. 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
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
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.
(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
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.
(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
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.
(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.
(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.)
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.
(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.
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.
(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.
(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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