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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: 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
LGBT 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.