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Costa Rica Hotels

Hotel Tip of the Week: Mountain Paradise Hotel | La Fortuna, Costa Rica

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Through the security gate and up the winding driveway, past prehistoric looking flowers and exotic grasses, we knew we were too early. 11am is not exactly a polite time to check in to a hotel – just after breakfast, guests checking out, rooms being cleaned. Before we were dazzled by the gorgeous gardens, we only wanted to drop off our bags and head back down to hike the base of the volcano in the Arenal National Park. Entering the lobby, we were dazzled immediately by the staff as well.

Mountain Paradise Hotel Arenal Costa RicaGreeted with refreshing cold towels to freshen up before filling out the check-in forms, a waiter then appeared with a small blended fruit drink for both of us. After waiting ten minutes sunk into one of several comfortable couches in the lobby, our bags were loaded onto a golf cart, and we were whisked away across the spacious property, following narrow little paths winding around lush, tropical plants and colorful cottages.

Mountain Paradise Hotel in Arenal Costa RicaMountain Paradise Lodge is exactly as the name suggests. Thirty or so cottages are spread out throughout this Costa Rican Eden, and our massive  room makes up half of one such cottage set fairly far back on the property. Our back patio has a Jacuzzi and two rocking chairs to watch nature pass by. Just on the fringe of the national park, the hotel property is alive with songs and sights of hundreds of incredible birds – from the flittering hummingbirds chasing each other around the bushes to giant turkey-like black birds with bright yellow beaks that casually crossed over our back yard. Called Great Currassows, these birds brought guests out of several nearby cottages, as none of us even knew creatures like this existed until that moment.

Mountain Paradise Hotel in Arenal Costa Rica with hummingbirdsBack inside the room, we were almost tempted to stay in and blow off our hike…we could have made ourselves coffee in the little machine on the table, sprawl out on either the king or the queen beds in the room and watch a little something on the flat screen TV above the patio door…or we could have just hung out under the waterfall in the bathroom.

Mountain Paradise Hotel Arenal Costa Rica roomYes, our giant bathroom, really more of a wet room, has a waterfall shower, complete with rocks and flowers around the sides. Next to it is also a stand-up Jacuzzi shower with several jets and nozzles to massage the entire body as you shower. There is a small toilet room, a sink, white fuzzy towels and all different levels of lighting to choose from in the bathroom, which is larger than several hotel rooms we have stayed in on our travels.

Mountain Paradise Hotel in Arenal Costa Rica bathroomAs luxurious as our room feels, however, we are also tempted to spend the day down in the pool area. Mountain Paradise Lodge has a large, heated pool with a swim-up bar where guests of all ages mingle day and night. There is also a small whirlpool set behind a waterfall for guests looking for a bit more privacy in the pool, plus either sun chairs or hammocks to relax in a covered area behind the pool.

Mountain Paradise Hotel in Arenal Costa Rica swimming poolWe actually made it past the pool and back into the car for a long hike at the volcano and a trip to the giant La Fortuna waterfall that day, and came home that first night so tired we could only sleep like babies in that comfortable king bed.

Both mornings we ate at the generous breakfast buffet, which is included in the room rate. There is an omelet station for made-to-order eggs, classic Costa Rica dishes like Gallo Pinto, plus fresh tropical fruits, yogurts, cold cuts and cheese for sandwiches, toast and jam, plus small brownies and cupcakes, fresh juices and bottomless coffee. The large restaurant, just off the pool area and across from the lobby building, is also open for lunch and dinner, but we found it a little overpriced, even considering the perfect vistas of Volcano Arenal from almost any table.

Mountain Paradise Hotel Arenal Costa Rica Breakfast BuffetEvery member of staff we met was friendly and helpful and the waiters were always up for a chat with the guests over breakfast.

Stand-out feature: The beautiful grounds

Mountain Paradise Hotel is truly appropriately named. Sure, we loved having our own private waterfall, and our own Jacuzzi, and the heated swimming pool area…but just walking down to breakfast along the paths past exotic plants spotting blue morpho butterflies bigger than the hundreds of hummingbirds in the trees is better than most jungle hikes we’ve been on – in Costa Rica or otherwise.

