Friday, October 09, 2009

My First Trip to Costa Rica - where to stay in San Jose, the country's capital?

Three Cheers for Spontaneity
How I "downgraded" from Spa to Hotel to Hostel and am Very Happy!

Map courtesy of Lonely Planet

It was a little nerve-wracking not to know where I was staying my first night here in San Jose,
the capital of Costa Rica. After 14 hours of travel on Thursday, Oct. 8, from Santa Cruz, California, I was tired and regretted I had not made any lodging reservations.

My last-minute attempt to book online at Tabacon Grand Spa (three hours' drive from the airport) had fallen through. Bye, bye pampering and luxury.  I had three nights - Thursday, Friday and Saturday to rest and relax before starting my active vacation, which includes running every day! My next blog post will be all about this trip: The Coastal Experience.

At customs, I told them I was staying at Best Western Irazu, though I had no reservations there. That's where I will meet my group on Sunday.

"Aburrido," proclaimed the official. ("Boring.")

I agreed - Best Western was boring. Why would I stay in a chain hotel? Mostly, because I was so tired and had not researched other options since I was working up until the last minute.

Fortunately, outside the airport, Ines found me waiting for the Best Western hotel shuttle. She talked  me into staying at the Green House Hostel,  30km from the airport.  After 20 minutes talking to Ines and determining that she was not a psycho killer and her establishment was legit. I climbed into her taxi and we drove half an hour to the Green House Hostel. She gave me a great tour along the way, told me about her three kids and growing up at the base of the mountains outside the city.

I checked into the hostel  last night and met the owner Orietta and her son Marco, who run the place. They have been so warm and welcoming. I am thrilled I landed here and will stay three nights. It's humble for sure, but for $20 a night for a private room with bathroom, including wireless internet and egg breakfast, I couldn't be happier.

 The breakfast room. There are 53 beds here at the hostel, but it's nearly empty now - it's off season.

Today was cloudy and overcast, the perfect excuse to stay close to the hostel and adjust to Costa Rica. A few things I noticed wandering around the neighborhood:

- Colones - the name of the currency here. Converting has been tough - 600 colones equal about one dollar.

- "Sobrepesado"  means "overweight." From scanning headlines of the daily paper, La Nacion,  I  learned 60 percent of adults are overweight here! American influence, no doubt.

- Casados - the common dish that is a mix of white rice, beans and meat - chicken, pork or fish.