining rooms with a wet bar, and two bathrooms. This hotel is in the center of everything, but lacks its former glory. The inside restaurant is quite good, and the outdoor café La Parisien – open 24 hours – is San José’s best place to sit and eat or have a drink while the world passes by your table. Check out our review under All-Night Eateries, page 146.

Taylor’s Inn

(Av 13 near Calle 3,.506/257-4333, fax 221-1475, taylor@ catours.co.cr, 12 rooms, cable TV, non-smoking, tropical breakfast included, -). The appealing Taylor’s inn is a quiet B&B in the Barrio Amón neighborhood that’s sure to please. A block down from the Britannia and several other good hotels, Taylor’s has an artsy charm both inside and out – and it’s all non-smoking! Just across the Río Torres from the El Pueblo complex. The front of the one-story building is exposed brick with painted flowers gracing the white wooden trim and wrought iron window grills. Adriano Arie, an Italian immigrant and skilled worker on the National Theater, built the original house in 1908. Unlike the grandiose theater building, the home he built on a side street is simple Spanish colonial. Where reception and the breakfast area are now was once open as a courtyard garden. The bedrooms that rent out are the original that faced the courtyard along the hallway. Up front are several rooms that also feature sleeping lofts. Full kitchen privileges. Good family hotel. Tasteful works of art are displayed throughout and no hooch or hookers allowed.

La Casa Verde

(Calle 7 & Av 9, ./fax 506/223-0969, www.zurqui.com/ crinfocus/verde/cverde.html, 5 rooms & suites, carriage house room, cable TV, telephone, room safe, parking, tropical breakfast included). Built around 1910, La Casa Verde – the Green House – was once the family home of Don Carlos Saborio Yglesias, an influential figure in Costa Rican political history. Yglesias was a governor of Alajuela. He also owned a large cattle ranch near Limón and made a great deal of money providing beef to the Panama Canal Commission. His mansion was restored so authentically it won its current North American owner a National Restoration Award in 1994 and has been declared a National Historic Site.

Caribbean style with a Victorian twist, it is built of tongue-and-groove wood, painted wintergreen and has a wrap-around porch. Inside, it is richly decorated in period and has wonderful public areas, including the central formal atrium with stained blue glass, a black grand piano, wraparound veranda and sun porch. Unique bedrooms are full of antiques, original art and oriental rugs.We loved the little Victorian carriage house in back. It was remodeled in mid-2000 and serves well as a neat honeymoon suite or just a stylish place to stay. The green casa commands a busy corner in the Barrio Amón, San José.

Hemingway Inn

(Av 9 & Calle 9, . 506/257-8630, www.hotels.co.cr/ hemingway.html, 17 rooms, cable TV, telephone, room safe, jacuzzi, tropical breakfast included). In an old Spanish colonial mansion high on a corner across from the Don Carlos sits the Hemingway. It looks more formal than it is, with moderately priced accommodations in the heart of the historic district.

The only pretension that Hemingway Inn expresses is that each room is named for famous authors, including the friendly corner room graced with Ernie’s moniker (#4); number 16 (Pamplona) may be the larger. Pleasant public areas. The rooms are appealing, but basic. Eric Robinson, an environmentalist from Canada who offers tour services, owns the popular inn. The jacuzzi is set in the garden.

Hotel La Amistad

(Av 11 & Calle 15, . 506/221-1597, fax 221-1409, www.centralamerica.com/cr/hotel/amistad.html, 22 rooms, cable TV, in room safe, telephone, breakfast included). The Amistad is simple and clean. It has natural wood walls in the bedrooms and is a popular stopover corner hotel in the quiet Barrio Otoya section of San José. Triply attractive for cheery accommodations, low price and friendly staff – plus, it draws interesting clientele from around the world. Amistad means “friendship” in Spanish. Dependable, pleasing place to stay.

Cinco Hormigas Rojas

(Calle 15 between Av 9 & 11, ./fax 506/257- 8581, 6 rooms, 2 shared baths, full breakfast included). Cinco Hormigas Rojas translates from the Spanish as “Five Red Ants,” reflecting owner Mayra Güell’s love of nature – even nature shunned by city dwellers. Her small, funky B&B is tucked in a thriving, overgrown jungle garden front yard, all behind a secure iron gate. Mayra is an artist and her accommodations definitely show it – wait till you see the bathrooms! Her sense of style combines a Haight Ashbury “Summer of Love” artistic attitude with a Tica naturalist’s love of all creatures great and small. “People tend to look only at the macro world,” she explains. “I want them to appreciate the beauty of the micro world.” Each basic room has a different color scheme, with bright curtains, plants and a very eclectic décor. Her paintings and art are everywhere – she has an obvious feminine theme – and are all for sale. Cinco Hormigas offers Costa Rica’s natural beauty in the middle of a city, and Mayra’s home attracts birds, butterflies and human wanderers from all over, including five red ants.

Hotel Edelweiss

(Av 9&Calle 15,.506/221-9702, fax 222-1241, www. edelweisshotel.com, 29 rooms, bar, cable TV in most rooms, telephone, continental breakfast included). The quaint Edelweiss hotel resembles an Alpine chalet. It’s pale green, with diamond-shaped white window grills and custom-designed furniture inside. It sits on a somewhat busy corner in the Otoya Barrio. Though no one wears lederhosen or sings, “The hills are alive, with the sound of music...” the atmosphere is appealingly European. The hotel features a big open patio bar with lots of greenery under the skylight and comfortable accommodations woven together in winding hallways. Light sleepers should avoid rooms that face the street, even though the corner room, #14, is particularly interesting. We fancied the garden-like setting of #8. A good value.