Mountain Paradise Hotel Arenal Costa Rica FlowersRoom for improvement: The Wi-Fi

It is easy to assume that almost all guests are here on vacation, so the fact that the wi-fi in the cottages is patchy is not a major issue. Not everyone is a digital nomad like we are. However, in the mornings and evenings  as we sat working on a couch in the sitting area in the back of the restaurant, there were several guests also seated near the Wi-Fi router, checking emails on their smart phones and a few on their laptops, too.  A full strong signal in each of the rooms is the only detail missing in this mountain paradise.

Overall

On our last day in the area, we took a little drive to find the best view of the volcano to take some photos. When we returned, we realized that the greatest views of Arenal were right there at the hotel.

There are a number of hotels along the road between the volcano and La Fortuna, and some appear very grand while others seem comfortable, cute and quaint. They are probably all great places to stay, but from the minute we checked in to our hotel, we could have cared less about the others.

We honestly feel like Mountain Paradise is the perfect hotel in the La Fortuna/Arenal area. We appreciate the amount of luxury included in the affordable room rate, which makes this paradise more accessible than other more ’exclusive’ resorts nearby.

Mountain Paradise Hotel in Arenal Costa Rica flowersLocation: Del centro de la Fortuna, 7KM camino al volcan Arenal, Fortuna, Alajuela Costa Rica
Price: Starting at $150 for a double room including breakfast in high season / $110 in low season
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly:  Passable wi-fi in reception, patchy in the rooms.
Amenities: Heated swimming pool with swim-up bar, complimentary breakfast buffet, restaurant, Jacuzzi or private pool in the room, waterfall shower, free wi-fi, free shuttle service to La Fortuna, tour and transportation booking service, free parking
Website: http://hotelmountainparadise.com/

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Hotel Tip of the Week: Fenix Hotel | Playa Samara, Costa Rica

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The tiles are cold under my feet as I stand making green tea on this chilly morning. The kettle begins to whistle, then louder, drowning out the sound of the pounding waves I have been staring at out the window. Dani and I are sat at the kitchen table, just 100 feet from the ocean, at Hotel Fenix on Playa Samara, Costa Rica, taking advantage of the rainy weather to get some work done.

Hotel Fenix Samara Costa RicaWe love our room even on a rainy day, but on a sunny day, Playa Samara is paradise, and Hotel Fenix a perfect spot from which to enjoy it. The hotel is made for relaxation. All six rooms open onto a small pool, just beyond which are plenty of hammocks and sun chairs lining the top of the beach. Horses occasionally gallop by, as do a handful of tourists, but unlike other beaches in Costa Rica, Samara always feels relatively empty, even during our visit in high season last year (when we asked you, politely, NOT to come here at all).

Hotel Fenix Samara Beach Costa Rica with flowersOur hotel is definitely one of the closest to the water, but all houses and hotels on Playa Samara are set back in the trees so that when you stroll along the 4.5 miles of coastline around the bay, you see only a dense line of palm trees, sand and easy waves perfect for newbies to learn to surf.

Hotel Fenix Samara Beach Costa RicaFor now, though, we have taken solace in our room, which luckily feels a lot like having our own beach-front condo. The property was originally built as six condos years ago, the American owner, Bill, tells us. The project lasted only one year, however, and when it went up for sale, Bill and his wife Phyllis bought the Fenix and have been living here and running the hotel for over ten years, along with their children, his mother, a dog, some cats and a poor little partly-paralyzed squirrel.

The room has a full separate bedroom, which has a comfortable queen bed with colorful crisp bedding. Just outside the bedroom are the toilet and shower rooms. The kitchen is fully equipped with an oven, fridge, dishes, plates, silverware, a blender, plus dish soap, enough towels and a chorreador, a traditional Costa Rican coffee-making device. We are able to prepare almost all our meals in the kitchen – not because the restaurants are far, but because after so long on the road cooking holds more appeal than ordering off a menu. The town center is an easy 15-minute walk up the beach or a five-minute cab ride and there is no shortage of food options. There is one deluxe room, which makes a strong leap into a truly luxurious option. The bed and bedroom are larger, there is a couch in the room and extra futon in the kitchen (making it perfect for groups or families), as well as a full fridge, flat screen TV and air-conditioning.

