Pura Vida Hotel is the perfect introduction to Costa Rica, and the
best base camp for trips out to the other parts of the country. As
reviewer after reviewer has said: it is very close to the airport; the
gardens are beautiful, and you will spot your first mot-mot and
blue morpho butterfly without having to walk miles into the rain
forest; the casitas are comfortable and well-furnished, and having
your own refrigerator and coffee machine to make the superb Costa
Rican coffee is a much appreciated extra; the breakfasts and dinners are the best I
have had in Costa Rica and some of the best I have had anywhere in my
Berni is very knowledgeable about Costa Rica now and happy to
share his knowledge. One of the things that puts you immediately at ease with Berni is his dry sense of humor. In the materials he leaves in each guest house, you can read the blow-by-blow accounts of his experiences learning the ins and outs of Costa Rican construction workers and plumbers in the early days of his inn-keeping life. He's British (via the .com world of California) and his tales have a Monty Python-esque touch that can't help but make you grin and then burst out laughing!
My friend and I are probably some of the few people who come to Costa Rica for its crafts. We have traveled through Mexico and Central America collecting handicrafts. Our first visit to Costa Rica, before we knew about Pura Vida, we found nothing to buy! Our second visit, when we stayed at Pura Vida, with Berni's help, we found some beautiful things. Each casita is decorated with local crafts. Some have mirrors showcasing Costa Rican flora and fauna in
beautifully handpainted tiles. When we admired them, Berni and Nhi
helped us find the artist's house so we could buy some of our own. The
hotel sells masks made by the Boruca people. When we admired them,
Berni helped us arrange a trip to their village in the mountains to
see the masks and maskmakers for ourselves, and told us the best place
to stay. He arranged the four-wheel drive car we needed to get there.
What I find unique about Berni and Nhi is their support not only for
local artists, but for Costa Rican schools and conservation projects.
Pura Vida encourages its guests to participate in "Pack for a Purpose"
(packforapurpose.org) and bring a suitcase full of school supplies
(which, once emptied, you can then fill with local crafts to take
home). If you aren't making Pura Vida your first stop, you can leave the school supplies at
the airport, and he will pick them up. On one of our trips he had helped arrange for us to visit the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. When the five of us arrived in Alajuela with five suitcases of school supplies, he directed us to a project on the east coast of Costa Rica run by friends of his so we could meet them and deliver the school supplies in person. It turned out to be one of our most memorable experiences in Costa Rica, and we are still in contact with Berni's friends.
He is presently actively involved in the Ara Project, an effort to save a Scarlet and Great Green Macaw breed and release project that has lost its land--and working to get other hotels involved. He will be happy to arrange a tour--http://www.puravidahotel.com/activities-a-tours/the-ara-project.html. It is now the #1 attraction in Alajuela on TripAdvisor.
We are repeat guests and now arrange our trips around the availability of the Casitas and Nhi's incredible dinners! A trip to Costa Rica wouldn't be the same without some time at Pura Vida with Berni, Nhi, and their ever-entertaining family of dogs!