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Downtown San Jose - 3 couples - 2 nights

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posts: 2
Downtown San Jose - 3 couples - 2 nights

Three couples in our early 30s are taking a trip to CR in early August. We are ending our 10 day trip with 2 nights (but basically just one full Sunday) in San Jose before flights out on Monday. We want to stay downtown so we can see the city, explore, walk, etc. and it would be nice for our hotel to have a pool. Our plans are to hit up the Museos & the Mercado Central. We are also into eating & cocktails.

The other posters on here do not seem to recommend the downtown area, but we are used to the congestion and the group is pretty set on staying down there, unless there is a reasonable alternative without excessive driving as we will not have a car. Are there any hotels in the downtown area that are recommended? Doesn't have to be fancy, but has to be tidy, clean and walkable. We want to make a good decision and enjoy the last full day of our trip seeing the city and eating/drinking before we head home. Recommendations are appreciated!

San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 3,527
1. Re: Downtown San Jose - 3 couples - 2 nights

I would recommend you the Hotel Presidente right downtown, it is on the pedestrian walk on Central avenue and very close to Museums, Central Market etc. Another one would be the Gran Hotel Costa Rica

Edited: 11:55 am, May 15, 2012
Barrie, Canada
posts: 2,033
reviews: 34
2. Re: Downtown San Jose - 3 couples - 2 nights

I like the Hotel Gran Costa Rica, mostly because of its location right in front of the National Theatre with a great patio fro people watching. The Grano de Oro gets the highest rating on TA, but I have not stayed there. You will have a hard time finding a nice hotel right downtown that has a pool but there are some in Escazu and other outlying areas.

San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 3,527
3. Re: Downtown San Jose - 3 couples - 2 nights

I forgot about the pool, for downtown with a pool check the Aurola Holiday Inn, it is located 3 blocks away from the pedestrian walk I mentioned above, they have an indoor pool. The Hotel Santo Thomas also has a pool downtown.

Edited: 12:41 pm, May 15, 2012
Jaco, Costa Rica
posts: 1,013
4. Re: Downtown San Jose - 3 couples - 2 nights

I really enjoyed staying at the Holiday Inn in the past. Also, do a search on hotels in Barrio Amon. There are some very quaint spots there, no pool though.

posts: 2
5. Re: Downtown San Jose - 3 couples - 2 nights

Thank you all for your recommendations! This is very, very helpful. Maybe I can talk the group out of the pool req - that would certainly open up the options. I don't think we'd be at a pool much anyway with all the sight-seeing to be had downtown. Thanks again, HJJ

Tampa, FL
Destination Expert
for San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 2,055
reviews: 1
6. Re: Downtown San Jose - 3 couples - 2 nights

Pools downtown are very few and far between (as would be expected where real estate is at a premium) and even where they do exist tend to be pretty small (good for dipping but that's about it and definitely not laps). Only 26 of the 87 hotels that TA lists for the San Jose indicate they have pools, but most of those that do are not even remotely near downtown. In fact, the highest rated one is actually in Escazu and the one after that (the highly popular Adventure Inn) is actually way out by the airport, nearly 10 miles from downtown. By my count, there are really no more than 5-6 that could really be considered to be within a reasonable walk of downtown attractions (and in decent areas) and only 4 that break into the top half of TA's hotel rankings for SJ. Of course, there are also 4 "Specialty Lodgings" with pools downtown, but in this case that is another name for Hostels and I'm guessing that is probably a bit too much on the not too fancy side for you.

Of those, the Santo Tomas is probably the nicest (or at least the most highly rated). The pool is small but is attractive and even has a waterslide. The hotel ranks 9th on TA's list, is not too fancy but reasonably priced (like you want) and is located in a fairly decent area as long as you limit your walks in the direction of the downtown attractions just a few blocks away (as you probably would).

Falling a bit behind the Santo Tomas in ranking at #17, and not yet mentioned, is the Don Carlos. Slightly higher priced and in a slightly better location (in the heart of Barrio Amon as opposed to the fringes and just 1 block from the Jade Museum), but what it calls a "pool" barely qualifies and is extremely tiny even by downtown standards. This hotel used to be higher rated than the Santo Tomas AND priced about the same. I'm not sure what has happened, as I haven't actually stayed there myself in several years. Perhaps it is becoming a victim of its own success, raising prices due to its popularity and previous great reviews, while simultaneously letting that quality slip?

Next down the list at #26, is the Maragato. I don't know anything about this hotel since it changed hands several years ago, least of all its pool. It lists prices starting around the same level as the Santo Tomas, but is even more centrally located being directly across the promenade from the previously mentioned Gran Hotel and diagonally across from the Plaza de la Cultura, the Gold Museum and the National Theatre.

Close behind El Maragato, is the only other downtown hotel with a pool that has been mentioned thus far, the Holiday Inn Aurola at #28. I haven't stayed here either but all 1st hand reports I have heard have not been that favorable and I find myself wondering as much how this hotel managed to rank this high as I do how the Don Carlos has come to rank as low as it has (even though it still ranks way ahead of the HI). Like the Santo Tomas, the HI is located on the edge of a not so nice area, but OTOH is only half as far away from the downtown promenade and next to a small string of leafy city parks.

As you can see, the pool things greatly limits your choices, but if you had to go with one of those than IMHO the Santo Tomas would probably be your best fit.

What about hotels without pools? Of the 2 mentioned thus far, the Presidente and the Gran are both extremely centrally located. The Gran has probably has a slight edge being located right on the Plaza de la Cultura, but ranks only #45 on TA's list. I've also heard that the make-over that is readily seen on the hotel's exterior and 1st floor common areas was not extended to the rooms which had a reputation for being somewhat rundown. Plus, part of that aforementioned makeover was to screen-off more (with plants) the patio area from the rest of the Plaza (greatly cutting down on street vendor harassment but also curtailing the people watching). Given that and your desire for a hotel with a pool, you might just be better advised to try El Maragato across the street.

The Presidente is a bit pricier than the Gran but also more highly rated here on TA at #7. In terms of location it is practically as good as the Gran being just 1-2 blocks away (and still right on the pedestrian promenade. In a move similar to the Gran, the Presidente severely curtailed the people watching from its famed Rail Cafe. For that you might try instead the Balmoral across the street, which is also a decent choice for a hotel right on the promenade (ranked #22).

Finally, regarding sightseeing downtown, there are a few things to keep in mind. The Central Mercado is basically dead on Sundays, so don't expect much there if it is even open. You should also be aware of certain museum hours so that you can plan ahead. On Sunday, when you'll be there, the Jade Museum is closed completely and the Museum of Costa Rican Art (not to be confused with the Museum of Contemporary Art & Design, which I found really disappointing) closes at 2PM. BTW, if you want to check out that Costa Rican Art, you should know that museum is located in Sabana Park way out on the western edge of town (i.e. a short cab ride away from most of the other downtown museums). Most of those other museums close between 4 and 4:30PM. OTOH, the National Museum (which also happens to be my favorite) opens at 8:30 in the morning, while the other museums usually open around 10AM, so you might want to visit National Museum first (or you could hit all the museums later after a leisurely breakfast). There is also a small open-air Artisan's Market right next to National Museum, which I believe is open on Sundays and which would also be a good place to pick up any souvenirs before you leave CR and haven't done so already. Finally, while you can definitely easily explore downtown San Jose on your own (armed with a good guidebook), a lot of people enjoy a more organized approach and for that you might want to consider one of the downtown tours offered by "Barrio Bird" toursanjosecostarica.com/walking-tours.html

7. Re: Downtown San Jose - 3 couples - 2 nights

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