Hotel Fenix Samara Beach RoomWhile this feels like ‘home’, the room is cleaned spotlessly every day like a top hotel. The friendly cleaning woman comes in, makes our bed, sweeps out all the sand, mops the floors, dries any recently washed dishes and puts them all back away, so that every time we come back from an afternoon out, it feels like we have just arrived for the first time.

The room is very open, with only screens covering many of the windows. While this does mean plenty of breeze and waking to the sound of the waves and birds every morning, it also means no sound-proofing and overhearing conversations of other guests. This wasn’t a huge problem as ultimately everyone is there to relax and enjoy life.

Hotel Fenix Samara Beach Costa RicaStand Out Feature: The Bodega

When you get to Samara and stay here at the Fenix Hotel, you might think it strange of us to highlight what is essentially a fairly dark, narrow room where the cleaning lady keeps her mops and towels. But the bodega (meaning ‘storage room’, in Spanish) represents the ethos of the hotel, which is meant to be a home away from home. First, there is a microwave for all guests to use and fridges with beer and other cold drinks for sale on the honor system. The prices match those at local shops rather than overpriced mini-bar prices, which indicates to us that they offer this as a convenience to you, not strictly as a profit for them. There is a small lending library for light beach reading, card and board games, and dozens of boogie boards for guests to use free of charge, an information board with all local tours available and a page for guests to fill in restaurants they ate at in town and can recommend for future guests.

Hotel Fenix Samara Costa Rica bodegaRoom for improvement: A facelift

As we have learned after living in two beach houses this year, between the jungle, the sea breeze, the sand, and torrential rain, any structure on the beach needs constant updates and improvements. The Fenix Hotel could just use a bit of a facelift. Window screens are a bit dated and the kitchen utensils (silverware, Tupperware, cutting boards, etc) could stand to be replaced.

Overall

A stay at the Fenix Hotel is like having a beach-front apartment, with all the perks of  a well-run hotel. A stay here ensures the beach experience people go to Costa Rica in search of. We found it to be entirely relaxing and also the perfect place to watch Samara’s incredible sunsets.

Hotel Fenix Samara Beach SunsetLocation: Samara Beach, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Price: Starting at $85.00 for a double room in low season / $110 in high season
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Excellent wi-fi reception in all rooms and even by the pool; monthly rates available.
Amenities: Free wi-fi, swimming pool, fully-equipped kitchen in every apartment, laundry service, tour and transportation booking service
Website:
www.fenixhotel.com

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Hotel Tip Of The Week: B&B Casa 69 in San Jose, Costa Rica

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A trip to Costa Rica is about spotting incredible wildlife, surfing perfect waves and soaking up the sun and the capital does not reflect the wonders that the rest of the country has to offer. San Jose lacks the colonial charm of other Central American cities and unfortunately fails to fill the space with a modern, chic vibe. The result is a practical city that most travelers use to transfer in and out of on their way to the beaches, volcanoes and the airport.  But sitting up on the roof terrace at Casa 69, watching the lights twinkle out and up into the mountains beyond the city managed to make even San Jose feel pretty magical.

costa rica casa 69 san jose terrace at nightDay and night, Casa 69 Bed and Breakfast feels like a refuge from the city and feels more like a home than a hotel.  Entering the yellow walled property through a blue metal door off a side alley puts guests straight on a walkway in what feels like a lush green jungle garden, and leads into a living room with a large L-shaped couch and arm chairs to sink into, a big TV and a computer and a printer as though in someone’s private home. Across the hall there is a dining room with a dark wood table and shelves with maps, pamphlets and guide books. The check-in is in here, at what is the kitchen counter. The breakfast nook is cosy, bright yellow room where from 7-10am, the breakfast of coffee, tea, bread, butter, jam and fruits is served each morning. Heartier breakfast meals are available for around $5 each.

costa rica casa 69 san jose restaurantOur room was all the way up at the top on the roof, and we had those great mountain views from our bed. The black and white comforter and sequin pillows felt a little flamboyant (I go for big fluffy pillows and gluttonous amounts of comfort) but the king-size bed felt amazing after a long travel day. While the room extends that feeling of staying at a ‘friends’ house, the en-suite bathroom brings value to the room, with its recently renovated feel, excellent shower, pedestal sink, great use of space and crisp, clean design. The hotel’s Wi-Fi wasn’t great though. It works best nearest the router, which means some rooms get a great signal, others get none. Ours was intermittent at best.

