My wife and I stayed at the Hotel Balmoral in San José, Costa Rica, for 12 days, checking out January 21, 2013. This was our third visit to that beautiful country and the second stay at the Balmoral.
For the most part, the Balmoral is an excellent choice, particularly if you intend to use the capital city as a base and to take one-day trips to the jungle safaris and other touristic locations. Balmoral is located in the dead center of the city, on the principal boulevard, Avenida Central.
Since Costa Rica is an inexpensive country, the rates at the hotel are fantastic. We shared a suite loaded with wood cabinets and closets, enough room to store just about all the stuff one accumulates at home. The wooden floors are gleaming, as though a coat of ice were placed above them, making them impervious to scratches. The maid service is phenomenal: not a speck of dust can be found in the suite. The room had a 32 inch TV with cable including HBO. Yet perhaps because we were there between high seasons—middle of January—we had this room for just $141 a night, and that included the 13% government tax.
The shower is terrific: strong current of water and thankfully not the European style “telephone” types. Hot water never gave out. Eight bath towels were provided for us.
The staff are great as well. Daniel, the concierge, fixed us up with trips to jungles and to a folklore show, aided by brochures a-plenty on the racks. This is a particular strength: we stayed during the past 9 months in Alicante, Spain, and Tirana, Albania, in five-star hotels including the Melia. There was no concierge at the announced desk at any time. The staff could not or would not speak much English and seemed hostile when compared to the friendly folks behind desks at the Balmoral.
The breakfast is filling but limited. Gallo Pinto (rice and beans wedded together), indifferent bread and pastries, eggs made to order albeit cooked to a rubber consistency, papaya, cantaloupe, watermelon, and coffee and tea. However, despite a renovation during the last year that put a few stores in the lobby (a candy emporium and a small pharmacy among them), the breakfast dining room featured more than half of its chairs as plain wood and just a few with upholstery. Your butt will thank you if you manage to sit in the latter. If you sit just behind the bar, you will not find upholstery on the seats: you would have to take a table. One wonders why the Balmoral could not have spent some more colones to match all the chairs with cushions.
There are two computers for guests’ use, but apparently unwilling to spend a few more colones, management still uses these machines manufactured in 2002 with Windows XP. One of the machines does not respond correctly to some keys including the @. (You have to ask the staff which key to depress for that important sign.) Behind the computers are two public restrooms. The men’s room automatic dryer had not worked all week. There are internet cafés a short walk away, charging under one dollar for an hour’s use.
The fitness center is a sad case. Five machines including a junior-size treadmill that did not function during the time we were there.
The hotel’s bar and restaurant, The Patio, is surprisingly expensive considering the reasonable rates of the rooms. A pizza comes to $20.
Weaknesses aside (all hotels have ‘em), Balmoral is a place to which we would enjoy returning.