Costa Rica City Hotels: Where to Stay in San José

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The capital of Costa Rica is not an especially appealing city. I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to visit San José, but often one’s flight schedule requires an overnight in or near the capital. Central San José can be aggressively ugly, even in wealthier neighborhoods, making it wise to overnight in a suburb. For that reason, I decided to check up on our longtime recommendation of Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort, located about 20 to 40 minutes from the airport, depending on traffic, on a hillside overlooking tropical gardens and the distant lights of the city.

Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort

The 14 accommodations occupy a whitewashed mansion with unusual tropical art nouveau-style architecture, as well as two separate villas that are ideal for families. (Several suites can also accommodate children.) There is no air-conditioning, but San José is situated at an elevation of 3,845 feet.

Our hardwood-floored Master Suite, El Guarumo, offered plenty of space, with a large living room separated by a mushroom-shaped arch from a hallway. A mural of a motmot (a colorful Central American bird) decorated the bedroom beyond. In the bath was a free-form built-in tub overlooking a terrace, which had fine views over treetops to a sliver of San José. The living room’s brown-and-green botanical-print sofa was hideous. Nevertheless, I was glad to be in a suite with some sense of place, rather than in an anonymous chain hotel downtown.

We had two lunches and a dinner at the open-air restaurant, which has views of San José and the mountains beyond. The service was casually friendly and efficient, and the food — fresh tostadas topped with pejibaye (a local palm fruit), hummus, farmer cheese, chayote and pickled watermelon rind; and corbina (a firm white fish similar to sea bass) topped with chorizo and Creole sauce accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes and chard — was leaps ahead of where it had been on our previous visit five years earlier.

The exterior of Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
The entrance to Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
The atrium of the mansion at Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort - EdgardoQuesada.com
The pool at Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
<em>El Tigre Vestido</em> and <em>El Búho Bar</em> at Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort in Santa Bárbara de Heredia, Costa Rica
People walking during the coffee farm tour at Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Coffee beans growing on the plantation at Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

The resort offers tours both on and off the property, and we very much enjoyed some early-morning bird-watching with a private guide, as well as a semiprivate visit to the hotel’s organic coffee plantation, which melds almost seamlessly into the jungle.

- Hotel at a Glance -

Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort    90Andrew Harper Bird

Like

The unusual, curvaceous architecture; the friendly staff; the much-improved restaurant; the interesting tour of the property’s 42-acre coffee plantation; the setting amid gardens and jungle.

Dislike

The lack of complimentary bottled water in the room; the sometimes dated décor; no room service; the occasionally lackadaisical staff (the dead batteries in our room’s safe were never replaced despite repeated requests).

Good to Know

Rooms have screened windows but no air-conditioning (nights are cool). Accommodations in both the main mansion and the villas are about five minutes on foot from reception and the restaurant.


Rates: Master Suite, $500; Villa, $620
Address: Calle Tierra Blanca, Santa Bárbara de Heredia, Costa Rica
Telephone: (506) 2269-9392

View Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort Listing

Hotel Alta Las Palomas

The balcony of our suite at Hotel Alta Las Palomas
The balcony of our suite at Hotel Alta Las Palomas - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

On the southern side of the airport, opposite to Finca Rosa Blanca, is a property that glossy travel magazines seem to love, the 23-room Hotel Alta Las Palomas. This hotel feels more like a suburban mansion than a resort; its décor is contemporary and chic. A soaring central hallway leads past a brushed-steel reception desk to a small library lounge. Our suite had eggplant walls, cream-upholstered seating and terra-cotta tile floors. It was a pleasure to enjoy a cocktail on the balcony as the sun set and the lights of the city strengthened.

The exterior of Hotel Alta Las Palomas - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
The pool and exterior of Hotel Alta Las Palomas - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
A staircase at Hotel Alta Las Palomas - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
The interior of <em>la luz restaurant + bar</em> at Hotel Alta Las Palomas - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
The living area of our suite at Hotel Alta Las Palomas - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Our suite at Hotel Alta Las Palomas - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Unfortunately, the room smelled of inexpensive air freshener, and the upholstery showed signs of wear. More problematic was the lack of soundproofing, which allowed for noise from both the hallway and the road just above the hotel. The garden pool looked filmy, and stains marred the loungers surrounding it. These issues added up. Finca Rosa Blanca has its flaws, but it remains the best option near San José.

- Hotel at a Glance -

Hotel Alta Las Palomas    88

Like

The hillside setting overlooking San José; the compact arrangement of the property; the cheerful and helpful staff; the price.

Dislike

The sometimes sloppy housekeeping (cobwebs in the restaurant chandeliers); maintenance issues, such as stained loungers by the filmy pool and slightly worn furnishings.

Good to Know

Accommodations that are higher up have better views, but they are also more exposed to street noise in the morning.


Rates: Master, $275; Grand Suite, $350
Address: Sobre Carretera Vieja, San José, Costa Rica
Telephone: (506) 2282-4160

Hotel Alta Las Palomas

Read more about our editor’s trip to Nicaragua & Costa Rica

By Hideaway Report Editor Hideaway Report editors travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who the editors are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.
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