costa rica casa 69 san joseLooking out at the city beyond, watching the thick rain clouds pour over the mountains in the afternoon and clear up by night fall feels great, though at some point the intense coils of sharp metal wire and wrought iron bars bring back the reality of the city beyond the walls of the hotel. San Jose is not a particularly dangerous place, and we felt perfectly safe walking into central San Jose to the Paseo Colon pedestrian area, a 20 minute walk from the hotel passing  the national museum, a tourist market, churches and restaurants along the way. Casa 69 is just across from the Nicaraguan embassy, a minute from an Irish rock pub, and around the corner from a typical Costa Rican ‘soda’ serving up typical Tico food and a Pizza Hut for travelers in need of fast and easy comfort food.

costa rica casa 69 san jose We left at 5am the next morning and the night manager was up and happy to call us a cab, just as had been promised the night before. This was the first gay-owned B&B we had stayed at in Central America, and we were impressed with what a well-oiled machine it is, with friendly owners and staff all around, plus several cats and puppies to warm even the coldest of hearts.

Stand Out Feature: King Size Bed

This isn’t the most original, and honestly, the rooftop views are pretty stellar. But the large bed was unexpected and felt extravagant. It is also comforting to know about a dependable, comfortable place to stay in San Jose for all those times we transfer through this major travel hub.

costa rica casa 69 san jose pillowsRoom for Improvement: Security and a suggestion

Our rooftop room had sliding glass doors, which were great for floor to ceiling views, and then a wrought iron gate which closed and locked in front of the doors. But the sliding glass door itself did not lock and could easily be opened. Granted, a thief would have be pretty wiry to get in under the last wrought iron bar and into the room, plus pretty sneaky to make it into the house, through the living room, kitchen, up three flights of stairs and to that door to begin with, but I want my door to lock no matter what.

A second suggestion is regarding the breakfast element of the Bed & Breakfast. The nature of travel to San Jose means that many guests are likely up and on their way to a bus or the airport before the 7am breakfast time. The owners knew we were leaving early and a couple had left the day before at 4:30am. Because breakfast is included in the room rate, I’d like to see Casa 69 (and all B&Bs for that matter) up their game a bit and offer a takeaway breakfast bag with a bit of bread and butter/jam and a coffee to go.

Overall

Casa 69 is a friendly, stable spot to stay in San Jose, perfect for arriving to or leaving from for long flights or bus rides and a stay of a week or so would allow guests a sense of home in the Costa Rican capital.

casa 69 in san jose costa rica
Location:
Casa 69,  69 calle 25 , Barrio California, San Jose (80 meters south of the Embassy of Nicaragua, yellow house, right hand, house # 69)
Price: Starting at $45.00; breakfast included
LGBT Friendly: Definitely (gay-owned)
Digital Nomad Friendly: Iffy – Wi-Fi connection better downstairs
Amenities: Free wi-fi, complimentary breakfast, rooftop terrace with sun chairs, patio and big lounge room on the ground floor
Website: 
www.casa69.com Casa 69 on Facebook

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Hotel Tip Of The Week: Casa Valeria in Samara Beach, Costa Rica

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Welcome to our weekly Hotel Tip of The Week series. 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.

One sweltering Sunday afternoon in the landlocked town of Nicoya, Costa Rica, we stood at the bus station with hopes to get down to Montezuma, but it was late and the only direct bus driving anywhere toward the beach was headed for nearby Samara Beach. We had no idea this would become one of our favorite Central American destinations when we spontaneously hopped on and an hour later were walking up the main street, our noses sunk into our Footprint guidebook for advice on where to stay. None sounded great and by looking around most seemed far above our budget. On a whim, we checked out Casa Valeria.