Hotel Europa

(Calle Central & Av 5, . 506/222-1222, fax 221-3976, www.zurqui.com/crinfocus/europa/europa.html, 72 rooms plus 3 suites/apartments, pool, air, cable TV, telephone, room safe, restaurant, room service). The Europa is San José’s oldest hotel (1903), but it doesn’t show. It hosts annual North American Elder Hostel programs when they’re in town. (Elder Hostels are organized learning vacations, primarily but not exclusively for retirees, and they are great values.)

The Europa is a grand old dame of a hotel, with an old-fashioned feel, but with modern rooms and good prices. The color scheme is rather dark, in bold blue/green and wine, but the rooms are spacious and comfortable. There is an outdoor pool and an impressive formal restaurant. Make sure your room doesn’t face the busy street corner. Several suites/apartments are for rent. One has three bedrooms and costs around US 450 (negotiable), plus tax, for up to four people staying six nights, seven days.

D’Raya Vida B&B

(Calle 15, Av 11 & 13, . 506/223-4168, rayavida@ hotels.co.cr) is a luxury B&B run by North Americans in a quiet area of large residential homes north of the Casa Amarillo, in Barrio Otoya, near the Bolivar Zoo Park. It’s an old, small colonial-style villa that has been restored and decorated with artwork from around the world. One of the four guest rooms features masks from African and Latin American cultures hanging on the walls. D’Raya Vida is very special, but very hard to find in what feels like a maze of side streets. Best to get a cab.

Dunn Inn

(Av 11 at Calle 5, . 506/222-3232, fax 221-4596, willpa@sol. racsa.co.cr, 23 rooms plus one suite, mini-bar, cable TV, restaurant/bar, telephone, barber shop). The Dunn Inn (owned by two North Americans) has kind of a relaxed California atmosphere, especially in the cheery skylight-covered bar and restaurant. Lots of hanging plants, terra cotta tile, exposed brick, and an American clientele add to that impression. Good-size rooms in the original 100-year-old mansion have warm natural wood walls, which can make it a tad dark in the evening.

There are also newer rooms, some slightly smaller, in an addition under a bright hallway. Modern bathrooms throughout. All bedrooms are named using an indigenous or Spanish word and the meanings are posted on wall plaques. The hotel’s large appealing suite features a jacuzzi. Skylights are effectively used throughout the hotel to open up the interior. Look for the giant-stained glass window of birds and flowers outside; it is part of a private apartment. There is an English-speaking barbershop attached, where owner Roy has over 50 years experience.

Hotel Cacts

(Av 3 bis, Calle 28 & 30, . 506/221-2928, fax 221-8616, www.tourism.co.cr, pool, includes breakfast). Three blocks north of the Paseo Colon is the Hotel Cacts, a contemporary home with a warren of rooms. An appealing third-floor sun terrace is used for breakfast and is a good value for a moderate cost. They will hold your luggage if you’re off for the day. Very friendly and personable.

Hotel Jade y Oro

(Av 1, Calle 31 & 33, . 506/256-5913, fax 280-6206, www.jadeyoro.com, 10 rooms, tropical breakfast, telephone, level three in the CST rating – see page 49 – ). Named after the two big museums in San José, the “Jade and Gold” is an inviting, lavishly decorated Spanishstyle mansion that has been in the same Costa Rican hotelier family since 1941. High ceilings, original Portuguese tile floors, polished hardwoods, tropical gardens and lovely large rooms make this a fine place to stay in town. Guests get to mingle at happy hour when the convivial hosts bring out wine and cheese in the garden. Ask Sabrina about their all-inclusive packages that include at least six tours, meals, entrance fees, lodging and bilingual guides. The packages are a good way to get an informed overview of Costa Rica in a week.

Kap’s Place

(Calle 19 between Av 11 & 13, . 506/221-1169, fax 256- 4850, www.kapsplace.com, cable, phone, breakfast included, ). A mother-daughter team of Tica hoteliers offer this wonderful little bed and breakfast guesthouse on a quiet street in Aranjuez, one of San José’s oldest barrios. Walk downtown in 10 minutes or take a local bus. The lovely home boasts three nicely decorated rooms with private baths, plus an apartment that sleeps four. Guests have full kitchen privileges and there’s a garden terrace with hammocks. A pleasant place to stay. Long-term rates offered. Owner Karla Arias’ charming mother, Isabel, runs their other hotel, Cabinas Playa Cacao near Golfito in the south.

Hotel Gran Via

(Av Central, near Calle 3, . 506/222-7737, fax 222- 7205, www.granvia.co.cr, 32 rooms, cable TV, room safe, desks, telephone, café-restaurant). The long Gran Via sign runs vertically up the side of this interesting multi-story hotel. It has a central location on the pedestrian walkway, within sight of the Plaza de Cultura. Take the skinny elevators to the café on the third floor, where you can sit on the balcony and people watch or choose a more comfortable little tables inside. Some floors have a water cooler in the hallway. The rooms are fairly large with either a queen or two twin beds. Small bathrooms. Clean and bright.

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