Welcome to our weekly series Hotel Tip of The Week. Being on the road every day of the year means we stay at countless hotels along the way. For all the dingy, disappointing budget digs, there are as many budget accommodation gems. We post one hotel tip of the week, every week, of places we feel confident recommending after having tried and tested them ourselves to show you how budget travel can be possible as well as enjoyable.
As one of Costa Rica’s top tourist destinations, Monteverde Cloud Forest has no shortage of accommodation, ranging from luxurious spa hotels to simple campsites.
High-end hotels are set deeper into the forest on the main road leading to the National Park while most of the budget accommodation is concentrated in the nearby town of Santa Elena, an easy 6km bus ride or enjoyable hike to the park. There are over 20 hotels to choose from in Santa Elena, and most fall within the same price range and offer similar amenities. When looking online beforehand, we instinctively chose Cabinas El Pueblo, which offers all the things we usually look for in a hotel: free wi-fi, private rooms, and a lounge area where we can work. We were definitely not disappointed.
In fact, from the time we arrived into Santa Elena we were pleasantly surprised at every turn. Stepping off the bus after a nine-hour ride from the heat of Manuel Antonio to the chilly mountain town, we were greeted by the friendly hotel owner, who knew our names and led us down to the hotel. Once our packs were stored in our clean and cosy double room, we were shown around the hotel, given a map of the area and all of the hiking and tour options were clearly explained to us so that when we left shortly after for dinner, we felt we had a handle on everything to see and do in Monteverde.
Cabinas El Pueblo in fact doubles as a tour agency, and guests can book all tours and activities onsite: the Cloud Forest tours (including guides), horse back riding, night hikes, zip-lining, butterfly gardens. Prices are the same as through the agencies in town and Cabinas El Pueblo promise a full refund in case of cancellations. This is something that other tour agencies do not promise, apparently, which is made perhaps a little too clear on the signage throughout the hotel (see Room for Improvement below).
We immediately felt right home at the ‘cabinas’, which in Costa Rica usually means a guesthouse. Even basic accommodation in Costa Rica tends toward expensive, so the $20 double rooms seemed like quite a find. There are two clean shared bathrooms with hot showers on the bottom floor, which the five doubles share with a small three-bed dorm ($10 per person). The spacious private double rooms upstairs not only have en-suite bathrooms but also come equipped with a fridge for $35.
The living room has a TV and board games for guests, and the outdoor patio has hanging chair hammocks and a big table. The wi-fi works well both downstairs and upstairs, and those without a laptop can use the three computers upstairs in the office for free. As most visitors to Monteverde spend much of the day and also evenings out on hikes, the hotel stays quiet during the day, and evenings are also quiet as tuckered out guests head to bed relatively early. This peaceful environment and mountain fresh air was perfect to get work done as well – for the workoholics/digital nomads out there.
Stand Out Features
A clean & spacious kitchen
This kitchen is kept absolutely spotless and comes fully equipped with an electric kettle, coffee maker, toaster oven, toaster, two stoves and a fridge, which while pretty full, still fit all our items and was also clean.
Free coffee and tea all day
Cabinas El Pueblo not only provides a coffee maker but also delicious Monteverde coffee, and allows guests to put on a new pot anytime. Tea drinkers have an even better deal, thanks to the full selection of teas available, the best we have seen anywhere in Central America, with English breakfast tea, herbal tea, two different fruit teas and Earl Grey. Free milk for both is also provided.
Although several of the signs throughout the place say that breakfast is only free if you book a tour with the hostel, breakfast was included every day. Guests sign up for one of two breakfast options written on a whiteboard the evening before. Breakfast varies daily and always includes fresh fruit and either tea or coffee.
Free sloth sightings
There are a couple of sloth families living across the street from the hostel who are frequently seen moving along the electric wires that run alongside the street at night (sad, but true, and these animals are fascinating!). Sitting in the kitchen after spending a good part of a night hike spotting sloths, the owner excitedly ran in and ushered us all outside to watch the sloth make its way along the wires.
Until this point, everything at Cabinas El Pueblo seems to be set up to cater 100% to the needs of guests. However there was one point that needs massive improvement and is a serious pet peeve of ours. From the minute you walk into the hotel, you are bombarded by information as every available bit of wall space is plastered in signs. Not exactly the commanding military-like signs we’ve seen elsewhere which constantly screech NO in clipped commands, at Cabinas El Pueblo signs are long, drawn-out affairs in very jumbled English explaining everything from what guests are allowed to do, what they are not allowed to do, more information about the town, more information about your breakfast (commission made from booking with the hotel’s agency allows them to make breakfast free for everyone), and a few things we did not understand at all but think there may have been a fine involved for breaking the rule.
Cabinas El Pueblo is run by friendly & welcoming Ticos who clearly aim to run a clean, well-maintained hostel and keep guests happy. The tour agency on-site makes info readily available, and the super-clean kitchen, comfortable beds and ample relaxation space makes the hotel a great spot to recharge your batteries for a few days.
The Sloth Backpackers Hostel right next door is run by the same family and comes with similar amenities (including sloth sightings!) should Cabinas El Pueblo be full.
Location: Down behind the supermarket and 50 meters up the road, but if you call ahead, you will be met at the bus stop upon arrival.
Price: Double rooms with shared bath US$20, Doubles with en-suite bath US$35, dorms $10.
LGBT Friendly: yes
Amenities: Wi-fi, kitchen, terrace, lounge, TV, games, tour agency, great location
Digital Nomad Friendly: Yes
If you found this post useful, check out the rest of our Hotel Tip of the Week series.