Luck was with us that day, as it turns out, as we couldn’t have been more satisfied with our choice of accommodation in Samara Beach. Casa Valeria sits on one of Samara’s two main streets, which runs parallel to the beach and hosts a slew of beach front hotels and restaurants. The hotel is a bit plain compared to its neighbors when seen from the street, but as we poked our head around the large entry gate, we were pleasantly surprised by the view: five stand-alone beach-side bungalows on either side of a yard with palm trees, plenty of tables and chairs, and hammocks further down towards the beach.

Casa Valeria bungalow Samara Beach

Rather than book into a bungalow for $50, we opted for one of the two budget rooms for $30, knowing we would spend most our time out at the gorgeous beach at less than a minute walk from the door to the water. The rooms are simple, but the beds are big, clean and comfortable, the waves lull you to sleep at night quickly. Every room has a private bathroom with a hot water, fluffy towels and creative décor.

Unlike the standard hotels in the area, Casa Valeria offers a practical experience. Rather than setting up an overpriced restaurant on-site, Casa Valeria makes available a large kitchen for guest use. The kitchen is clean, and while nothing fancy, has the necessary dishes, pots, pans and silverware to cook up and serve simple but complete homemade meals. Two showers are set up in the middle for washing off the sand, and plenty of clothesline space is present, outside but well-hidden, for guests to hang their wet clothes to air dry overnight, keeping your room free of that musty half-wet swimsuit smell.

Samara beach from casa valeria

Stand Out Feature: Value for Money Bungalows

The beach bungalows are excellent value for money: for $50 per night, guests stay in a private bungalow that couldn’t get closer to the beach, and yet a five minute walk from a well-equipped supermarket and plenty of restaurants and bars.

Stand Out Feature: A spacious kitchen

The usage of a good kitchen is one of the few advantages of hostel stays compared to hotels, and even though Casa Valeria is geared more toward mid-budget travelers, the kitchen, with its large fridge and plenty of counter space, is a great way to save cash on a at least a couple of meals and certainly on coffee. For budget travelers, Costa Rica accommodation can be pricey, so a beach front hotel with its own kitchen means a couple (or two friends) can quite easily stay here for around $40 per day per couple, food included.

Casa Valeria Hammocks & bungalow

Room for improvement: Lack of Wi-fi

We almost never stay somewhere without Wi-Fi and Casa Valeria was an exception to the rule. One evening as we sat writing (and probably getting more work done without distracting gossip blogs, videos and Twitter) we overheard the son pointing us out to his mother, explaining the need to install wireless internet. His argument was convincing and we’re fairly certain that Casa Valeria will over Wi-Fi sooner rather than later.

Overall

Casa Valeria is one of the best budget beachside hotels that we have seen so far. The owners are a very friendly family who keep the hotel and the yard spotless. The extras (free coffee, clothes lines, beach showers) are the icing on the cake. Casa Valeria embodies one of those strange travel conundrums, where budget hotels at times offer much better free and guest friendly services than their luxury counterparts up the road. It is a place where you can truly forget and ‘log off’ for a week or two – right at the beach and at the same time close enough to all the delicious restaurants, juice bars, nightlife and a small, but quality supermarket to gather ingredients for some cheap and easy cooking.

Casa Valeria GardenLocation: Beach front in town, near supermarket
Price:
Double room bungalow with private bath and hot water $50, budget double room (no entire bungalow) with private bath $30
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BT Friendly: As far as we could tell, yes. Not directly discussed.
Amenities:
Kitchen, hammocks, outside sitting area, coffee & tea, kitchen with fridge, stove, books
Digital Nomad Friendly:
Not until they get wireless internet
Website:
No website, but listed with phone number here.

Sunset Samara Beach Costa Rica

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Hotel Tip Of Week: Cabinas Atlantic Surf in Cahuita, Costa Rica

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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.

Cabinas Atlantic Surf may be a modest and moderately-priced hotel, but the managers are five-star all the way. Sometimes we rave about a hotel’s amenities, other times it’s all about the beds, showers or the view. At Cabinas Atlantic Surf, we ended up staying an extra night at the hotel thanks to Wendy and Javier, the super-friendly couple in charge of this hostel in Cahuita, Costa Rica.

Cabinas Atlantic Surf Cahuita

The cabinas themselves are sturdy wooden rooms with large screened-in windows. Each room has one large double bed and one small single bed – both comfortable and clean – and an en-suite bathroom with shower (some hot, for $$ extra).  The house is surrounded by a luscious green garden and resident cat, with a path leading to a newly-built kitchen built by Wendy and Javier at the back of the hotel (see Stand Out Features below).

Cabinas Atlantic surf room Cahuita

Not to be confused with the actual owners, Jenn and Shannon, this Tico/American couple to manage the hotel. Javier, from California, splits his days between keeping the hostel in top condition, chatting with guests, and playing the guitar with a couple of other hotel owners on the block, while his girlfriend Wendy, from Heredia, Costa Rica, tells stories and makes you laugh while she sweeps away. The four of us talked about everything from road trips and music to ideas for new companies and renewable energy. For two digital nomads to stay two nights in a hotel with no wi-fi means we must have been plenty charmed by this pair.

Cabinas Atlantic Surf terrace with hammock

Stand Out Feature: A clean & spacious kitchen

Wendy built the kitchen, so it is brand new, spotless and comes fully equipped with an electric kettle, traditional Costa Rican coffee maker, toaster oven, toaster, a stove and a fridge. Wendy even keeps spices, oil and other basic ingredients available for guests to use. There is a small table with chairs, but the kitchen could use an additional dining table would have been nice as it was awkward to eat at the table.

Cabinas Atlantic Surf kitchen

Stand Out Feature: Stay for free!

Cabinas Atlantic Surf offers free accommodation in return for help at the hostel, a fabulous deal for long-term travellers looking for an extended stay in Cahuita, Costa Rica.

Room for improvement: Wi-fi

Cabinas Atlantic Surf does not have wi-fi. You can try to get online from the neighbor’s connection, but it is not reliable. We know not all hotel guests require wi-fi, but having had internet access in far more remote locations, it should be possible in one of Costa Rica’s most popular tourist destinations. Who knows, we may have stayed even longer, too!

Overall

Cabinas Atlantic Surf offers basic, clean and spacious rooms at a good price. All rooms have a private bathroom as well as a little balcony with hammocks which makes for a great space to relax with one of the huge cups of fresh Costa Rican coffee. The kitchen is an inviting space to prepare meals and is the perfect place for travelers to mingle. The proximity of the hostel to the (free) National Park makes it a breeze to spot sloths or monkeys any time of day.

Cabinas Atlantic Surf garden Cahuita

Location:
Price:
Double rooms with private bath and hot water US$25, single rooms with private bath US$20, rooms with private bath without hot water US$10 per person
Gay
Friendly: yes
Amenities:
Kitchen, balconies, 5 minutes walk to the National Park
Digital Nomad Friendly:
Not until they get wireless internet
Website:
http://cabinasatlanticsurf.com/

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Hotel Tip of The Week: Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda | Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

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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.
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Sitting on the bus from Quepos to our hostel near Manuel Antonio National Park, we knew that, at $10 per night per person, the Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda would not actually be paradise. And on arrival, it was clear we were right. But even though we can provide a list of imperfections with the place, we still highly recommend this budget hotel in Manuel Antonio, an obligatory stop on any Costa Rica vacation.
Costa Linda Backpackers Paradise Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
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The best thing about Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda is that the rate, $10 per person per night, applies regardless of what type of room you stay in – whether its in a bed in a 4-6 person dorm or in a private single or double room. Rooms are spread out over two floors, and while the dorms are a bit dark and grungy (but still far better than the 12 to 14 bed dorms we have seen!), the single and double privates are basic but nice, with comfortable beds, strong fans and peace and quiet despite the location of the rooms at the back of the popular restaurant. Call ahead to secure one of the private rooms, to make the most of that $10 price.
Double Room Costa Linda Backpackers Paradise
Bathrooms, also shared with restaurant guests, are cleaner and brighter than might be expected. Despite heavy use by guests and diners, the bathrooms in this Manuel Antonio hotel always had plenty of toilet paper and were never overly dirty. The showers are clean, and come with large rain showerheads and good water pressure. As far as shared bathrooms go, we have seen much, much worse.
Costa Linda Backpackers Paradise Bathroom Girls
The front of the building is the restaurant/bar and is hopping morning, noon and night on the weekends. The menu is basic, cheap and good for international tourists of all ages, made up mainly of pasta and rice dishes, and the breakfast (see below) was certainly a stand-out feature of a stay at this hostel. During the week, the restaurant is closed after breakfast and before dinner. When not hanging at the beach in Manuel Antonio, hotel guests are welcome to hang here all day, drinking the bottomless cups of free coffee and tea on offering, and using up as much of the free wi-fi connection as they would like. The hotel also offers a laundry service (expect to wait at least one day longer than you’re told to get the clothes back) and the most comprehensive collection of German books we have seen in any book exchange anywhere.
Costa Linda Backpackers Paradise Restaurant
While we’ve mentioned the location of the hotel as a Stand Out Feature below, we want to mention that both the pristine beaches inside the park and the main town beach are absolutely beautiful. Plan in two or three days of utter laziness around your Manuel Antonio National Park visit, and make sure to soak up some Costa Rican sun here.

Stand Out Feature: Location

Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda is the only budget accommodation option located directly in the small town of Manuel Antonio itself, and is just 100m from the entrance to the National Park and a two-minute walk from the beach. The rest of the budget spots are located a half an hour away in the main town of Quepos, requiring a 30min bus ride not only to get to the National Park (the main reason for your visit), but also to the beach and back every day (there is no beach worth visiting in Quepos).
Manuel Antonio beach view
Stand Out Feature: The Price
This great location is available for $10 per person per night, easily half the next best hotel price Manuel Antonio town. The majority of hotels throughout Costa Rica are comparable to U.S. prices, making Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda an absolute steal. In fact, we hope the owners don’t read this and realize just what a bargain they are offering!
Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda Price List

Stand Out Feature: Breakfast

For 1800 Colones, or $3.50, the breakfast served up at the restaurant is large enough to fill you up until dinner. The first plate is spilling over with slices of fruit, and is followed by a second plate of scrambled eggs, bread and a heaping mound of our beloved Gallo Pinto.
Costa Linda Backpackers Paradise Breakfast

Room for improvement: Disorganization and apathy

Last week we recommended Hotel Hansi on Bocas del Toro, Panama and stated that it was no surprise that the German-run hotel was so organized and spotless. This hotel is also German -owned and couldn’t be less organized if they tried. As you will find from the reviews on TripAdvisor for Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda, the hotel is filled with imperfections. Our negative experience centered entirely around customer service staff who were constantly stressed: the ladies in the kitchen were also responsible for the laundry, the waiters were also responsible for check-in and check-out. This led to everyone always waiting for something.
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The staff at this Manuel Antonio hotel seem to rely on the honesty of their guests, as our food bill was often wrong. This was sometimes in their favor – which we contested – and other times in our favor. While we were honest about really owing more, how many other guests wouldn’t take a free night’s stay or free bottles of water? When the wi-fi went out one day, the entire staff and the owner all just shrugged their shoulders and made no attempt to help – even when specifically showed the problem with the router and how to fix it.

Overall

The lack of customer service and professionalism means that guests at Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda do actually get what they pay for – what more can you expect for $10 a night?! However, the location and the price literally can’t be beat, which is why we recommend budget travellers to take the bad with good, and book this hotel in advance for their Manuel Antonio visit.
Costa Linda Backpackers Paradise
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Location: Turn left into the road up the hill at the main bus stop in town and walk for 100 meters. You will see Costa Linda Backpackers Paradise on the left side.
Price: $10 per person in a single, double or dorm.
LGBT Friendly: No idea, they would never notice.
Amenities: Bottomless coffee and tea, free wi-fi, book exchange, laundry service

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Hotel Tip Of The Week: Cabinas El Pueblo in Santa Elena (Monteverde), Costa Rica

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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.

Cabinas El Pueblo is a three-minute walk from the town center, and the supermarket is even closer, which makes it so easy to find everything you need to cook up a meal or make sandwiches here in the well-equipped kitchen (see Stand Out Features below).

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.

Free Breakfast
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.

Room for improvement: Enough with the signs already

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.

Overall

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
Website:
www.cabinaselpueblo.com
Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Monteverde-Hostel-Cabinas-El-Pueblo/143773492965
Email:
[email protected]

If you found this post useful, check out the rest of our Hotel Tip of the Week series.

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